New York Lawyer's Legal Updates

U.S. Citizenship Without English Language Knowledge

Author: Citizenship Attorney Alena Shautsova

One of the qualifications for naturalization or citizenship in the United States is applicant’s ability to write, read and understand English. There are waivers of the English test for those who reached a certain age (50, 55 or 60) and have resided in the United States as permanent residents for certain amount of years (20, 15 and 20 years respectfully). Those waivers allow applicants to pass the Civic test in their language rather than English. But what to do if a person simply cannot learn English? Will this person be barred from becoming a US citizen forever? Luckily, it is not the case. In fact, if a person has medically recognized conditions that prevent this person from being able to learn English, such a person may be granted a waiver of the English test and US history test requirements.

However, it is not easy to receive such a waiver. A person would have to be examined by a doctor who will need to complete a special form and explain how person’s conditions prevent him/her from learning English. Often, a doctor simply does not know how to fill out the form correctly, and an applicant is denied the waiver unjustly.

An applicant for citizenship can bring this special waiver form with him/her at the time of the interview, re-interview or by sending it to the USCIS together with N400 application. At the time of the interview, USCIS officer will first determine if the form is filled out accurately and sufficiently permitting the waiver to be granted. If the form does not correspond to the standards established by USCIS regulations, the form will be rejected, and the applicant will be tested as a regular applicant.

It is possible to submit the waiver form even during the rehearing for citizenship denial.

USCIS Practice manual directs officers to accept the waiver form if the form is filled out correctly and with specificity explains how diagnosed medical conditions prohibit a person from learning English. See here.

Finally, a simple unwillingness to learn English is not enough for the waiver to be granted. Applicant’s age is also irrelevant here. Let’s say a parent of a US citizen immigrated to the United States from Ukraine and the parent is now 75 years old and has been in LPR status for 5 years. This parent still has to pass the English language, and US history test before his/her citizenship application be granted. Only applicants with medically recognized conditions that lasted or expect to last for at least 12 months can qualify for the such a waiver.

04 May 2017
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