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If you don’t speak English well

Most applicants for citizenship need to read, write and speak English. However, you do not need to be fluent. You can see examples of the kinds of short sentences you will have to write on our English, civics test page. It is common for examiners to ask you to read a sentence or two from your citizenship application (especially the last page, where the oath is) or your appointment notice. Try these out with a family member or friend who has good English. While it is important to study and practice, don’t be intimidated if your English is not perfect. The citizenship process requires basic English, not fluency.

However some applicants – especially those who came to the United States as adults and have had limited opportunities to go to school here – will have trouble learning English. There are exceptions to the basic rule for older applicants who have had their green cards for a long time. If you are over fifty-five years old and have had a green card for at least fifteen years or are over fifty and have had a green card for at least twenty years, you can be interviewed and answer the civics and US history questions in your own language and you do not have to demonstrate your ability to read and write English.

Finally, applicants who have a disability that significantly hinders their ability to learn, or to read, write, or speak can be exempted from all or part of the English and civics requirements. Unfortunately, this is not a broad exemption covering old age. It requires detailed proof of medical disability, and most USCIS offices are very strict in how how they interpret the disability exemption. We’ll be adding detailed information on disability naturalization to our site soon.

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