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Do immigrants need to master English to become citizens?

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2023 | Immigration |

The process of becoming a citizen after legally entering the United States is a lengthy one. It can take people years to meet the criteria for naturalization. Even when someone has been in the country for long enough and has avoided criminal charges that might affect their immigration opportunities, they may avoid trying to become a citizen because the process intimidates them.

Most people have heard about the naturalization testing process. They know that immigrants have to pass tests in both Civics and the English language. English is one of the hardest languages to learn, as it has been influenced by many other languages and features countless irregular verbs. Even intelligent adults often struggle to truly master English. If someone is not confident in their English language skills, does that mean citizenship is not an option for them?

There are exemptions for certain adults

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does hold those seeking naturalization to a very high standard. However, the organization can and will grant exemptions in special cases. For those who have been in the country for a long time, it may be possible to naturalize without taking the English language test.

Those who are 50 years of age or older and have been lawful permanent residents for at least 20 years can request an exemption from the English language test. Those over the age of 55 who have been lawful permanent residents for at least 15 years can also exempt themselves. Applicants that qualify for an English language test exemption will still need to pass the Civics test. However, they can take it in the language of their choice with the support of an interpreter.

Those who are over the age of 65 and who have been in the country for at least 20 years may qualify for even more accommodations than that.

There are study supports as well

Even if someone does not yet qualify for a language test exemption and would prefer not to wait until they do, it could be possible to prepare for the English language tests specifically. The USCIS provides vocabulary resources for those preparing for the test, and many community organizations and educational institutions may offer English language courses, often for free or very low prices.

Understanding the requirements involved in naturalization will help those who want to become United States citizens to make informed choices about their options with the assistance of a legal professional.

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