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Exemptions to citizenship requirements

US residents applying to become US citizens as adults must meet several requirements, including competence in the English language, a period of continuous residence, taking an oath of allegiance, and taking a civics test.

However, there are exceptions. You will want to know and evaluate your options before filing the Form N-400 for naturalization, as this is a key way to communicate the exceptions for which you may qualify. Additionally, you may need to attach supporting documentation where necessary and called for on the form.

Continuous residence exceptions

If you are employed in certain types of jobs overseas, you may qualify for a continuous residence exception. Normally, you must reside in the US for 5 years continuously before applying for citizenship, or 3 years if your spouse is a qualifying US citizen. This does not mean that you can’t travel out of the country during that whole time, but that certain residency requirements must be met. Living outside the US for more than a year during that 5-year or 3-year period can affect your eligibility for citizenship.

However, working for the US government or military, US government contractors, a recognized American research institution, a public international organization, or an organization recognized in the International Immunities Act, can provide an exception to the requirement of continuous residency. Questions 1- 5 in Part 1 of Form N-400 address these exceptions.

English language exceptions

If you are over age 50 at the time you file for naturalization, and have lived as a green card holder in the United States for at least 20 years, you do not have to take the English test.

Similarly, if you are over 55 when you file, and have lived in the US for at least 15 years, you do not have to take the English test. Answer Question 12 in Part 2 to determine your eligibility for an English language test exemption. However, you must still take the American civics test.

Civics test exceptions

If you are 50 or older at the time of filing your application and have been a green card holder for at least 20 years, you may take the civics test in your native language.

If you are 55 or older at the time of filing your application and have been a green card holder for at least 15 years, you may take the civics test in your native language.

If you are over age 65 at the time you file for naturalization, and have lived for a total of at least 20 years as a legal permanent resident in the United States, you may be eligible to take the civics test from “specially designated test forms,” which draw from a pool of 20 questions, rather than the usual 100. Question 12C in Part 2 deals with this special allowance.

Keep in mind that if you take the test in your native language, you must bring an interpreter with you to the interivew.

Oath of allegiance exceptions

An “expedited judicial oath administration ceremony or administrative naturalization” may be granted for individuals who are experiencing serious illness or permanent disability of themselves or an immediate family member, developmental disability, advanced age, or “exigent circumstances relating to travel or employment,” according to Section 337(c) of 8 U.S.C. 1448, the Immigration and Nationality Act.

If you are religiously bound not to take oaths, answer “No” to Question 49 in Part 11, “Are you willing to take the full Oath of Allegiance to the United States?” Attach proof of your religious affiliation and beliefs, such as a statement from a leader of your congregation or other religious organization. Conscientious objectors to war can also request a modification to the oath through Questions 50-52.

Note that the oath you take at naturalization must include Question 52’s pledge to “perform work of national importance” in lieu of military service. Conscientious objectors must have an opposition to all wars; documentation from a religious leader or other prominent figure attesting to your strongly held belief will be necessary to modify the oath.

Disability exceptions

Part 2, Item 11 of Form N-400 asks you whether you have a physical or mental impairment or disability that could affect your ability to meet the English and civics test requirements. At the same time as you submit your Form N-400, you must submit Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, which requires a qualified medical practitioner to sign off on the need for the exception. Questions 47-52 of Part 11 deal with questions around the oath of allegiance and military service, which are also important to answer correctly to the best of your ability or to the best of the ability of the person for whom you are filing the citizenship application.

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