Written by attorney Craig Randall Shagin

The Rules for Exemption From the Requirements For Understanding English and Civics To Naturalize

The United States requires individuals who are to become citizens to have an elementary-level reading, writing and understanding of the English language. It also requires a basic knowledge and understanding of the fundamentals of American history and government.

There is an exception for the English language requirement. This part of the exam is not required if:

(1) is over 50 and has lived in U.S. for 20 years in lawful permanent resident (“Green Card") status; or

(2) persons who are over 55 and have lived in U.S. for 15 years in lawful permanent resident (“Green Card") status.

Special consideration is also given on the civics test to persons over 65 with 20 years as a lawful permanent resident. “Special consideration" here means a test of 10 out of 25 civics questions in the person’s language where they need only answer 6 correctly. Note on the standard preparation material the questions that might be asked have an asterisk next to them.

Additionally, all persons - - regardless of age- -who are physically or developmentally disabled or have a mental impairment are exempt from the English language and history and government requirements. This may include the elderly who suffer from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, senile dementia or a related disease. A medical doctor, osteopath, or clinical psychologist “experienced in diagnosing" these disabilities must complete a form N-648 to be filed with the N-400 to claim this exemption.

Additional resources provided by the author

INA §312(a)(1), et seq, 8 C.F.R. §312.1 et seq, Policy Memorandum No. 47, Pearson, Ex. Assoc. Comm., Field Operations (HQ 70/33-P) (Apr. 7, 1999), reprinted in 76 No. 17 Interpreter Releases 677, 693–711 (May 3, 1999), published on AILA InfoNet at Doc. No. 99041420.

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