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Becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen is a significant milestone for immigrants. However, the naturalization process includes certain requirements, one of which is demonstrating proficiency in English. While this requirement is essential for effective communication as a citizen, there are circumstances in which individuals may qualify for a waiver. In this blog, we will explore the conditions and process for obtaining a waiver for the English proficiency requirement when applying for naturalization.
English Proficiency Requirement for Naturalization
To become a U.S. citizen through naturalization, applicants are generally required to demonstrate a basic understanding of the English language, including the ability to speak, read, write, and understand English. This is assessed through the English language test, which is part of the naturalization interview process.
Who Can Qualify for a Waiver?
Certain individuals may be eligible for a waiver of the English proficiency requirement if they meet specific criteria. The two primary categories that may qualify for an English language waiver are:
- Age and Residency Waiver: If you are at least 50 years old and have been a permanent resident (Green Card holder) for at least 20 years, or if you are at least 55 years old and have been a permanent resident for at least 15 years, you may qualify for an exemption from the English language requirement. This is commonly referred to as the “50/20” or “55/15” waiver.
- Medical Waiver: If you have a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment that prevents you from learning English or demonstrating English proficiency, you may be eligible for a medical waiver. This waiver requires documentation from a licensed medical professional explaining the nature and severity of the condition.
Process for Obtaining an English Proficiency Waiver
If you believe you meet the criteria for an English proficiency waiver, you should follow these steps:
- Prepare and Complete Your Naturalization Application (Form N-400): Begin by filling out the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, and submitting it to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Be sure to provide all required documentation and information.
- Request the Waiver: In your N-400 application, clearly state that you are requesting a waiver for the English proficiency requirement based on your age and residency or medical condition. Include any supporting documents, such as medical records or affidavits from healthcare professionals, as applicable.
- Attend the Naturalization Interview: USCIS will process your application and schedule a naturalization interview. During the interview, USCIS will review your application and may inquire further about your eligibility for the waiver.
- Decision on Your Waiver Request: USCIS will make a decision regarding your waiver request and overall eligibility for naturalization. If your waiver is approved, you will not be required to take the English language test. Instead, you will be given a modified civics test, conducted in your native language.
- Taking the Modified Civics Test: If you receive the waiver, you will be given the opportunity to take the modified civics test, which consists of 20 questions, with a pass requirement of answering at least 10 correctly. You will also be exempt from the English reading and writing tests.
- Oath of Allegiance: If you pass the modified civics test and meet all other naturalization requirements, you will be scheduled for the Oath of Allegiance ceremony, where you will officially become a U.S. citizen.
Obtaining a waiver for the English proficiency requirement for naturalization is possible under specific circumstances, such as age and residency qualifications or a documented medical condition. If you believe you qualify for such a waiver, it’s essential to follow the proper application process and provide supporting evidence. Consulting with an immigration attorney or accredited representative can help ensure you meet all requirements and navigate the naturalization process successfully. Becoming a U.S. citizen is a significant achievement, and these waivers can help make it accessible to a broader range of individuals.