When can you waive the US and Civics exam for the citizenship application?

By Patricia Elizee, Esq.




For many immigrants residing in the United States, becoming a US citizen has been a dream of theirs for a long time. Being a citizen establishes protection from deportation for themselves as well as their children. As a permanent resident you are still susceptible to deportation with certain criminal convictions so even with a permanent residency there is still lingering fear of being deported. Becoming a citizen also has significant advantages for family members. Children who are permanent residents and under the age of 18 automatically become citizens when their parents naturalize which is convenient since you have to be at least 18 to apply for a U.S. citizenship. Another major advantage is the fact that U.S. citizens are authorized to file immigration petitions for their other family members. Certain job possibilities such as positions in the U.S. government open up for U.S. citizens, they can also vote to elect government officials as well. Lastly, U.S. citizens are allowed to travel with no restrictions as opposed to non-citizens which have travel restrictions.


When individuals go through naturalization, they have to pass an English and Civics test. The English exam, tests the applicant’s ability to read, write, speak and understand English, while the Civics test measures the applicant’s knowledge of U.S. history and government. This part of the process instills fear into a large group of individuals looking to become citizens since they feel fear of failing the exam due to a language or comprehension deficiency. It serves as a barrier for individuals who are eligible to become citizens but are convinced that this part of the process will completely nullify their application.

There are some exceptions and modifications for the English and Civics tests that are available for the following reasons:


· If you are 50 years or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least 20 years.


· If you are 55 years or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have been a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years. However, if you qualify for either of these exceptions, you are still obligated to take the civics test, you will be permitted to take the civics test in your native language with an interpreter who is fluent in both English and the persons native language.


· If you are 65 years or older and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing for naturalization, you will be granted special consideration regarding the civics requirement, an easier version of the test is presented.


You may also be eligible for accommodations or exceptions to the English and Civics naturalization requirements if you are unable to comply with these requirements due to a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment. Applicants who qualify for an accommodation must still pass the English and civics exams whereas the disability exception exempts applicants from taking the exams. Accommodations include having an interpreter or having extended time to take the exams. However, to be exempt from taking the exam the applicant must show that their medical conditions prevent them from meeting the English and civics requirements, even with reasonable accommodations, because of a physical or developmental disability or a mental impairment that they have had for at least 12 months. USCIS does not provide a list of disabilities or impairments that automatically qualify for the exception, they provide exceptions by providing an evaluation of every case and determine whether or not an exception may be granted.


Becoming a U.S. citizen has been a lifelong dream for many individuals. It’s essential to know about the following exceptions since for many these tests are impeding the naturalization process and for all they know they might be eligible for exception or modification of the tests. 834,000 people were naturalized in the United States in 2019 so it’s essential to not allow this part of the process become a major barrier!


Patricia Elizee is the managing partner of Elizee Law Firm, an immigration and family law firm located at 1110 Brickell Avenue, Suite 315, Miami, Florida 33131. She can be reached at Ph: 305-371-8846

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