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Can someone who doesn’t speak English become a U.S. citizen?

On Behalf of | May 9, 2023 | Citizenship

Naturalization is the legal process that converts someone from a permanent resident to a citizen of the United States of America. Those who can pass a criminal background check and who meet specific residency requirements can potentially become United States citizens after lawfully entering the country.

The naturalization process requires paperwork and an in-person interview with employees from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). During the interview, USCIS employees will discuss someone’s application, their circumstances and their reason for wanting to become a citizen. They will also administer two tests. Naturalization applicants typically need to pass a test about United States Civics and also an English language test. Are those who do not speak English effectively prohibited from naturalizing?

There are exceptions to the language requirement

The longer that someone has stayed in the United States and the older they are, the more easily they may qualify for an exemption. The USCIS has different rules for those in different circumstances. English is a very difficult language to learn, in part because it has influence from many other languages and numerous irregular verbs.

Those who are 50 years of age or older and who have been in the United States for at least 20 years can potentially naturalize without taking an English language test. There is also an exemption for those over the age of 55 who have been in the country for 15 years. In fact, those who qualify can even take the Civics portion of the test in the language of their choice.

There are supports available for those who want to learn

Even though English is a challenging language to master, immigrants of all ages and backgrounds can learn English with the right support. Reviewing the vocabulary guides provided by the USCIS and making use of other resources can help those who want to become United States citizens improve their chances of passing the English language test. If someone does have to take the test and fails, they do have one opportunity to retake the test after their initial interview.

Learning more about the testing requirements for naturalization may help those who would like to become citizens and stay in the country permanently.