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Citizenship Test Requirements for U.S. Applicants

Becoming a citizen of the United States requires that a person has a basic understanding of two major components of American life: the ability to read, write, and speak English, and knowledge of United States history and government.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officials will give the U.S. civics exam and English exam as part of a comprehensive look behind granting a citizenship request. While these tests seem broad, USCIS makes materials available on their website that a person can use to study, and some adult schools will provide classes to help people prepare for the exams.

United States Civic Exam and English Exam

USCIS has created around 100 essential questions that a person must know as a citizen of the United States. Of these 100 questions, an agent will ask 10 to determine an applicant's knowledge of history and government. If a person gets at least 6 questions correct, they pass the exam. All 100 of these questions and their answers can be found on the USCIS website.

The English exam will also occur at the citizenship interview. An agent will speak only in English and ask the person to read a passage and write sentences that have been spoken to them. Depending on the responses given in all of these aspects, the agent will determine if there is a good enough grasp of the English language to allow citizenship.

There may be circumstances that limit a person's ability to learn American civics or understand English. For age and disability issues that prevent a standard citizenship test, USCIS offers exceptions to the citizenship exam rules

Citizenship Exam Exemptions Based on Age and Disability

If a person has a disability that prevents them from learning the required concepts or English, this section may be waived. A waiver cannot be requested and can only be granted if a doctor explains the details of the disability and why it prevents a person from being able to take the exam.

There are a few age related exceptions that may apply if conditions are met. These include:

  • 65/20 exception that allows a person over the age of 65 who has lived in the United States for 20 years to take an easier civic exam
  • 50/20 waiver for the language exam that allows a person who is 50 or older, has lived in the United States for 20 years, and has a green card to take the citizenship interview in their native language
  • 55/15 waiver that allows a person who is 55 or older and has lived with a green card in the United States for a total of 15 years to take the citizenship exam in their native language.

For those that do not meet age or disability requirements, both the civic and the English exam must be taken and passed in order to be eligible for American citizenship.

The purpose of the exams is not to explicitly bar any person from becoming a citizen of the United States but there may be instances where the exams are used for this purpose. If you or a loved one have been prevented from citizenship eligibility due to the citizenship exams,contact an immigration attorney to determine if there are legal actions that can be taken to become a United States citizen.

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