Exemption from Naturalization Interview Language Requirement

Often times, individuals do not become permanent residents until much later in life. This often occurs when adult United States citizen children who are over twenty-one filing a petition on behalf of their much older non-citizen parent. As a result, many of these parents are not fluent in the English language and find it very difficult to pass their naturalization interview once they become eligible for U.S. citizenship (which in most cases, is five years after they become permanent residents).

Fortunately, there are several exemptions and waivers which might allow these individuals to take the naturalization interview in their native language. An exemption would be granted by USCIS under any of the two following two scenarios:

  • The applicant is age 50 or older and the time of filing the N-400 (naturalization application) and has lived as a permanent resident in the United States for at least twenty years; or
  • The applicant is age 55 or older and the time of filing the N-400 (naturalization application) and has lived as a permanent resident in the United States for at least fifteen years

If either of these situations applies, the applicant is not required to take the naturalization interview or civics exam in the English language. The naturalization exam consists of an oral interview in English and a written portion with ten multiple choice questions, so assuming no exemptions or waivers exist, the applicant would need to have a strong understanding of the English language in order to pass.

In the event the applicant does not qualify under any of the above listed exemption scenarios, they may apply for a waiver using Form N-648. Waivers are extremely difficult to obtain. In order to qualify for a waiver, you must prove that you have a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment which makes you unable to speak, read and write English or pass the civics portion of the exam. Form N-648 must be attached to the N-400 and filled out by either a licensed medical doctor, doctor of osteopathy, or clinical psychologist. Common scenarios where a waiver would be sought would be in situations where the applicant suffers from Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other significant mental impairment such as Down Syndrome. Simply having a doctor fill out the form is not a guarantee that the waiver will be granted. It is strongly recommended that you also submit medical records and other evidence supporting the doctor’s opinion. The doctor also clearly needs to identify the disability and explain with great particularity why the disability causes the applicant to be unable to conduct the interview in English or pass the civics exam.

In order to increase your chances that the waiver will be granted, you are strongly encouraged to seek the help of a competent immigration attorney. Attorneys at Theus Law Offices have been successful at having their clients obtain such a waiver, and can assist you with every step of this process.