Easier Naturalization Test for Elder Applicants

By Reuben S. Seguritan

October 21, 2015

Legal permanent residents applying for citizenship are required to pass the English literacy exam as well as the history and civics exam.

Applicants must demonstrate basic ability to speak, read and write English. The applicant’s ability to speak English is determined by the United State Citizenship and Immigration (USCIS) officer during his interview for naturalization.

In order to pass the reading section of the English literacy exam, the applicant must read one sentence out of three sentences correctly. To pass the writing section, the applicant must write one sentence out of three sentences correctly in English.

The applicant’s knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government is also tested. The applicant will be asked up to 10 questions from the 100 civics questions listed. Out of the 10 questions, the applicant must answer 6 correctly in order to pass the test.

The officer considers many factors in administering the civics test including the person’s education, background, age, length of stay in the U.S., opportunity and efforts to learn civics among others.

Applicants who fail the English or civics test will be allowed to take a second test within 90 days of their first attempt. They do not need to pay an additional fee for the second test.

Not everyone is required to satisfy the English literacy requirement. Those exempted are applicants who are 50 years or older at the date of application and who have been permanent residents for 20 years as well as those who are 55 years of age or older and have resided in the U.S. as  permanent residents for at least 15 years. They may take the exam in their native language.

Meanwhile, those who are 65 years or older and who have been permanent residents for at least 20 years are also exempted from taking the language test and may take a simplified version of the civics tests. With the simplified version of the test, the applicant will be asked up to 10 questions from 25 civics questions listed in their native language and they only need 6 correct answers to pass the test.

Reasonable accommodations are made for persons with physical disabilities. The request for accommodation must be made in the N-400 application for naturalization. The manner of conducting the test is modified such that a person whose disability makes it impossible for him to write, for example, may take the history and civics test orally.

Certain persons who are suffering from a physical disability or mental impairment may be exempted from taking the English and history and civics exam. Those exempt may include persons who suffer from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, senile dementia, among others. Form N-648 completed by a medical doctor or a clinical psychologist who is “experienced in diagnosing” these disabilities must be attached to the N-400 application.

For persons who are physically unable to complete the N-400 application because of a physical disability or mental impairment may have a designated representative who will attest orally and who will need to submit documentary evidence supporting the person’s eligibility for naturalization.