Can I Take The Citizenship Test in My Native Language?

Posted by Frank Gogol

To obtain American citizenship, you need to get naturalized first. As part of the naturalization process, you must take a citizenship test in English. But what if you’re not comfortable in English and wish to take it in your native language? Is it possible? In this article, we’ll explain it to you.

Do You Have to Take the Citizenship Test in English?

As part of the naturalization process, all applicants must take a two-part naturalization test. The first part gauges your English proficiency. Since America is an English-speaking country where all official work is conducted in English, it is essential. The second part is a civics examination that tests your knowledge of U.S. history and law. You’re required to take both examinations unless you’re eligible for an exemption.

The exam isn’t a multiple-choice test like the ones you’re used to at schools and colleges. It is more of an interview than a test because an officer will ask you questions in English, and you need to answer verbally. You’ll be asked ten questions from a list of 100. To qualify, you must answer six questions correctly. This will be followed by a reading and writing test, both in English.

So, to answer the question as to whether you need to take the citizenship test in English: “Yes, you have to.” There are exceptions wherein you can skip the English test, but you cannot take it in your native language.

Exemptions to Taking the Citizenship Test in English

How you will be treated at the examination center will depend on:

  • Your age
  • Background
  • Educational level
  • Duration you’ve lived in the U.S.
  • Study opportunities that were available to you
  • Other factors as determined by the official

Whether or not you’ll be exempted from the test depends on the following parameters:

50/20 Exemption

If an applicant is over 50 years old and has lived in the United States for at least 20 years, then the 50/20 exception rule will apply to him/her. They must have a valid green card. So if this exception is applicable in your case, you can request not to take the English test. But you’re still required to take the civics test.

55/15 Exemption

Like the 50/20 exception, there is another exception wherein you can request to skip the test or some part of it. This is the 55/15 exception, which applies to people over the age of 55 and who have lived in the U.S. and held a green card for no less than 15 years.

In both of the exemptions, you can request not to appear for the English test and only take the civics test. If approved, you can take the civics citizenship test in your native language.

Additionally, if you’re over 65 and have been a permanent resident for at least 20 years, you’ll receive even more leniency for the civics test. You can opt for a simpler version of the civics test in your native language. This is commonly known as the 65/20 rule.

Medical Disability

The third way which allows you to skip the citizenship test is a medical disability. If you can demonstrate that you have a physical disability or a mental impairment that wouldn’t allow you to comply with the requirements, you can request an exemption. For this, you must be able to produce relevant medical records.

Requesting Exemptions

To apply for any of the above exemptions, you must inform the USCIS about your case in advance, even before it schedules your citizenship test. You should write a cover letter and present your case to the USCIS along with your naturalization application package, i.e. when filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

There’s a section at the top that is meant for seeking these exceptions. You need to tick the exception you want, either 50/20, 55/15, or 65/20.

For medical cases, you need to file Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. A medical practitioner must certify this within six months of the date of your application.

If approved, you need to bring an interpreter with you to the citizenship test. He or she must be fluent in English and your native language. The interpreter can be your friend, family relative, or a professional translator.

So until and unless you’re eligible for any of the above exemptions, you’re required to take the English and civics test in English. But just for the sake of your preparation, the USCIS provides a few resources in foreign languages.

Citizenship Test Language FAQ

If I Qualify for a Language Exemption, Do I Still Need to Take the Civics Test?

Yes. Unless you have a medical disability that will prevent you from attending the test, the civics test is compulsory.

Can I Take the Civics Test in My Native Language?

Yes. Under some circumstances, you can take the civics test in your native language.

If I Take the Citizenship Test in My Native Language, Do I Need to Bring an Interpreter?

Yes. You need to arrange your own interpreter and bring him/her along with you to the test center.

Does My Interpreter Need to Be Fluent in My Native Language and English?

Yes. They should demonstrate fluency in both English and your native language.

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Conclusion

We hope this has explained the procedure involved in taking the citizenship test. That said, if you qualify for the permitted exemptions, go ahead and claim them.

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