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Exceptions to the naturalization test for elderly individuals

The naturalization test is the last step toward becoming a citizen of the United States. As many people in New York know, however, the test is anything but easy. While diligent preparation is enough for some people to pass, others -- including the elderly -- have limitations that make it near impossible for them to even take the test. Fortunately, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers exceptions and accommodations.

It is no secret that learning a new language at an old age is very difficult. When a elderly individual also lives with a medical disability, the English portion of the naturalization test is near impossible. For this reason, the first exemption applies to elderly individuals who do not speak English but have lived in the U.S. continuously for a substantial amount of time.

There are two rules regarding exemption from the English test, but not the civics test. The first states that if you have been a U.S. permanent resident for 20 years and you are at least 50 years old when you apply for citizenship, you will not have to take the English exam. The second says that if you have been a permanent resident for at least 15 years and are 55 or older, you are exempt from the English test.

Although people who are exempt from the English test under these rules must still take the civics exam, there are some accommodations allowed if language is the main barrier. You may take the civics exam in your native language as long as you bring an interpreter who is fluent in your language and English to assist with the interview portion.

Elderly individuals who also live with certain medical disabilities or mental impairments may be exempt from both the English and civics tests. To seek exemptions from both, you must file certain documentation that includes statements from a doctor explaining your diagnosis. 

Even if you think that you or your loved one is eligible for an exemption or accommodation, it is often beneficial to work closely with an experienced immigration attorney. The processes for seeking an exception can be complex, and it is important to handle it correctly when your citizenship is on the line.

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