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Do you have to know English to become a U.S. citizen?

| Oct 30, 2020 | Immigration Law

If you are a legal permanent resident, you may be thinking about applying to become a U.S. citizen. After all, citizenship confers many rights, including the opportunity to vote in elections. Before applying for naturalization, the official name for the citizenship process, you must meet some basic requirements. 

To become a naturalized citizen of the U.S., most applicants must be able to speak, write and read English. There are exceptions to this rule, however. 

The English competency test

At your naturalization interview, an officer with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will likely administer a test to gauge your English fluency. To pass this test, you must interact with the officer using the English language. You also must write a short English sentence and read a brief paragraph. 

Exceptions to the English fluency requirement

If you are at least 50 and have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least 20 years, you may be able to waive the English component of your naturalization interview. The same is true if you are at least 55 and have lived in the U.S. as a permanent resident for at least 15 years. 

If you fit into either of these exceptions to the English fluency requirement, the USCIS officer is likely to conduct your interview in your native language using an interpreter you supply. 

Your naturalization application

Knowing you may not have to comply with the English language requirement may put your mind at ease. You do not want to confuse or irritate the USCIS officer, though. 

Consequently, when preparing your naturalization application, it is important to mention you qualify for an exception to the English language requirement.