“If you’re going to be in the United States of America, you have to speak English.” You’ve probably heard this or a variation of the phrase at one time or another. Interestingly, America doesn’t have an official language. Spanish, English and many other languages are prominent depending on the part of America you’re in.
The one time when “you need to speak English” may be true is if you intend to seek naturalization. Even then, there is a chance that you could take the required tests in your own native language.
The English Language Proficiency test
The ELP test is one aspect of the naturalization test. The point of the test is to determine if a person speaks English well enough to live in the country. They will need to show their ability to understand, read, write and speak the language.
On top of that, the individual will then need to pass a test about U.S. history and the government. They get two chances.
Many people believe that the English language portion is a requirement, but that’s not really true. In fact, there are exceptions.
What are the exceptions to the English Language Proficiency test?
There are exceptions including:
- Those who are 50 or older and who have been lawful permanent residents for at least 20 years
- Those who are 55 or older and who have been in the country for 15 years or longer as a lawful permanent resident
- Those 65 or older who have been in the country as lawful permanent residents for at least 20 years
- Those with medical disability exceptions on form N-648
Those who meet these requirements can take the civics test in their own language and will be exempt from the English portion.
What happens if you fail the test?
If you fail the English or Civics test, you can take it one more time within 60 to 90 days of the result. If you fail more than twice, then you will not be able to become naturalized. You may need to reapply for citizenship and start the process over to pass the test in the future.