Many people avoid applying for citizenship because they are afraid that they can’t pass the citizenship test. For some people, concentrating on practicing enough English will be enough to help them pass.
But some people can take an easier version of the citizenship test. Others don’t have to take any part of the citizenship test. The law allows for waivers for people based on their age and length of lawful permanent residency, or on certain medical problems. Qualified applicants can get waivers that allow them to skip part, or sometimes all, of the citizenship test.
Additionally, if you cannot afford the application fees, you may qualify for a fee waiver. In this article, we will review both the citizenship test waivers and the fee waiver.
Citizenship Test Components
Before we discuss test waivers, you need to understand a little about the citizenship test itself. It has four parts.
First, you have to learn the answers to 100 questions about U.S. history, civics and geography. During your citizenship interview, you get ten chances to give six correct answers.
Second, the USCIS officer will ask you to read a short sentence in English, out loud. It is usually in the form of a question. You can find study materials, including vocabulary lists at USCIS.gov.
Third, you will write a short sentence in English on a tablet. The short sentence that you write is usually the answer to the short question that you read.
Finally, you have to do the entire citizenship interview in English, which requires some strange vocabulary from the N-400, Application for Naturalization. You have to understand this vocabulary because you will swear under oath that all of your answers are true and correct. You can’t swear to things that you don’t understand.
Citizenship Age Waivers
55/15 or 50/20 Waiver
This waiver means that anyone who is at least 55 years of age and has been a lawful permanent resident (LPR) for 15 years does not have to show that they can speak English. This waiver is also available for anyone who is at least 50 years of age and has been a lawful permanent resident for 20 years. If you receive this waiver, you do not have to read or write the sentence in English, and you can do the citizenship interview in your native language.
You still have to learn the answers to 100 questions about U.S. history, civics and geography. However, the 55/15 Waiver allows you to do this part of the test in the language of your choice.
The 65/20 Waiver means that anyone who is at least 65 years of age and has been an LPR for 20 years does not have to show that they can speak English in order to pass their citizenship test. Again, this basically means that you do not have to read or write the sentence in English, and you can do the interview in your native language.
Additionally, you do not have to learn all the 100 questions about U.S. history, civics, and geography. Rather, you have to learn only 20 questions and answers. These questions are generally thought to be the easier ones. Here is a list of these questions.
If you already have the list of 100 questions, you can see that some of them have an asterisk (*) after the question. These 20 questions match the list hyperlinked above.
Citizenship Medical Waiver
Finally, there is a medical waiver for those who cannot learn the information necessary to pass the citizenship test. To apply for the medical waiver, Form N-648 must be completed on your behalf. Only a licensed clinical psychologist, a medical doctor, or a doctor of osteopathy can complete this form.
Not all health care specialists are clinical psychologists, medical doctors, or doctors of osteopathy. For example, if you usually see a nurse practitioner at your clinic, that nurse practitioner cannot complete the form.
Your qualified care provider can waive you out of the history, civics, and geography portion of the test; the English reading and writing portions of the test; and having your interview in English all together. Again, they must complete Form N-648 on your behalf, which can be found at USCIS.gov.
This form can be very complicated. There are a few important things you need to know about Form N-648.
First, your medical care provider must give a diagnosis as to why you cannot learn the citizenship material. This diagnosis must be about something medical. For example, many practitioners will write that someone cannot learn the citizenship material because they have no education or are too old. However, lack of education is not a medical problem, neither is age. There is no medical treatment for lack of education. Furthermore, old age in and of itself is not a disease. Disease might be more common in older people, but being old is not a medical diagnosis.
Second, even if you have a medical condition, it must stop you from being able to learn the citizenship material. For example, someone might have high blood pressure, but high blood pressure does not stop her from learning English. Neither does diabetes, high cholesterol or being hard of hearing. On the other hand, acute depression, post traumatic stress disorder, or early stages of memory issues could mean that someone cannot learn the citizenship material.
U.S. Citizenship Fee Waiver
If you cannot afford your citizenship application fees, you can fill out Form I-912, Request for Fee Waiver. This waiver will not make you or anyone in your family a public charge.
Requirements for the fee waiver change from time to time, so talk to a good immigration attorney if you’re confused about your eligibility. Being low income should not stand between you and your ability to become a United States citizen.