Do I have to speak English to apply for citizenship?
Probably. Although there are some exceptions, most people applying for citizenship are required to read, write, and speak basic English. At your naturalization interview, you will be asked to talk about your application, answer civics questions, read one sentence, and write one sentence – all in English. You do not have to say or spell every word correctly and you may ask the officer to repeat the question or speak slowly. The officer must understand what you are trying to say.
My friend/relative wants to apply for citizenship but he/she does not speak English. Is there an exemption?
Yes. Some applicants are not required to take his/her interview in English based on age and how long he/she has had their green card. If a person qualifies based on one or more of the criteria below, he/she will be exempt from the English requirement, but will still be required to answer the civics questions in his/her native language.
- At least 50 years old and has had his/her green card for at least 20 years;
- At least 55 years old and has had his/her green card for at least 15 years; and/or
- At least 65 years old and has had his/her green card for at least 20 years.
- A person who qualifies for 65/20 is only required to study from a list of 20 civics questions.
An applicant who is exempt from the English requirement should bring someone to his/her interview to serve as an interpreter.
My friend/relative does not meet the requirements for the English exemption. Can he/she still apply for citizenship?
Yes. We encourage applicants to take English classes to feel comfortable with basic English before applying. An applicant who does not pass his/her citizenship interview the first time will have another opportunity to pass. Many of Project Citizenship’s partner organizations offer English and civics classes.
My friend/relative does not speak English and has a medical condition. Can he/she still apply for citizenship?
Maybe. Certain applicants are exempt from the English and/or civics requirement based on a medical disability or impairment. These applicants must submit a separate request, Form N-648, which is filled out by the applicant’s doctor.
What does someone have to show for the N-648 Medical Disability Waiver?
There are three basic requirements for the N-648:
- The person has a physical or developmental disability or impairment;
- The condition has lasted or will last for at least 12 months; and
- The disability or impairment prevents the person from learning English and/or civics.
The last requirement can be challenging to show. If your doctor needs an explanation of the form or guidance, please have him/her contact Project Citizenship.
Who can fill out the Form N-648?
Medical doctors (M.D.), doctors of osteopathy, and clinical psychologists are authorized to complete the form. The doctor must also be licensed in the United States or its territories. The doctor filling out the form should know the applicant and his/her condition well. The doctor does not need any special training or authorization to complete the form.
When do I have to submit the N-648?
The N-648 should be submitted with your N-400 application. The officer will decide whether to accept the form on the day of the interview. If the form is not accepted, the applicant will have to do the interview in English, but he/she can have the form revised by his/her doctor before the second interview.
Who should not submit the N-648?
If you or a friend/relative has a disability but can complete the English and civics requirement with reasonable accommodations, you should not submit the N-648. Some examples of reasonable accommodations are sign language interpreters, large print or braille, and extended testing time.