Age-Related Waiver for Naturalization (Citizenship) Exam

Apr 26, 2016 | Nationality

As a Miami immigration lawyer, I have had some older clients express their fear of taking the citizenship test. This may be because the older a person gets, the harder it can be to learn a new language or memorize factual material. For this reason, U.S. immigration law allows older applicants for naturalization (U.S. citizenship) to request easier versions of the English and civics exams than required of most applicants. Below are some frequently asked questions.

What are some of the age-related exemptions available to older individuals who are sitting for the citizenship test?


a) Civics Test “65/20 “ Exception for Elder Applicants
Green card holders who are age 65 or older and have lived in the U.S. as permanent residents for at least 20 years (not necessarily continuously) can take an easier version of the history and government (civics) exam that is required of naturalization applicants. This is commonly referred to as the “65/20 exception.” A person who fits this category will have to study only 20 questions rather than the 100 that most applicants face. The applicant will be asked ten of the questions and will need to answer six correctly in order to pass. If you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

b) English Requirement “50/20” and “55/15”  Exceptions for Advanced Age
If you are age 50 or older and have lived in the U.S. as a green card holder (permanent resident) for at least 20 years, you can have the citizenship interview conducted in your native language. This is commonly referred to as the “50/20” waiver. These 20 years of permanent residence do not need to have been continuous. If you have been outside the U.S. for short periods of time (fewer than six months at a stretch, to be safe), that is okay, so long as all your time living in the U.S. totals 20 years.

The second rule is known as the “55/15” waiver. It says that if you are age 55 or older and have lived in the U.S. as a green card holder for at least 15 years, you can have the citizenship interview and exam conducted in your native language. Again, the 15 years do not need to have been continuous. Again, if you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

How to Request One of These Exceptions
If you need one of these age-related exceptions, be sure to let your Miami immigration attorney know in advance. Otherwise, the USCIS interviewer may get frustrated trying to speak to you in English, or may give you the more difficult version of the citizenship exam.

If you will be requesting an English-language exception, you must bring an interpreter with you to the interview. This can be a friend or relative rather than a paid professional. Be sure, however, that the person is truly fluent in your own language and in English. Interpreting is harder than it looks, and if the interpreter causes confusion, it may result in your citizenship being denied. Again, if you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

If you have would like to learn more about age-related exemptions to the citizenship (naturalization) test, please contact Miami immigration lawyer The Law Office of Tatiane M. Silva, P.A., Esq. at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at tmsilvalaw.com.