Does someone need to be fluent in English to naturalize?

On Behalf of | Oct 13, 2023 | US Immigration Law

After becoming a permanent resident, the next step in the immigration process is naturalization. Those who complete a naturalization interview and pass naturalization tests can become naturalized citizens. The tests required during the interview examine an applicant’s understanding of Civics and their proficiency in the English language.

Some people claim that immigrants must be fluent in English to pass the test and become naturalized citizens. Is that actually true?

Proficiency is generally necessary, but not fluency

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not demand fluency in English for someone to become a citizen. Instead, they care about proficiency. Someone needs to be able to effectively communicate in English to pass the English test. The test includes reading, writing, speaking and demonstrating comprehension when listening. However, not everyone has to undergo English language testing to qualify for naturalization. There are two times when immigrants will not need to take an English test.

The first involves older adults. Those who have been in the United States for years and who are over a certain age may qualify for testing exemptions. They do not have to take the English test and can take the Civics test in a language that they know. The second scenario in which immigrants can naturalize without demonstrating English proficiency involves having a disabling medical condition. Some people will qualify either for testing accommodations or possibly exemptions based on demonstrated health issues that would prevent them from mastering the English language.

There are resources for immigrants

English is a difficult language to learn. Too many permanent residents let the language test intimidate them. They fail to naturalize because they fear failing the test. There are many resources that can help people establish proficiency in English and prepare for the test. Even if someone fails, they may be able to retake the test or reapply later after working on their language skills.

Learning more about the requirements of naturalization may help those who want to become citizens to make informed choices about their options. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to get started.