US Citizenship and Elderly


We regularly receive calls from the elderly green card holders or their adult children who want to know how someone can become a US citizen if he or she is unable to prepare for the English history test and/or is not fluent in English. Here are the two most common scenarios that we hear quite frequently.

Q:        My dad is eligible for US citizenship because he has had the green card for 5 years, and he does not have extensive travel or any criminal issues. But he does not speak or read English and he has hard time studying for the history test. Can he become a US citizen?

A:        USCIS has specific rules regarding applicant’s age and how long they have had the green card that can exempt them from having to take the US English History test and also exempt them from passing the interview portion of the N-400 as well as the reading and writing exam.

The age qualifications that exempt applicants from the English, reading and writing tests are as follows:

  • 65 years and has resided in US as a green card holder for 20 years or more.
  • 55 years old and has resided in the US as a green card holder for 15 years or more.
  • 50 years old and has resided in the US as a green card holder for 20 years or more.

Applicants that meet one of the above categories must only take the civics test in their language of choice.

However, here the applicant has had the green card for only 5 years and so the only solution is to see whether the applicant is eligible for a medical disability waiver. A medical disability waiver is completed by a US licensed general medical doctor, licensed clinical psychologist or other specific doctor on USCIS form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exemptions. The form must be completed a certain way and with specific wording and information in order for USCIS to approve the medical waiver. The doctor, in order to complete the medical disability form, must give the N-400 applicant, a test to determine whether he or she can learn or remember basic things. This test can include having to recite basic information just explained and may also include other basic cognitive exams.

Applicants with dementia or Alzheimer’s, for example, are eligible to file form N-648, Medical Disability Waiver, which states that because of their mental limits, they cannot study for the US history test. A major limitation for eligibility under form N-648 is that the resulting mental disability cannot be a result of drug use.

If the Form N-648 is approved by the US Immigration Officer, then the US citizenship applicant does not have to take any test in order to have their form N-400 approved and be sworn-in.

Q:        I am 65 years old and have been living in the US as a green card holder for over 20 years. My English is not so good. Do I still have to take the English test?

A:        No, but you will still need to take a modified version of the civics test in your language of choice. You do not have to take the reading or writing test. The N-400 interview, which includes reviewing the details of the N-400 and asking whether you have ever been arrested, if you file US taxes, etc. will be completed with the help of the interpreter.

About teperlaw

I am an attorney practicing family law, immigration and wills and estate planning. You can find out more about me and my firm by visiting my website at: 106 W. Franklin Ave. Pennington, NJ 08534 (609) 737-3030
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