Memphis immigration lawyer Ari Sauer provides news and information on US immigration law.
QUESTION: My mom is a green card holder. She is 73. She has been a resident since 2002. Does she have to be able to read and write English in order to apply for US citizenship? She cannot read or write even in her native language.
THE IMMIGRATION ANSWER MAN: As a general rule, applicants for US citizenship through naturalization must be able to demonstrate a basic ability to read, write and understand English. Applicants for naturalization must also be able to pass a civics exam in English, where the person is asked questions about US history and government.
There are some limited exceptions to these requirements:
Age Exception: The ability to read and write English is waived for 1) someone who is over 50 years old and has lived in the US as a Permanent Resident for at least 20 years or 2) someone w
ho is over 55 and has lived in the US as a Permanent Resident for at least 15 years. These applicants do not have to be able to read or write English. They still have to pass the civics exam, but the exam can be given in their native language.
Someone who is over 65 and has been living in the US as a Permanent Resident for at least 20 years is eligible to take an easier version of the civics exam, where they are only asked 10 questions from a list of 25 questions (the normal civics exam is 10 questions out of 100 available questions).
Medical Waiver: Someone who has a physical, developmental, or mental disability or impairment that causes the person to be unable to learn English or to learn the information necessary to pass the civics exam can receive a waiver from the English or civics exam requirement. However it is not easy to obtain such a waiver due to the very strict requirements for such a waiver. An experienced immigration lawyer should be retained to assist in the preparation of such a waiver.
So in the situation presented by the author of this question, his mother would not be eligible for an age-based exception. Although she is over 55, she has not been a US Permanent Resident for more than 15 years. She is also not eligible for the easier version of the civics exam, since she has not been a US Permanent Resident for more than 20 years.
So she must be able to speak, read and write in English and take the civics examination unless she has a medical or psychological disability that makes her unable to learn English or unable to learn the information needed for the civics exam. The fact that she is illiterate in her own language does not remove these requirements, unless there is a medical reason for her illiteracy.
If you would like to discuss this issue with me or you would like my assistance with filing your naturalization application, you can schedule a consultation appointment with me by calling 1-800-343-4890 or 901-682-6455. Standard consultation fee applies.
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By Ari Sauer
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* This is an advertisement. Ari Sauer is a Memphis immigration lawyer with the Siskind Susser law firm. www.visalaw.com/ari.html. On this blog we answer questions as a service to our readers, but we cannot assume any liability related to reliance on anything herein, and responses to questions are not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Immigration laws and regulations are constantly changing and the rules stated may not apply to your situation. Readers are cautioned to schedule a consultation with an immigration lawyer before acting on anything stated in this blog. This blog is not intended to substitute for a consultation with a qualified immigration law attorney. Ari Sauer is licensed to practice law through the states of Tennessee, New York and New Jersey but is eligible to assist clients from throughout the US. Certification as an Immigration Specialist is not currently available in Tennessee, New York or New Jersey. Siskind Susser limits its practice strictly to immigration law, a Federal practice area, and we do not claim expertise in the laws of states other than where our attorneys are licensed.