Can I Waive Taking the Citizenship Exams?

In certain situations, you may be able to forego taking all or part of the exam.

Can I Waive Taking the Citizenship Exams?

Whether you can waive taking the citizenship exams depends on several factors.

The citizenship exams involve both an English and a Civics portion. If you are unable to pass one or both of these portions after two attempts, your application for naturalization will be denied.

In certain situations, you may be able to forego taking all or part of the exam.

Age- and Residency-Based Waivers

The English Proficiency Exam

The English portion of the exam requires that you demonstrate a basic proficiency in the English language. The interviewer will test your ability to read, write, speak, and understand English.

This part of the exam can seem daunting for many non-native speakers. However, you or a relative may be exempt from taking this portion of the exam.

  • If you are 50 years old or older and you have resided in the United States as a legal permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing for naturalization, then you will be exempt from taking the English portion of the exam.[i]
  • If you are 55 or older and have lived in the United States as a legal permanent resident for at least 15 years at the time of filing, then you are also exempt from the English portion of the exam.[ii]
  • If you are 65 or older and reside in the United States as a legal permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing, then you are exempt from the English portion of the exam.[iii]

The Civics Exam

The civics portion of the exam tests your knowledge of the American system of government.

  • If you are 50 years old or older and you have resided in the United States as a legal permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing for naturalization, then you must still take the civics portion of the exam. However, you may take this test in your choice of language so long as you provide your own interpreter who is fluent in both English and the language you plan to take the test.[iv]
  • If you are 55 or older and have lived in the United States as a legal permanent resident for at least 15 years at the time of filing, then you must still take the civics portion of the exam. However, you may take this test in your choice of language so long as you provide your own interpreter who is fluent in both English and the language you plan to take the test.[v]
  • If you are 65 or older and reside in the United States as a legal permanent resident for at least 20 years at the time of filing, then you are exempt from the English exam and you may take a specially designated civics test in the language of your choosing (again, you’ll need to bring your own interpreter).[vi]

Disability-Based Waivers

You may also be entitled to waive the test if you suffer from a disability.[vii] Unlike the age/residency waivers mentioned above, a disability-based waiver can allow you to forego taking any or all of the English portion, the civics portion, or both. What parts of the exam you are exempt from taking depends the nature of your disability as described by a certified physician.[viii]

To qualify for this exemption, you must have a licensed medical professional file a form N-648 on your behalf that clearly states your diagnosis and how it impairs your ability to perform the test.[ix]

A cognitive disability is any impairment that “results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by medically acceptable clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques to have resulted in functioning so impaired as to render [you unable] to demonstrate the knowledge required by [naturalization law] or that renders [you] unable to participate in the testing procedures for naturalization, even with reasonable modifications.”[x]

Common disabilities that may be eligible for a waiver of the test include, but are not limited to: down syndrome, Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and major depressive disorder.[xi]

Due Consideration

Even if you are unable to establish that you suffer from a disability that exempts you from testing, you may be able to establish that your circumstances justify that the USCIS officer administering the test give you “due consideration.”

The officer can then take into account other factors like your age, education, background, time as a U.S. resident, and other relevant factors to decide what to ask you about, how to phrase questions, and how to evaluate your answer.[xii] Basically, the USCIS officer can choose to take it easy on you.

For this reason, it is very important to be polite to the USCIS officer and bring any documentation that may help you show the officer that you deserve due consideration (e.g. a doctor’s note).

Will You be Allowed to Waive the Citizenship Exam?

If any of the above situations apply to you, then you may apply to waive all or part of the citizenship exam. If you are unsure whether your circumstances exempt you from taking the exam, then consider speaking with an experienced immigration attorney today. If you are not exempt from taking the citizenship exam, then begin preparing today by checking out our free resources on naturalization.


[i] See INA 312(b)(2)(A).

[ii] See INA 312(b)(2)(B).

[iii] See INA 312(b)(3).

[iv] See INA 312(b)(2)(A).

[v] See INA 312(b)(2)(B).

[vi] See INA 312(b)(3).

[vii] See INA 312(b)(1).

[viii] See 8 CFR 321.2(b)(2).

[ix] See id.

[x] See 8 CFR 321.2(b)(1).

[xi] See Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Citizenship for Us: A Handbook for Naturalization & Citizenship 244, (6th ed. 2011).

[xii] See 8 CFR 312.2(c)(2).

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