Failed the English Exam for Citizenship: At Second Interview, Will I Have to Retake Civics Exam, Too?

What to expect upon re-examination by USCIS after failing to pass the English exam portion of the naturalization interview.

By , J.D.

Question

I submitted Form N-400 to apply for U.S. citizenship last year. After waiting many months, I went to my interview at USCIS. But the officer who talked to me said my English was not good. He did not approve me for citizenship. I got a letter for another date for me to go to USCIS and try again.

I will be studying English before my next interview. Do I also need to study the list of questions about U.S. history and government again? And how many chances will I get to pass the English exam?

Answer

This second interview at an office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is your final opportunity (within this part of the application process, at least) to pass the English exam that's required in order to be approved as a naturalized U.S. citizen.

So you will definitely want to spend the coming weeks (probably around 60 to 90 days) working hard on your knowledge of spoken and written English.

The USCIS officer will not use the same text passages to test your English this next time. In other words, you will be asked to read aloud a different portion of text than before, and to write down a different sentence in English.

The good news is, the English exam is likely all you need to prepare for. Assuming you passed the civics exam portion of your naturalization interview, the next USCIS officer who examines you will not administer that particular test a second time. (This policy is stated in the USCIS Policy Manual.)

You can double check the reason you weren't approved. The USCIS officer should have given you a "results sheet" at the end of your first interview, clarifying the reasons. Take another look at that. Hopefully it will indicate that the English exam was the one and only factor in the officer's decision.

If the reason you've had difficulty learning English can be traced to age or disability, you might also look into whether you can ask for an exception to or waiver of the English language requirement.

Best wishes at your upcoming interview! If for some reason it doesn't go well, and you are denied naturalization, you have two options.

You can, according to USCIS policy, appeal the decision by asking for a hearing. File Form N-336 within 30 days in order to make this request. This will give you one last chance to pass the English exam.

Or, you can submit a new N-400 to USCIS as soon as you feel ready to. There is no waiting period to refile if the only reason for denial was failure to pass one of the exams. Of course, you'll need to pass all the exams and go through a full interview at that time.

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