FACT CHECK: Do You Have To Speak English To Be Naturalized?

Holmes Lybrand | Fact Check Editor at The Daily Caller News Foundation

During a heated exchange at the Wednesday press briefing between a senior adviser to President Donald Trump, Stephen Miller, and CNN White House correspondent Jim Acosta, the question of English requirements for naturalization came up.

In an attempt to ridicule a proposal on immigration, Acosta cited a poem on the Statue of Liberty, stating that the poem “doesn’t say anything about speaking English” in order to immigrate to the U.S.

Acosta continued, “Aren’t you trying to change what it means to be an immigrant coming into this country if you’re telling them you have to speak English? Can’t people learn how to speak English when they get here?”

Miller rebutted, “Well, first of all, right now it’s a requirement that to be naturalized you have to speak English.”

Verdict: Mostly True

Applicants for naturalization must pass an English language test unless they meet certain requirements for exemption.

Fact Check:

In order to be naturalized in the U.S. applicants must pass three English language tests, including speaking, reading and writing, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

“An officer determines an applicant’s ability to speak and understand English based on the applicant’s ability to respond to questions normally asked in the course of the naturalization examination,” the USCIS website reads.

The applicant can fail this test if “he or she does not understand sufficient English to be placed under oath or to answer the eligibility questions on his or her naturalization application,” it continues.

According to the USCIS, applicants must “sufficiently demonstrate the ability to read in English, applicants must read one sentence out of three sentences.”

Applicants fail this test if they omit or substitute a “content word,” pause for long amounts of time while reading, or make “pronunciation or intonation errors to the extent that the applicant is not able to convey the meaning of the sentence and the officer is not able to understand the sentence.”

Similarly to the reading portion, the writing test requires applicants to write one of three sentences. The test is failed if different words or sentences are used, if only one or two words are used, if abbreviations are used for “a dictated word,” or if the sentence is “completely illegible.”

Certain individuals can request an exemption if they are “50 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident (green card holder) in the United States for 20 years.” The same exemption can apply for individuals who are “55 or older at the time of filing for naturalization and have lived as a permanent resident in the United States for 15 years.”

If an applicant doesn’t pass the test, they are given two chances to re-take the test.

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Holmes Lybrand

Fact Check Editor at The Daily Caller News Foundation