In order to be naturalized and become a United States citizens, applicants must meet several requirements, including passing a test. The naturalization test is administered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and consists of two parts: a civics test and an English language test.
The purpose of the test is to show that the applicant has a basic understanding of U.S. history and government, as well as the ability to read, write and speak in the English language. However, like most rules, there are exceptions to the naturalization test requirements.
In fact, there are three exceptions from the English language portion of the test. The first is an exception for applicants who are at least 50 years old and have been permanent residents for at least twenty years. Next is an exception for applicants who are at least 55 years old and have been permanent residents for at least 15 years. Finally, there is an exception for people who have a mental or physical disability that prevents them from learning English.
An applicant who qualifies under one of these three exceptions does not have to meet the English language portion of the test. Additionally, people who suffer from mental or physical disability that prevents them from learning about U.S. history and government are also excused from the civics portion of the test.
On the other hand, people who were excused from the English language portion of the test based on one of the first two exceptions are still required to pass the civics portion of the test in their own language. Although, applicants who are over the age of 65 and have been permanent residents for 20 years or more are allowed to take an easier version of the civics test.
Source: NY Daily News, "Elderly permanent resident can naturalize even if she cannot read and write," Allan Wernick, Jan. 11, 2013