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Disability Waivers For English and Civics Requirements for Citizenship

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Disability Waivers For English and Civics Requirements for Citizenship

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To become a U.S. citizen, most naturalization applicants must pass an English test, demonstrating they can read, write, speak and understand English, as well as pass a civics test containing questions on U.S. history and government. These requirements are waived for applicants age 55 or older who have been Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) for at least 15 years, or those who are age 65 or older who have been an LPR for at least 20 years.

In addition, applicants who have a disability that prevents them from meeting the English and/or civics requirements may seek an exception by filing Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions. This form must be filled out by a licensed medical professional who certifies that the applicant’s medical conditions prevents the applicant from meeting the English and/or civics requirements.

Recently, U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) revised the Form N-648 and modified its Policy Manual for immigration officers. Unfortunately, these actions have made it more difficult for disabled applicants to obtain a waiver of the English and civics requirements.

In the revised N-648, the length of the form has increased from six pages to nine, and questions regarding the disability nearly doubled from 12 to 23. Medical professionals are required to provide detailed answers to questions on the form, including detailed descriptions on the severity of the disability, the basis for the medical professional’s assessment, and how the disability affects specific functions of the applicant’s daily life. For busy medical professionals, this revised form is burdensome and requires a significant amount of time to complete.

Moreover, the USCIS Policy Manual provides a long list of factors that may give rise to “credible doubts” and cause the officer to reject the N-648. These factors include a lack of detail in the medical professional’s responses on the form, or the fact that a medical professional certifying the form is not the applicant’s regular treating physician.

In practice, the revised N-648 combined with the new policy guidance create an unfair barrier for disabled applicants in obtaining U.S. citizenship.

If you or someone you know is interested in applying for U.S. citizenship but have not done so because a disability has affected your ability to meet the English and/or civics requirements, contact our office today and make an appointment with one of our attorneys to discuss your case.

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