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Updated Guidance on Citizenship Disability Waivers

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Updated Guidance on Citizenship Disability Waivers

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When a lawful permanent resident applies for citizenship in the United States, they are required to pass two tests: an English test and a U.S. history and civics test. If an applicant has a medically diagnosed disability which would prevent them from being able to pass these tests, they may submit a waiver prepared by a doctor describing their disability. This waiver application is titled the N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.

Unfortunately, although the N-648 must be certified by a doctor willing to attest to the applicant’s medical diagnoses, USCIS often challenges these waiver applications. Officers without any medical degrees will reject statements by certified medical professionals and then force individuals with legitimately diagnosed disabilities to take test they cannot pass or abandon their citizenship applications.

On February 2, 2021, President Biden announced a plan to reduce barriers to legal immigration in the United States. In August 2022, USCIS released an updated version of the N-648 and USCIS released updated policy guidance for N-648 adjudication last week.[1] These updates eliminated unnecessary questions from the form including dates of diagnoses and dates the doctor-patient relationship began. The nature of these questions, which would not alter the authenticity of the disability diagnoses, were biased against individuals who did not have readily available health care—a common issue in the United States. Furthermore, the updated policy eliminated questions about how the disability impaired other parts of an individual’s life—questions which would often lead to officers making their own judgment calls about an individual’s ability despite doctors’ testimony advising otherwise.

We have yet to see whether these changes actually improve the odds of N-648s being granted, but we’re glad to see some steps being taken to eliminate these barriers. If you have further questions about becoming a U.S. citizen or pursuing N-648 waivers, schedule a consultation today.

[1] https://www.uscis.gov/newsroom/news-releases/uscis-form-and-policy-updates-remove-barriers-to-naturalization-for-applicants-with-disabilities

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