A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration attorney and counsel. Contact Info: 732-632-9888, http://www.1visa1.com/ (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

Monday, January 3, 2011

USCIS Revises Form for Naturalization Medical Disability Exceptions

On December 22, 2010, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a revised Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, for individuals with disabilities who are seeking exceptions from the English and civics requirements for naturalization. An applicant for naturalization normally is required to establish proficiency in the English language as well as basic knowledge of the American history and government (the civics).  However, the law provides for certain exceptions for individuals who are not able to meet these requirements because of physical or mental disabilities.


The requirements for medical exemption are very strict and the standard used by the USCIS to adjudicate these requests has always been quite high in recent years.  Many applicants wrongly believe that just because they have a mental or physical disability, they are exempted from the English and civics test automatically.  What they don't understand is that, they must also establish a causal relationship between the disability and their ability to learn English and/or American civics.  For instance, an applicant with poor eye sight may think that she is not able to learn English because of her lack of ability to read.  However, since there are other ways to learn English, such as hearing and the Braille system, the USCIS will not likely grant exemption to this applicant. 


According to the USCIS, the revised form is intended to "clarify the requirements and instructions," and also to "standardize the process for applicants, medical professionals and USCIS officers."   A comparison of the old and revised forms does not yield many changes in the questions except, however, two notable changes.  First, the revised form does not ask the medical doctor to address the applicant's daily activities when explaining how the disabilities impact the applicant's ability to learn English and acquire knowledge of American history and government.  The USCIS explains that the activities of the applicant's daily life may not have a bearing on the medical evaluation.   Although discussion of daily activities is no longer required by the form, it doesn't mean that the doctor may not use examples of daily life activities to explain the difficulties experienced by the applicant in speech or communications. 


The second major change of the revised form is that applicant no longer needs to state whether or not another government agency has made a determination on any disability being claimed by the applicant in the N-648 form.  This change makes sense as determination of disability by other government agencies is intended for different purposes and made under different legal standards, and therefore should not be considered in the context of the naturalization process.


Finally, the new form also added some questions about any use of an interpreter.  If the evaluating doctor speaks the applicant's native language and communicates with the applicant in that language, the doctor must certify his fluency.   Otherwise, if an interpreter's used, he or she must also certify that he or she is able to translate for the applicant competently in the applicant's native language.  The previous versions of the form will be accepted by USCIS for 90 days, from December 22, 2010 until March 21, 2011.  Starting March 22, 2011, the new form must be used by applicants and medical professionals.

1 comment:

  1. The history of INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) which is now known as USCIS (United States and Citizenship Immigration Service) a branch of Department of Homeland Security (DHS)