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.)

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Medical Waiver of English, Civics and Oath Requirements for Naturalization

Many elderly clients express difficulty with the citizenship test due to their inability to learn English and remember the facts about the American government and history.  They also ask if the test can be waived on account of their old age or poor memory.  Unfortunately for most people, they don't qualify for any exception and must learn English and study for the citizenship test.  

The English and Civics Requirements
As part of the requirements for naturalization, applicants must demonstrate that they understand the English language; they must demonstrate that they can  read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage.  They must also demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the basics of the history and principles and form of government of the United States (This is called the civics requirement). 

Medical Waiver of the English / Civics Requirements
However, applicants for U.S. citizenship may seek an exception to the English and civics testing requirements for naturalization "because of physical or developmental disability or mental impairment."  Unfortunately this exception does not cover the normal deterioration of one's memory because of old age.  Nor does it cover other forms of illnesses that do not affect one's ability to learn and recall facts. For instance, I have clients who have cancer.  Unless the cancer somehow affects the person's ability to learn new things, the condition does not qualify for a wavier for the English and civics requirements.

For those who really suffer from medical conditions that affect their cognitive skills, they can and should apply for a medical wavier.  Examples of such conditions include severe dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, developmental disorder, Down syndrome, etc.  Applicants must produce evidence to prove that they suffer from such conditions, including a Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions, Form N-658, completed and executed by a qualified medical doctor. The standard for adjudicating such a request has tightened over the years.  The medical doctor must clearly articulate the prognosis of the applicant, including the clinical diagnosis, the treatment history, the cause of the condition or impairment, the clinical methods used to diagnose the applicant's medical disability, etc.  The doctor must also be able to explain how the medical condition has affected the applicant's ability to learn English and study American civics.  

Waiver of the Oath of Allegiance
As the final step in the naturalization process, an applicant must take an oath to support the U.S. Constitution, renounce all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; or perform other noncombatant service for the U.S. government. This is called the Oath of Allegiance.  

However, if an applicant has a disability that is so severe that he or she is not able to take the oath, an waiver of this oath requirement may also be requested.  This is a separate waiver from the waiver of the English and civics requirements above. The applicant or his/her legal guardian must make the request in writing.  The request must be supported by a written evaluation by a licensed physician, which explains why the applicant is unable to understand and communicate the Oath of Allegiance. This waiver is only reserved for the most severe types of medical conditions and should not be used lightly. 

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