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, December 17, 2018

Stricter N-648 Medical Disability Exemption Policy

The number of applications for naturalization has risen to 754,700 during President Trump’s second year in office, according to USCIS.  This number is the highest since 2013.  There are many benefits that come with U.S. citizenship.  As an American citizen, one has the right to vote and the ability to apply for a U.S. passport; one may also apply for government jobs and other government benefit programs. However, to become an American citizen, one must pass the English and civics test. 

The English and civics test requirement of the naturalization process can be especially challenging for those with cognitive impairments such as dementia and Alzheimer's.  The good news is that one does not have to take the English and civics test if there is medical proof that the person lacks mental ability to learn English or study American civics.  Those that qualify can be exempt with an valid N-648 Medical Disability Exception application. USCIS issued a new policy which will be effective on February 12, 2019, regarding the N-648 form. 

The applicant will need certification from a medical doctor describing their condition and why it exempts the applicant. The doctor's relationship with the patient must also be described. If the regularly treating medical professional is not the one filling out the form, then an explanation why must be included. Other important details include the specific methods and equipment used to diagnose the applicant, dates of examination, and a statement that the condition's duration is at least 12 months. A statement is also required if an interpreter was used. Any anomalies or inconsistencies can make an officer doubt the applicant's legibility.

Immigration Officers are instructed not to judge the medical diagnosis, order specific tests, or to go through the applicant's medical records. Their job is to make sure the form is properly completed. They check for discrepancies in the applicant's file and if sufficient explanation is given. Most important is the connection between the applicant's impairment and an inability to read, write, and speak in the English language or understand U.S. history and government. The details must be tailored to the applicant's condition.

Form N-648 should be submitted with N-400. If it is late, an explanation supported by evidence is required. The N-648 application is accepted or rejected at the initial naturalization interview. If the form N-648 is rejected, the examination continues as if it were not submitted.

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