A blog about U.S. immigration matters by Paul Szeto, a former INS attorney and an experienced immigration lawyer. We serve clients in all U.S. states and overseas countries. (All information is not legal advice and is subject to change without prior notice.)

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Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Medical Exemption from English and Civics Requirements for Naturalization




Applying to become a U.S. citizen through naturalization is a natural path for the majority of legal permanent residents in America. U.S. citizens enjoy many benefits that green card holders do not. For example, only U.S. citizens may vote in federal elections, including the presidential elections.  Only U.S. citizens may apply for jobs with the federal government.  Obtaining a U.S. passport is another privilege of citizens.  Unlike permanent legal residents, U.S. citizens are not required to reside in the United States.  U.S. citizens also enjoy additional federal and state financial and medical benefits.

Medical Exemption from English and Civics Requirements

Naturalization requires the applicant to meet some English and civics requirements. Civics include studies of American government and history. Some applications are not able to learn English or civics due to their physical or mental impediments.  Fortunately, the law makes some medical exemption for disabled applicants for naturalization.  To apply for medical exemption, an applicant must submit a Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.  As of November 21, 2022, USCIS will only accept the most current version (8/19/22) of the N-648.

Strict Requirements for Medical Exemption

Some applicants mistakenly believe that it would be easy to obtain exemption. All they need is to obtain a signature by a doctor.  This is far from the truth.  There are very strict legal requirements for the I-648 certification. It must be completed and signed by an authorized medical professional, such as a medical doctor, doctor of osteopath, or a clinical psychologist.  The form must be completed within 180 days before the submission of the N-400 naturalization application.  

Medical professionals can only complete and sign the N-648 certification after a thorough medical examination of an applicant.  They must not only identify and describe the specific physical or development disability or mental impairment that affects the applicant's ability to learn English or American government and history on Form N-648; they must also explain how such disability or impairment prevents the applicant from learning English or American civics.  Further, the physical or mental disability must have lasted or expected to least at least 12 months.  Hence, an applicant can not claim "poor memory" or other mild health issues as basis for exemption.  Also, if the disability is related to illegal drug use, then it would also not qualify for exemption. 

New N-648 Allows Remote Examinations and Oath Waiver

The good news is that, the new N-648 form allows telehealth medical examinations.  Hence, for applicants who are not mobile or are inconvenient to travel, they could still be examined by medical professionals. Also, the medical professional may sign the applicant's oath waiver at the same time.  Before this, an applicant must submit a separate application if he or she wants to apply for a waiver of the oath requirements.  An oath is the final step required for an applicant to become a U.S. citizen.  The purpose is to confirm the applicant's loyalty to the United States, and also his/her willingness to serve and to defend the United States if necessary.  

Exemption by Age and Time

If an applicant does not qualify for medical exemption, she must wait to request for exemption.  To take the test in one's native language, an applicant must be 50 or over and has been a resident for at least 20 years, or must be 55 or over and has been a resident for at least 15 years.  Applicants who are 65 or over and have been legal residents for at least 20 years may take a simple civics test in their native language.


(Immigration laws and policies change regularly.  If you have any questions regarding this article, please visit www.1visa1.com to schedule a legal consultation.)  

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