Can My Relative Who Works Get a Disability Waiver for Naturalization?

If you have a relative who works but still feels unable to take the naturalization test for U.S. citizenship because of a medical impairment or disability, do not assume that your relative cannot receive a “disability waiver” of the exam requirements.

As described in more detail here, an applicant for naturalization can request a disability waiver of the naturalization test by submitting Form N-648 (Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Working Applicants Formerly Faced  Extreme Difficulties  Getting a Disability Waiver  

In the past, an applicant for naturalization who held down a job yet was unable to take the naturalization test would find that it was difficult or impossible to get a disability waiver approved. Officers often took the view that if an applicant for naturalization could work – regardless of what type of work the person might be doing – he or she could take the naturalization test.

Immigration Rules Have Changed in Applicants' Favor

Today, it is still difficult for working applicants to get a disability waiver, but the chances of success are much better. A memorandum that USCIS published on December 14, 2010 specifically states that the simple fact that an applicant for naturalization works is not enough to deny a request for a disability waiver. Instead, the immigration officer reviewing the person's disability waiver request is supposed to review the Form N-648 in the same way as he or she would in a case where the applicant does not work. (See "How the USCIS Interviewer Will Approve or Deny a Disability Waiver.")

How the Doctor Can Help

Talk to the medical professional who will be completing Form N-648 about the fact that the applicant is employed. Most importantly, ask the medical professional if he or she would be able to provide a clear, simple explanation regarding why the person can perform work tasks but cannot learn, retain, and demonstrate knowledge of English (reading, writing and speaking) and U.S. history, civics, and geography.

Do  not  ask the doctor to provide this information on the Form N-648; but instead, to write it up in a separate letter.

Your relative can take the doctor's letter to the naturalization interview and present it to the USCIS immigration officer if and only if it becomes necessary. The idea is to avoid providing information about the applicant's job on the Form N-648 or submitting it to USCIS voluntarily. That doesn't mean lying, it just means not offering up complicating bits of information unless asked for it. The immigration officer is generally allowed to ask questions about – and evaluate the adequacy of an explanation regarding – any issue that the doctor mentions on Form N-648 or in any written attachment to Form N-648.

Although the applicant for naturalization and his or her medical professional should not have to explain, in writing or orally, why he or she can work but still cannot take the naturalization test, some immigration officers and their supervisors may still insist on an explanation. In that case, the applicant, the interpreter, or the attorney have two options:

  1. Ask to be allowed to speak with a supervisor, to whom you will mention the N-648 memorandum that clearly states that the fact that an applicant works is irrelevant; or

  2. Present the letter written by the doctor explaining why the applicant can perform work tasks despite a disability or impairment that makes him or her unable to take the naturalization test. For example, the doctor might explain that the job tasks that the applicant is responsible for are repetitive and do not require learning or retaining complex information. If the officer still insists that a person who works cannot be given a waiver of the naturalization test, the interpreter or the applicant's attorney should ask to speak to a supervisor and mention to the supervisor the relevant N-648 memorandum.

If the officer and supervisor still refuse to approve the request for a disability waiver, the officer must follow the steps described in "What Happens If USCIS Rejects an N-648 Disability Waiver Request," including issuing a Form N-14 detailing what was wrong with the Form N-648. Then, at the second interview, the applicant can present a new Form N-648 that addresses the issues that the officer identified at the first interview.

If N-648 Is Not approved at First Interview

Before the second interview, if your relative does not already have an attorney, seriously consider hiring one to work with the doctor to fix any issues with the N-648 and to accompany your relative to the second interview.

Doing everything to increase the chances that the N-648 will be approved at the second interview is important, because USICS will generally schedule applicants for only two naturalization interviews. If the immigration officer does not approve the Form N-648 at the second interview, the immigration officer will deny the application for naturalization. After a denial of an application for naturalization, your relative can reapply or appeal the denial. Both of these options require the payment of a new fee.  


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