USCIS recently implemented important changes to the N-648 that may make the process of applying for citizenship with a Medical Certification for Disability significantly easier. Under current policy, all applicants applying to become naturalized citizens of the United States must demonstrate basic English proficiency (reading, writing, and speaking) as well as knowledge of American civics unless the individual applies for a waiver. As we discussed in an earlier article, there are limited waivers of the English requirement available to older applicants who have the requisite number of years as a permanent resident. However, even those applicants must still undergo an examination unless they are seeking a waiver based on a disability or impairment that results in the applicant’s inability to learn English and/or civics. This is commonly referred to as a Medical Disability Waiver or N-648 Case.
Up until now, the N-648 was a relatively complicated procedure requiring a physician to meticulously detail and document the applicant’s medical disability. Additionally, the former form accorded a great deal of discretion to the immigration officer who oftentimes would substitute his/her judgement for that of the doctor and improperly deny cases. Fortunately, USCIS has revised its policy as well as the form itself, incorporating a number of helpful changes that should impact applicants and the integrity of the process in a positive way.
Some changes that applicants should be aware of include but are not limited to: the length of the application itself (which was cut by close to five pages); the number of questions has been shortened; the nature of some questions have changed or been deleted; requirements pertaining to whether the N-648 must be filed with the application; as well as a new section regarding the Oath of Allegiance.
Some of the questions which were eliminated included those that inquired into the applicant’s daily activities as well as those that required the doctor to painstakingly describe the disability, cause, dates of diagnosis, frequency of treatment, etc. These questions were not only onerous but repetitive, effectively discouraging physicians from completing the form and preventing patients with genuine disabilities from becoming citizens. Now that the form has been streamlined, medical professionals should have an easier time to completing the form on behalf of the patient. Moreover, officers are instructed to review the form in its entirety. If the totality of the responses sufficiently indicate a disability, the officer should not rush to deny the case, even if some responses are incomplete. For example, officers can no longer arbitrarily deny N-648s because DSM codes are missing if the doctor has provided a sufficient description of the diagnosis elsewhere in the application.
Additionally, there was often a lot of confusion about whether applicants who were excused from the test were able to understand and take the Oath of Allegiance. Now, the new form eliminates that ambiguity by asking the medical professional whether the applicant is able to comprehend the Oath, or whether the individual should be granted a waiver of the Oath as well.
Also worth noting is the language in the instructions that state the N-648 “should” be submitted with the N-400 application. The previous instructions required the N-648 to be submitted with the application, and applicants who tried to submit the N-648 after filing were routinely denied. The modification from “must” to “should” leaves room for the officer to accept an N-648 that was not filed concurrently with the application, especially if there are new circumstances or reasons that may have arisen after the application was already submitted.
All in all, these are some very beneficial changes to the process. Applicants who are suffering from medical disabilities as well as those who may have been wrongly denied in the past should certainly take a closer look at the new N-648 to see if they now qualify under the revised guidance.
The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.