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On December 12, 2018, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued new policy guidance in its Policy Manual to update and clarify filing procedures and adjudications related to the Form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.

Generally, applicants for naturalization (U.S. Citizenship) must demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including the ability to read, write and speak. They must also demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the history, principles and form of government of the United States. These are known as the “English and civics” requirements for naturalization. Form N-648 is used by applicants who seek an exception to the English and/or civics requirement due to a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment that has lasted, or is expected to last for, 12 months or longer. Only medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, and clinical psychologists licensed to practice in the United States or its territories are authorized to certify the Form N-648.

The new USCIS policy supersedes any prior guidance on the topic and will become effective on February 12, 2019. USCIS will accept public comments to the revised guidance by December 27, 2018. The policy update:

• Clarifies filing requirements for Form N-648, including that the form must be submitted with the naturalization application.
• Clarifies that USCIS may consider a late filing or multiple filings, only if there is a credible explanation and if the applicant submits sufficient evidence in support of that explanation.
• Clarifies that an officer may find an N-648 insufficient if there is a finding of credible doubt, discrepancies, misrepresentation or fraud as to the applicant’s eligibility for the exception.
• Clarifies that applicants may decline the English and civics test or discontinue the interview when an officer determines the Form N-648 is insufficient, but this will count as a failed attempt to pass the English and civics requirements.

In light of the new guidance, it is important to seek experienced immigration counsel for advice related to eligibility for an exemption from the English and/or civics requirement for naturalization as well as for assistance with the preparation and submission of the Form N-648.