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N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions: Why NOT to Rely On the Doctor

By March 25, 2018September 18th, 2022No Comments

Clients frequently contact our office inquiring about their relative’s medical disability as it relates to their filing for naturalization through an N-400 (Application for Naturalization). In particular, these clients are concerned about their relative’s ability to pass the English and/or civics examinations which are generally required of all applicants for naturalization. There is in fact such an exception within the law which may allow certain individuals exception to the English and/or civics examinations. According to Immigration and Nationality Act, (INA) Section 312(b)(1) an applicant is not required to fulfill the English and/or civics requirements if the individual can show that they are unable to do so as a result of their physical or developmental disability or mental impairment(s). That being said, the U.S. has a strong interest in ensuring that its citizens are able to speak, read and write English and have an understanding of the history and principals of the U.S. government. As such, the USCIS will scrutinize the N-648 (Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions) to a very high degree. They will NOT grant a request which is not thoroughly documented with evidentiary support.

The burden of proof when requesting an exception to English and/or civics requirements is on the applicant to show that their disability and/or mental impairment affects their abilities to be able to demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of English and/or Civics. Much of the evidentiary support with regard to meeting this burden of proof comes from a licensed medical professional who completes the certification of the N-648. However, given that physicians are often not familiar with the burden of proof and the level of explanation which needs to be used to meet this burden, they may provide insufficient information in the N-648 which can result in a denial of the request, and in effect, a denial of the naturalization application. In fact, our office has seen many denied requests for exceptions and it is not very surprising at all after seeing the N-648 which was submitted. The typical denied N-648 due to insufficient information provided by the physician looks like a doctor’s note written on a prescription pad to get a child out of school or an adult out of work for a few days. This is not to say that these physicians are incompetent, they are just not lawyers. Of course they are familiar with the disease and/or impairment, and they are familiar with the clinical methods of diagnosis; however, they are not familiar with the legal burden of proof required by USCIS. It is not enough for the certifying physician to state that the applicant has a disease and or mental impairment and that it prohibits the applicant from taking civics and English tests. Among other things, the certification MUST provide a detailed explanation which logically connects the disease to the abilities which are required in either the learning of the knowledge of English and Civics and/or the inability to demonstrate their knowledge. In addition, the certifying physician must give a detailed, explanation as to what caused the applicant’s disability and/or mental impairment and what clinical methods were used in the diagnosis of the applicant’s disability and/or mental impairment.

Often, our clients come to us after they have submitted an N-648 which was deemed insufficient by the USCIS adjudicating officer and the applicant’s request for exception was either denied or, even worse, their naturalization application was denied after they took and failed the requisite tests. These pitfalls can often be avoided by working with an experienced immigration attorney who is familiar with the burden of proof which needs to be met for USCIS to grant the applicant’s N-648. The attorney can work with your physician to ensure that the certification provides a logical and sufficient explanation of the disability or impairment and how it impacts the particular abilities of an applicant to demonstrate the knowledge and understanding of English and/or civics. An experienced immigration attorney can help their client avoid unnecessary delays of months or even years and added costs caused by the issuance of a Request for Evidence (RFE) or denials of their valid exception requests.

Contact Attorney Hashim G. Jeelani at (248) 850-7841 to discuss your immigration matter.