Chapter 11: Disability Accommodation Requests

A. Introduction​

This chapter outlines USCIS policy for receiving and processing requests for accommodations from qualified customers and other persons with disabilities who use USCIS services and access USCIS facilities.​ This includes, but is not limited to, ​person​s who:​

USCIS schedules to have in-person contact with an officer (such as for an interview);​

Wish to schedule an ​InfoPass​ appointment and are requesting an accommodation for that appointment; or ​

Wish to attend a USCIS-sponsored public event.​

Implementing this policy ensure​s​ that USCIS is in compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973​.​ [1] See Pub. L. 93-112 (September 26, 1973). This law prescribes that “[n]o otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States​ . . . ​shall, solely by reason of her or his disability, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance or under any program or activity conducted by any Executive agency.”​ [2] See Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Pub. L. 93-112 (September 26, 1973) codified at 29 U.S.C. 794(a). See 6 CFR 15 for applicable definitions relating to enforcement of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in DHS federal programs or activities, which includes those conducted by USCIS.

B. Background​

An applicant must satisfy all of the legal requirements to receive an immigration benefit; however, USCIS must provide reasonable accommodations to ​person​s with a disability to afford those customers the opportunity to meet those requirements. Accommodations vary depending on the ​person​’s disability. For example, a customer who is:​

Unable to use his or her hands may be permitted to take a test orally rather than in writing;​

Deaf or hard of hearing may be provided with a sign language interpreter for a USCIS-sponsored event;​ [3] In this scenario, “customer” refers to any member of the public who wants to attend the event, such as a naturalization ceremony or an Enlace engagement.

Unable to speak might be allowed to respond to questions in a previously agreed upon nonverbal manner;​

Unable to travel to a designated USCIS location for an interview due to a disabling condition may be interviewed at his or her home or a medical facility.​

The essential feature of an accommodation is that it allows the customer to participate in the process or activity. ​While USCIS is not required to make major modifications that would result in a fundamental change to the adjudication process or cause an undue burden for the agency, USCIS makes every effort to provide accommodations to customers with disabilities.​

C. Disability Accommodation Requests​

All USCIS offices are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified customers with disabilities. Doing so ​ensures​ all USCIS customers the same level of access to all USCIS-administered programs and services.​USCIS has established a standard procedure for ​person​s with disabilities to request accommodations when they:​

Visit a USCIS field office, an Application Support Center (ASC), or ​a​sylum ​o​ffice;​ [4] Asylum offices do not handle requests for disability accommodations for asylum office customer fingerprint appointments. These requests are handled by the USCIS office that oversees the ASC that will be collecting the fingerprints.

Are physically unable to appear for an appointment at a USCIS facility; or​

Schedule and appear for an ​InfoPass​ appointment.​

The standard procedure is for customers to call the ​National Customer Service Center ​(​NCSC​)​ to request an accommodation to complete any phase of the application process. ​If ​the customer needs ​an accommodation for multiple interviews during the adjudication process, customers should also call the N​CSC​ prior to each of the appointments.​

Customer ​s​ervice ​r​epresentatives at the NCSC enter the information about the accommodation request into the ​Service Request Management Tool (SRMT) s​ystem and forward to the appropriate USCIS office that serves the customer’s zip code. The ​adjudicating office​ must then contact the customer and take action on the accommodation request.​

USCIS determines whether the office may reasonably comply with ​the ​accommodation ​within ​7​calendar days of when the inquiry was received by the office, unless unusual circumstances exist (​for example​,​USCIS is unable to reach the ​customer). ​If USCIS has a delay in the determination of the availability of the accommodation, t​he office explain​s​ the delay in the case notes section of the SRMT inquiry and complete​s​ its processing as soon as possible after the reason for the delay concludes.​The office must provide the​ accommodation within a reasonable time frame.​

Ideally​,​ offices receive advance notice of the customer’s accommodation needs through the NCSC so they are prepared to provide accommodations ​when​ needed. However, in the event that a customer contacts the ​field office​, ASC, or ​a​sylum ​o​ffice directly to request a disability accommodation for an interview, the office create​s​ a​n​ SRMT request, work​s​ with the customer to respond to the request, and mark​s​ the request as fulfilled when it is complete so that the request and the response are recorded. ​

To assure accountability, each ​field office​, ASC, or ​a​sylum ​o​ffice must designate an employee​(s) ​to be​ responsible for handling accommodation requests from customers. Regardless of how many employees are tasked with handling requests for accommodations, the ​entire ​office should be aware of the procedures for handling such requests.​

If an accommodation is warranted for an office appointment, ​the​field office​, ASC, or ​a​sylum ​o​ffice should provide the accommodation on the date and time the customer is scheduled for his or her appearance. The ​field office​, ASC, or ​a​sylum ​o​ffice should aim to provide the requested accommodation without having to reschedule the appointment​. ​If an accommodation cannot be provided for the scheduled appointment, the ​customer​and his or her attorney or accredited representative should be notified as soon as possible. The appointment should be rescheduled within a reasonable period of time​.​

Offices are encouraged to ​provide​ reasonable accommodation requests made by walk-in customers whenever practical. ​If the accommodation is not available, the office​ should​inform the customer that the office is not able to provide the accommodation at that time​,​ but will ​provide ​the accommodation for a future appointment. ​USCIS evaluates each request for a reasonable accommodation on a case-by-case basis. Offices are authorized to approve requests for a reasonable accommodation without consulting the ​Office of Equal Opportunity and Inclusion ​(​OEOI​)​.​

While a ​customer​is not required to include documentation of ​a ​medical condition in support of a reasonable accommodation request, ​an office may need ​documentation to evaluate the request​ in rare cases​. In these situations, the ​office must consult ​OEOI for guidance ​before the​ USCIS office request​s​the customer provide​ medical documentation to support an accommodation request. ​

OEOI also provides assistance whenever a ​field office​, ASC, or ​a​sylum ​o​ffice preliminarily believes that an alternative accommodation should be suggested or that an accommodation may not be required. The OEOI Disability Accommodation Manager must concur on any alternative accommodation offered or any accommodation denial ​before the​ office communicat​es​ either action to the ​customer​. ​

Offices should understand that, while the inability to speak is considered a disability under the Rehabilitation Act, the inability to speak the English language (while being able to speak a foreign language) is not considered a disability under the Act. Therefore, no accommodation is required and one should not be provided if a customer is unable to speak English. No request for a translator should be approved unless the customer is otherwise eligible​.​ [5] See, for example, 8 CFR 312.4.

D. Reconsideration Requests​

To request a reconsideration of a denial of a disability accommodation request, the customer must call the NCSC​. Upon receiving the request, a customer service representative creates​ a new SRMT inquiry. ​

Upon receiving the SRMT inquiry, t​he ​relevant ​office must review the customer’s prior request and any additional information provided in the case notes section of the new SRMT inquiry. The office should contact the customer again if additional information is needed. ​

The​ USCIS employee​ in the office responsible for ​handling​disability accommodations​ should ​coordinate​ the resolution of any reconsideration requests​ as necessary. ​The OEOI Disability Accommodation Manager must concur on any alternative accommodation offered or any accommodation denial ​before​the office communicates ​either action to the ​customer​. All affirmed denials must be approved by the ​field office​ director, ASC manager, or ​a​sylum ​o​ffice director​, whichever applies​.​