USCIS Policy Manual

VOLUME 12: CITIZENSHIP & NATURALIZATION

PART C: ACCOMMODATIONS

Chapter 1: Purpose and Background


A. Purpose


USCIS accommodates naturalization applicants with disabilities by making modifications to the naturalization process.[1] See 6 CFR 15.3 for the applicable definitions relating to enforcement of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability DHS federal programs or activities. USCIS aims to provide applicants with disabilities an equal opportunity to successfully complete the process. While USCIS is not required to make major modifications that would result in a fundamental change to the naturalization process or an undue burden for the agency, USCIS makes every effort to provide accommodations to naturalization applicants with disabilities.


  • USCIS evaluates disability accommodation requests on a case-by-case basis as accommodations vary according to the nature of the applicant’s disability. In determining what type of accommodation is necessary, USCIS gives primary consideration to the requests of the person with a disability.



Applicants may request an accommodation at the time of filing their naturalization application or at any other time during the naturalization process.[3] In some cases, applicants with physical impairments such as blindness or low vision or hearing loss may have submitted a medical disability exception form (Form N-648) along with their naturalization application to request an exception from the English and civics tests as they may be unable to take the tests, even with an accommodation. See Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 3, Medical Disability Exception (Form N-648) [12 USCIS-PM E.3]. 


B. Background


The Rehabilitation Act requires all federal agencies to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities in the administration of their programs and benefits.[4] See Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. See 29 U.S.C. 794(a). The Act prohibits qualified persons with a disability from being excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or being subjected to discrimination under any programs or activities conducted by federal agencies solely on the basis of their disability. USCIS does not exclude persons with disabilities from its programs or activities based on their disability. The Rehabilitation Act and the implemented DHS regulations[5] See 6 CFR 15. require USCIS to provide accommodations that assist an applicant with a disability to have an equal opportunity to participate in its programs, to include the naturalization process.


C. Difference between Accommodations and Waivers 


Accommodations are different from statutory waivers or exceptions. For example, if an officer grants an applicant a waiver for a naturalization educational requirement, the applicant is exempt from meeting that educational requirement. An accommodation is a modification of an existing practice or procedure that will enable an applicant with a disability to participate in the naturalization process.


The accommodation does not exempt the applicant from the obligation to satisfy any applicable requirement for naturalization. The accommodation is a modification to the way in which the applicant may establish that he or she meets the requirement.[6] The accommodations discussed in this part are distinguished from the Oath waiver process by which the applicant’s complete examination is conducted by a legal guardian or surrogate appointed by a court of law, or an eligible designated representative. See Part J, Oath of Allegiance, Chapter 3, Oath of Allegiance Modifications and Waivers [12 USCIS-PM J.3]. 


D. Legal Authorities


  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Sec. 504) – Ensures equal access to federal programs

  • 29 U.S.C. 794(http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:29%20section:794%20edition:prelim)%20OR%20(granuleid:USC-prelim-title29-section794)&f=treesort&edition=prelim&num=0&jumpTo=true) – Nondiscrimination under federal grants and programs

  • 6 CFR 15(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/6CFR/HTML/6CFR/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-2926.html#0-0-0-58) – DHS federal regulations on non-discrimination on the basis of disability of persons who access DHS programs or activities

  • 8 CFR 334.4(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-11261/0-0-0-32314/0-0-0-32332.html#0-0-0-20289) – Examination and off-site visits for sick or disabled applicants


Chapter 2: Accommodation Policies and Procedures 


USCIS has established policies and procedures for handling and processing accommodation requests, which include:


  • Providing information locally as needed on how to request accommodations;

  • Designating a point-of-contact to handle accommodation requests whenever possible;

  • Responding to inquiries and reviewing accommodation requests timely;

  • Establishing internal processes for receiving and for properly filing requests; and

  • Processing requests and providing accommodations whenever appropriate.


A. Requesting an Accommodation


1. Submitting the Request


It is the applicant’s responsibility to request an accommodation in advance, each time an accommodation is needed. Generally, the applicant, his or her attorney or accredited representative, or legal guardian should request an accommodation concurrently with the filing of the naturalization application. However, an applicant may also call the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) at 1-800-375-5283 (TDD: 1-800-767-1833) in order to request an accommodation, or may also request an accommodation with the field office at any time during the naturalization process. 


2. Timeliness of Request


The field office’s ability to provide an accommodation on the date that it is needed may be affected by the timeliness of the accommodation request. Some types of accommodations do not require advance notice and can be immediately provided. This may include a USCIS employee speaking loudly or slowly to an applicant, or allowing additional time for an applicant to answer during the examination. Other types of accommodations may be difficult to provide without advance planning. This may include providing a sign language interpreter, additional time for the examination, or scheduling an applicant for an off-site examination.


B. Documentation and Evidence


USCIS evaluates each request for an accommodation on a case-by-case basis. While an applicant is not required to include documentation of his or her medical condition, there may be rare cases where documentation is needed to evaluate the request.[7] Officers should contact local USCIS counsel prior to contacting the applicant and his or her attorney or accredited representative for further information. 


C. Providing Accommodations as Requested


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


Chapter 3: Types of Accommodations


There are many types of accommodations that USCIS provides for applicants with disabilities.[8] The lists of accommodations in this chapter are not exhaustive. USCIS determines and provides accommodations on a case-by-case basis. Accommodations typically relate to the following:


  • Naturalization interview;

  • Naturalization test; and

  • Oath of Allegiance.


Each accommodation may apply to any aspect of the naturalization process as needed, to include any pre-examination procedures.


USCIS recognizes that some applicants may only require one accommodation, while others may need more. Some applicants may need one accommodation at a particular stage of the naturalization process and may require the same or another type of accommodation at a later date. 


A. Accommodations for the Naturalization Examination


Field offices are able to make modifications to provide accommodations during the naturalization examination to applicants with disabilities. The table below serves as a quick reference guide listing common examples of accommodations to the naturalization examination for applicants with disabilities. The paragraphs that follow the table provide further guidance on each accommodation example.


Accommodations for the Naturalization Examination

Accommodation

Explanation

Extending Examination Time

and Breaks 

Some applicants with disabilities may need more time than is regularly scheduled for the examination 

Providing English Sign Language Interpreters or other aids for deaf or hard of hearing applicants

Deaf or hard of hearing applicants may need a sign language interpreter, or other accommodation, to complete the examination

Allowing Relatives to Attend the Examination and Assist in Signing Forms

Presence of a relative may have a calming effect, and such persons may assist applicants who are unable to sign or make any kind of mark 

Legal Guardian, Surrogate or Designated Representative at Examination

Some applicants are unable to undergo an examination because of a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment 

Allowing Nonverbal Communication

Applicants may be unable to speak sufficiently to respond to questions but may be able to communicate in non-verbal ways

Off-site Examination 

Some applicants may be unable to appear at the field office because of their disability


1. Extending Examination Time and Breaks


An officer may provide additional time for the examination and allow breaks if necessary for applicants with disabilities who have requested that type of accommodation. USCIS recognizes that some applicants may need more time than is regularly scheduled.


2. Providing Accommodations for Deaf or Hard of Hearing Applicants


In determining what type of auxiliary aid is necessary for deaf or hard of hearing applicants, USCIS gives primary consideration to the requests of the person with a disability.


Unless the applicant chooses to bring his or her own English sign language interpreter, the field office must provide an English sign language interpreter for a deaf or hard of hearing applicant upon his or her request.[9] If an applicant qualifies for an exception to the English requirement, the sign language interpreter does not need to sign in English. See Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing [12 USCIS-PM E.2]. 


The Rehabilitation Act requires USCIS to make an effective accommodation for the customer's disability, and USCIS cannot transfer the accommodation burden back to the customer. For example, if the person uses the sign language Pidgeon English, USCIS must provide an interpreter who uses Pidgeon English if one is reasonably available. USCIS cannot tell the person it will provide an American Sign Language (ASL) interpreter and require the person to provide an interpreter to translate between Pigeon English and ASL.[10] Contact the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) at 703-838-0030 (voice), 703-838-0459 (TTY), or use RID's searchable interpreter agency referral database. 


The officer should use any communication aids for the deaf or hard of hearing where available, permit the applicant to read lips, and allow the applicant to answer the officer’s questions in writing, as needed.


3. Allowing Relatives and Others to Attend Examinations and Assist in Signing Forms 


In cases where an applicant has a disability, the officer may allow an applicant’s family member, legal guardian, or other person to attend the examination with the applicant. The presence of such a person or persons may help the applicant to remain calm and responsive during the examination. However, if the presence of such person or persons becomes disruptive to the examination, the officer may at any time remove the person from the examination and reschedule the examination if the applicant is unable to proceed at that time.


An officer may allow the person accompanying the applicant to repeat the officer’s questions in cases where such repetition facilitates the applicant’s responsiveness. An applicant’s mark is acceptable as the applicant’s signature on the naturalization application or documents relating to the application when an applicant is unable to sign. A family member may assist an applicant to sign, initial, or make a mark when completing the attestation on the naturalization application. Except as provided below, a family member or other person may not sign the naturalization application for the applicant. 


4. Legal Guardian, Surrogate or Designated Representative at Examinations 


Currently, all applicants for naturalization are required to appear in person and give testimony under oath as to their eligibility for naturalization.[11] See 8 CFR 335.2. When an applicant is unable to undergo an examination because of a physical, developmental disability, or mental impairment, a legal guardian, surrogate, or an eligible designated representative completes the naturalization process for the applicant. USCIS waives the Oath of Allegiance and the legal guardian, surrogate or designated representative attests to the applicant’s eligibility for naturalization. In addition to oath waiver, this process may require accommodations including off-site examinations.[12] See Part J, Oath of Allegiance [12 USCIS-PM J].


Persons eligible to act on behalf of the applicant include: 


  • A person who a proper court has designated as the applicant’s legal guardian or surrogate and who is authorized to exercise legal authority over the applicant’s affairs; or 


  • In the absence of a legal guardian or surrogate, a United States citizen, spouse, parent, adult son or daughter, or adult brother or sister, who is the primary custodial caregiver and who takes responsibility for the applicant. 


USCIS will only recognize one designated representative in the following order of priority: 


  • Legal guardian or surrogate (highest priority)

  • U.S. citizen spouse 

  • U.S. citizen parent

  • U.S. citizen adult son or daughter

  • U.S. citizen adult brother or sister (lowest priority)


If there is a priority conflict between the persons seeking to represent the applicant and the persons share the same degree of familial relationship, USCIS gives priority to the party with seniority in age.


The person acting on behalf of the applicant must provide proof of legal guardianship, or documentation to establish the familial relationship, such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or adoption decree. In addition, the person must provide documentation to establish that he or she has the primary custodial care and responsibility for the applicant (for example, income tax returns, Social Security Administration documents, and affidavits from other relatives). A spouse, parent, adult son or daughter, or adult brother or sister who is not the legal guardian or surrogate must provide evidence of U.S. citizenship.


5. Allowing Nonverbal Communication


An officer may accept forms of nonverbal communication, such as blinking, head shaking or nodding, tapping, or other effective forms of nonverbal communication during the naturalization examination. The officer should also allow the applicant to point to answers on the application and allow the applicant to write out the answers to the civics test if the applicant is not able to communicate verbally. Prior to the start of the naturalization examination, the officer, the applicant, and the applicant’s representative (if any) should agree to the form of communication.


6. Off-site Examination


An officer may conduct a naturalization examination in an applicant’s home or other residence such as a nursing home, hospice, hospital, or senior citizens center when appropriate.[13] See INA 335(b). This applies to cases where the applicant’s illness or disability makes it medically unsuitable for him or her to appear at the field office in person.


B. Accommodations for the Naturalization Test


An applicant with a disability may require an accommodation to take the English and civics tests. The officer should use the appropriate accommodation to meet the applicant’s particular needs. In addition, some applicants with disabilities may qualify for an exception to these requirements for naturalization.[14] See Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing [12 USCIS-PM E.2]. See INA 312(b). See 8 CFR 312.1(b) and 8 CFR 312.2(b). 


The table below serves as a quick reference guide listing common examples of accommodations to the naturalization test for applicants with disabilities. The paragraphs that follow the table provide further guidance on each accommodation.


Accommodations for the Naturalization Test

Accommodation

Explanation

Providing Reading Tests in Large Print 

Partially blind applicants may be unable to read small print 

Oral Writing Test 

Applicants with physical impairments or with limited use of their hands may be unable to write sentences in the test itself 

Allowing Nonverbal Communication

Applicants may be unable to speak sufficiently to respond to questions but may be able to communicate in non-verbal ways

Providing English Sign Language Interpreters

Deaf or hard of hearing applicants may need a sign language interpreter to complete the tests


1. Providing Reading Test in Large Print


An officer should provide the current reading naturalization test version in large print for applicants who are partially blind (have low vision).[15] Officers may photocopy the current versions of the test into larger print or increase the font electronically.  


2. Oral Writing Test


An officer should administer the writing portion of the naturalization test orally for applicants with physical impairments, which cause limited or no use of their hands in a way as to preclude the applicant’s ability to write. The applicant may satisfy the writing requirements by spelling out the words from the writing test. 


3. Allowing Nonverbal Communication


An officer may accept forms of nonverbal communication, such as blinking, head shaking or nodding, tapping, or other effective forms of nonverbal communication during the naturalization examination. The officer should also allow the applicant to point to answers on the application and allow the applicant to write out the answers to the civics test if the applicant is not able to communicate verbally. Prior to the start of the naturalization examination, the officer, the applicant, and the applicant’s representative (if any) should agree to the form of communication.


4. Providing Sign Language Interpreters


In determining what type of accommodation is necessary for deaf or hard of hearing applicants, USCIS gives primary consideration to the requests of the person with a disability. 


Unless the applicant chooses to bring his or her own English sign language interpreter, the field office must provide an English sign language interpreter for a deaf or hard of hearing applicant upon his or her request.[16] If an applicant qualifies for an exception to the English requirement, the sign language interpreter does not need to sign in English. See Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing [12 USCIS-PM E.2]. 


The officer should use any communication aids for the deaf or hard of hearing where available, permit the applicant to read lips, and allowing the applicant to answer the officer’s questions in writing, as needed.


C. Accommodations for the Oath of Allegiance


A disability or medical impairment may make it difficult for some applicants to take the Oath of Allegiance at the oath ceremony. The table below lists examples of accommodations to the Oath of Allegiance. The paragraphs that follow the table provide further guidance on each accommodation. Some applicants may qualify for a waiver of the Oath of Allegiance.[17] See Part J, Oath of Allegiance, Chapter 3, Oath of Allegiance Modifications and Waivers [12 USCIS-PM J.3]. 


Accommodations for the Oath of Allegiance

Accommodation

Explanation

Simplifying Language 

for Assent to the Oath

Applicants with disabilities may need simpler language to show they assent to the oath

Expedited Scheduling for Oath

Applicants with disabilities may be unable to attend a later ceremony because of their condition 

Providing Sign Language Interpreter at Oath

Deaf or hard of hearing applicants may need a sign language interpreter to participate in the ceremony

Off-site Administration of Oath

Applicants with disabilities may be unable to attend the court or field office ceremony because of their condition


1. Simplifying Language for Assent to the Oath


An officer may question the applicant about the Oath of Allegiance in a clear, slow manner and in simplified language if the applicant presents difficulty understanding questions regarding the oath. This approach allows the applicant to understand and assent to the Oath of Allegiance and understand that he or she is becoming a U.S. citizen.


2. Expedited Scheduling for Oath


A field office should expedite administration of the Oath of Allegiance for an applicant who is unable to attend a ceremony at a later time because of his or her medical impairment. The expedited process may include a ceremony on the same day or an off-site visit.


3. Providing Sign Language Interpreter at Oath


A field office should provide an English sign language interpreter for an applicant who is deaf or hard of hearing or permit the applicant to use his or her own interpreter during an administrative oath ceremony or for a judicial ceremony where a court is unable to provide an English sign language interpreter.


4. Off-site Administration of Oath


A field office should administer the Oath of Allegiance immediately following the off-site examination for an applicant who is unable to attend because of his or her medical condition. Some applicants may have appeared at the field office for the examination, but due to a deteriorating condition are unable to attend the oath ceremony. In such cases, an off-site visit may be scheduled to administer the Oath of Allegiance.



Footnotes


1. [^] 

 See 6 CFR 15.3(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/6CFR/HTML/6CFR/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-2926/0-0-0-2938.html#0-0-0-383) for the applicable definitions relating to enforcement of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability DHS federal programs or activities.

2. [^] 

 See, for example, 6 CFR 15.50(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/6CFR/HTML/6CFR/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-2926/0-0-0-2999.html#0-0-0-395) and 6 CFR 15.60(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/6CFR/HTML/6CFR/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-2926/0-0-0-3014.html#0-0-0-399).

3. [^] 

 In some cases, applicants with physical impairments such as blindness or low vision or hearing loss may have submitted a medical disability exception form (Form N-648(http://www.uscis.gov/n-648)) along with their naturalization application to request an exception from the English and civics tests as they may be unable to take the tests, even with an accommodation. See Part E, English and Civics Testing and ExceptionsChapter 3, Medical Disability Exception (Form N-648(http://www.uscis.gov/n-648)) [12 USCIS-PM E.3(http://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartE-Chapter3.html)].

4. [^] 

 See Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. See 29 U.S.C. 794(a)(http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:29%20section:794%20edition:prelim)%20OR%20(granuleid:USC-prelim-title29-section794)&f=treesort&edition=prelim&num=0&jumpTo=true). The Act prohibits qualified persons with a disability from being excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or being subjected to discrimination under any programs or activities conducted by federal agencies solely on the basis of their disability.

5. [^] 

 See 6 CFR 15(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/6CFR/HTML/6CFR/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-2926.html#0-0-0-58).

6. [^] 

 The accommodations discussed in this part are distinguished from the Oath waiver process by which the applicant’s complete examination is conducted by a legal guardian or surrogate appointed by a court of law, or an eligible designated representative. See Part J, Oath of Allegiance, Chapter 3, Oath of Allegiance Modifications and Waivers [12 USCIS-PM J.3(http://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartJ-Chapter3.html)]. 

7. [^] 

 Officers should contact local USCIS counsel prior to contacting the applicant and his or her attorney or accredited representative for further information.

8. [^] 

 The lists of accommodations in this chapter are not exhaustive. USCIS determines and provides accommodations on a case-by-case basis.

9. [^] 

 If an applicant qualifies for an exception to the English requirement, the sign language interpreter does not need to sign in English. See Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing [12 USCIS-PM E.2(http://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartE-Chapter2.html)].

10. [^] 

 Contact the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) at 703-838-0030 (voice), 703-838-0459 (TTY), or use RID's searchable interpreter agency referral database.

11. [^] 

 See 8 CFR 335.2(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-11261/0-0-0-32387/0-0-0-32396.html#0-0-0-20343).

12. [^] 

 See Part J, Oath of Allegiance [12 USCIS-PM J(http://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartJ.html)].

13. [^] 

 See INA 335(b)(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-29/0-0-0-10288.html#0-0-0-7977).

14. [^] 

 See Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing [12 USCIS-PM E.2(http://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartE-Chapter2.html)]. See INA 312(b)(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-29/0-0-0-9833.html#0-0-0-7631). See 8 CFR 312.1(b)(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-11261/0-0-0-30674/0-0-0-30679.html#0-0-0-19431) and 8 CFR 312.2(b)(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-11261/0-0-0-30674/0-0-0-30697.html#0-0-0-17353).

15. [^] 

 Officers may photocopy the current versions of the test into larger print or increase the font electronically. 

16. [^] 

 If an applicant qualifies for an exception to the English requirement, the sign language interpreter does not need to sign in English. See Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 2, English and Civics Testing [12 USCIS-PM E.2(http://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartE-Chapter2.html)]. 

17. [^] 

 See Part J, Oath of Allegiance, Chapter 3, Oath of Allegiance Modifications and Waivers [12 USCIS-PM J.3(http://www.uscis.gov/policymanual/HTML/PolicyManual-Volume12-PartJ-Chapter3.html)].