Chapter 1 - Purpose and Background
USCIS accommodates naturalization applicants with disabilities by making modifications to the naturalization process. 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.
USCIS provides applicants with the requested accommodation or an effective alternative that addresses the unique needs of the applicant where appropriate.
Applicants may request an accommodation at the time of filing their naturalization application or at any other time during the naturalization process.
The Rehabilitation Act requires all federal agencies to provide reasonable accommodations to persons with disabilities in the administration of their programs and benefits. USCIS does not exclude persons with disabilities from its programs or activities based on their disability. The Rehabilitation Act and the implemented DHS regulations 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.
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.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – Nondiscrimination under federal grants
29 U.S.C. 794 – Nondiscrimination under federal grants and programs
6 CFR 15 – Enforcement of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in programs or activities conducted by DHS
8 CFR 334.4 – Investigation and report if applicant is sick or disabled
[^ 4] 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].
[^ 5] See Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Pub. L. 93-112 (PDF), 87 Stat. 355, 394 (September 26, 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.
[^ 7] 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].
29 U.S.C. 794 - Nondiscrimination under federal grants and programs
6 CFR 15 - Enforcement of nondiscrimination on the basis of disability in programs or activities conducted by the Department of Homeland Security
8 CFR 334.4 - Investigation and report if applicant is sick or disabled
Before October 29, 2019, USCIS considered children of members of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employees, who were stationed outside of the United States, to meet the requirement of “is residing in” the United States for the purpose of acquiring citizenship under INA 320. This interpretation was consistent with the definition of “residence” for purposes of naturalization under INA 316. Based on this treatment of U.S. government employees and their children in the context of naturalization under INA 316, USCIS determined that “residing in the United States” for purposes of acquisition of citizenship under INA 320 should likewise be interpreted to include children of U.S. military and government employees stationed outside of the United States who were residing with their parents.
This interpretation, however, was inconsistent with other provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), including the definition of “residence” at INA 101(a)(33) and language in INA 322(a) and INA 322(d), which suggested that the citizenship of military children residing outside of the United States should be considered under that provision rather than under INA 320. Effective October 29, 2019, USCIS amended its policy guidance to address these concerns, and determined that children of members of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employees stationed outside of the United States would not be eligible for citizenship acquisition under INA 320.
On March 26, 2020, the Citizenship for Children of Military Members and Civil Servants Act was enacted, amending INA 320, so that a child residing with his or her U.S. citizen parent, who is stationed outside of the United States as a member of the U.S. armed forces or a U.S. government employee, or is residing in marital union with a member of the U.S. armed forces or a U.S. government employee who is stationed outside of the United States, acquires citizenship under INA 320 if all requirements of INA 320(c) and INA 320(a)(1)-(2) are met. In line with the statute, USCIS rescinds its previous guidance, clarifying that these children are eligible to acquire citizenship under INA 320 if all other requirements under INA 320 are met.
The amendment to INA 320 applies to children who were under the age of 18 on March 26, 2020.
[^ 1] Even though the child of a member of the U.S. armed forces or U.S. government employee stationed outside of the United States may be eligible to apply for a Certificate of Citizenship under INA 322 since he or she resides outside of the United States, USCIS interpreted the child to meet residency requirements under INA 320 as well, which formerly required the child to be residing in the United States with his or her parent to acquire citizenship.
[^ 2] For example, U.S. government employees, including members of the U.S. armed forces, are eligible to apply for an exception to the continuous residence requirement for naturalization under INA 316 as long as their residency outside of the United States was on behalf of the U.S. government. See INA 316(b). See INA 316(a). See Part D, General Naturalization Requirements, Chapter 3, Continuous Residence [12 USCIS-PM D.3].
[^ 3] See Policy Manual Technical Update, Child Citizenship Act and Children of U.S. Government Employees Residing Abroad (July 20, 2015); and Acquisition of Citizenship by Children of U.S. Military and Government Employees Stationed Abroad under Section 320 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), No. 103, issued May 6, 2004.
[^ 4] See USCIS Policy Alert, Defining “Residence” in Statutory Provisions Related to Citizenship [PA-2019-05] (PDF, 308.45 KB). This Policy Alert has been superseded by Policy Manual updates to reflect changes made under Pub. L. 116-133 (PDF).
This technical update incorporates references to Braille-related accommodations for the naturalization test.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is updating and incorporating relevant Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) content into the USCIS Policy Manual. As that process is ongoing, USCIS has moved any remaining AFM content to its corresponding USCIS Policy Manual Part, in PDF format, until relevant AFM content has been properly incorporated into the USCIS Policy Manual. To the extent that a provision in the USCIS Policy Manual conflicts with remaining AFM content or Policy Memoranda, the updated information in the USCIS Policy Manual prevails. To find remaining AFM content, see the crosswalk (PDF, 327.05 KB) between the AFM and the Policy Manual.
This technical update replaces all instances of the term “foreign national” with “alien” throughout the Policy Manual as used to refer to a person who meets the definition provided in INA 101(a)(3) [“any person not a citizen or national of the United States”].
USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.