Becoming a U.S. Citizen: Disability Accommodations

Becoming a U.S. citizen requires certain actions on the part of the applicant before he or she can be sworn in. These actions include filling out paperwork, passing an interview, and meeting certain criteria. Although these laws are stringent and must be covered, certain disability accommodations can apply to people who are mentally or physically handicapped.

A U.S. citizenship disability accommodation is an exception to the law made on the behalf of a disabled person. Certain disabilities require specific accommodations, and in order for the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services) to grant those accommodations, the applicant must demonstrate his or her disabilities for consideration.

There are hundreds of scenarios in which disability accommodations might be required, but here are a few examples of circumstances in which accommodations can be requested.

Disability Accommodations: Designated Representative

If the applicant is unable to speak properly or is unable to comply with certain necessary measures, he or she can request that a close friend or family member become a ‘designated representative’. The representative is allowed to accompany the applicant to his or her citizenship interview and to fill out any necessary paperwork on the applicant’s behalf.

Disability Accommodations: Physical Assistance

An applicant for U.S. citizenship whose physical disability restricts him or her from completing any necessary requirements may receive accommodations. For example, an applicant who is paralyzed on the left side of his or her body will be unable to raise the right hand during the sworn oath. In this case, USCIS may allow the applicant to raise his or her left hand instead, with the understanding that it means the same thing.

Disability Accommodations: Exam Requirements

The U.S. citizenship interview requires that the applicant have both an understanding of the English language and an understanding of U.S. history. If a disability prevents an applicant from meeting those requirements, he or she can request a waiver of the exam requirements.

Disability Accommodations: Oath of Allegiance

If a mental disability prevents an applicant for U.S. citizenship from understanding and/or repeating the Oath of Allegiance for citizenship, it can be waived by USCIS.

NOTE: None of these disability accommodations are automatic. The applicant must submit reasonable documentation to illustrate his or her disability, and must be able to perform all other aspects of naturalization. A family member or guardian can prepare the necessary paperwork, or the applicant can do it his- or herself if able.

If you are unsure about whether or not you qualify for disability accommodations, you might want to hire an immigration attorney who can handle all of the paperwork and who can advise you about how to proceed.

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