What is the Medical Disability Exception to the Citizenship Test for English and Civics?

In order to become a u.s. citizen, the standard requirement is taking and passing both an English test and a Civics test. However, the US Congress has recognized that there are many worthy applicants for US citizenship who are unable to pass the standard test due to a physical or mental disability. It would not be fair  to automatically restrict these potential applicants from naturalizing simply because of a disability that is outside of their control. Therefore there is a way for applicants to avoid having to take these tests by qualifying for the medical disability exception.

To apply for this exception to the English and Civics test, an applicant has to file form n-648 and show that a medical doctor or other licensed medical professional confirms the applicant has a legitimate disability.

There is a minimum legal standard that the applicant has to meet, which is “a preponderance of the evidence” . The burden of proof of meeting this legal standard is upon the applicant and one of the requirements of meeting the exception is that the applicant is unable to pass the test even with reasonable accommodations.

On the N400 naturalization form. There is an option to request certain special accommodations due to a disability. However, the medical disability exception on form n-648 is more  comprehensive and can allow for the applicant to avoid taking either test and not just receiving special accommodations to take the test in a different way. An accommodation that you request on Form 400 does not exempt the applicant from taking the test but gives the applicant a different way to meet the minimum requirements and pass the test.

In contrast the exception through a disability exception can completely take away the English and Civics requirements entirely or in part. The USCIS officer handling your case will determine if the exception should apply to exclude the English test alone, or the Civics test alone, or both.

USCIS only authorizes the following licensed medical professionals to certify the disability exception form:

  • Medical doctors;
  • Doctors of osteopathy; and
  • Clinical psychologists.

In order for a medical certification for the disability exception to be properly filed on form n-648 several key requirements must be met. Included amongst these requirements is that the disability has already lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months. it should also contain a detailed description of the medical condition when it began oh, and a clinical diagnosis of the condition. The column in 648 should be completed by the qualified medical professional, ideally a doctor, no more than six months before filing citizenship application.


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