Can a sick person avoid the citizenship test?

In this week's Consulta Migratoria® column, I answer a reader's question about whether a person in poor health should take the citizenship test.

Each case is different and the answers vary depending on the immigration history of each person. Here I provide general answers to your questions. Please consult with an immigration attorney to receive personalized legal advice before beginning any process.

I entered the country illegally and have been married to a permanent resident for five years. In 2008, my husband had an accident on his construction job and was in serious health. My husband has been a resident for 9 years and wants to become a U.S. citizen. Due to his poor health he has not been able to learn what he needs to learn to pass his citizenship test. Also, he wants to help me get my papers. Is there any way my husband can become a U.S. citizen without taking the citizenship test? -Amanda P.

Amanda, your husband may be able to apply for an exemption to the citizenship test requirement due to his poor health.

Generally, persons applying for citizenship through naturalization must demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including the ability to read, write, and speak words in common usage. In addition, they must demonstrate a basic knowledge and understanding of the history and form of government of the United States. This is commonly referred to as the English and civics tests of the naturalization application.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) allows an exemption to the English and civics tests when a person has a physical or developmental disability or mental disorder that has lasted, or will last, 12 months or more.

To apply for this exception, your spouse must submit the Form N-648, Physician Certification for Disability Exceptions. This form must be completed by a medical doctor, a certified osteopathic physician or a certified clinical psychologist licensed in the U.S. or its territories, including Puerto Rico.

Prior to completing Form N-648, the authorized medical professional must conduct a thorough examination of the applicant. The form must be completed correctly and provide the necessary information for USCIS to make a decision on the case. Copies of medical reports and test results may be included if the applicant believes it would help his or her application.

It is extremely important not to lie during the citizenship application process, including faking a medical or mental disability. Immigration fraud is severely penalized by immigration authorities and could make you ineligible for certain immigration benefits in the future.

It is important for every eligible permanent resident to become a U.S. citizen. Encourage your husband to apply for naturalization. Not only will he have access to better benefits as a citizen, but he will also be a great help when he is petitioning you for permanent residency. Consult with an immigration attorney before beginning any immigration proceedings.

For more information and immigration tips, read my blog

Send your questions to Include detailed information about your situation to better answer your questions.

Nelson A. Castillo, Esq. is an immigration attorney and author of La Tarjeta Verde: Cómo Obtener la Residencia Permanente en los Estados Unidos (Green Card: How to Obtain Permanent Residence in the United States). He is a past President of the Hispanic National Bar Association and current President of the Los Angeles Westlake South Neighborhood Council. To contact Mr. Castillo's office, please call (213) 537-VISA (8472).