USCIS Oath Waiver
To become a United States citizen by application (rather than by birth in the United States), applicants are required to support the constitution and form of government of the United States and recite the "oath of allegiance".
An applicant can take the oath of allegiance only if he or she can freely express the desire to become a U.S. citizen and understands that by doing so gives up “allegiance” to their country of origin.
Some people have disabilities that make it impossible for them to express their support for the U.S. Constitution or government, or to memorize the oath. If you would like to help your disabled family member become a U.S. citizen, it may make sense to request what's called an “oath waiver.”
What is an Oath Waiver?
An oath waiver allows people who are unable to understand and recite the oath become citizens without actually taking the oath.
Not Everyone Qualifies for an Oath Waiver.
An applicant with a minor disability will not qualify to receive an oath waiver. The USCIS will look for ways to modify its standard interviewing procedure to allow the applicant to effectively tell an immigration officer that he or she understands and is willing to take the oath. In cases of minor disabilities, workable adjustment can be made.
The Waiver Does Not Waive the Naturalization Test
An oath waiver is not the same thing as a disability waiver of the naturalization tests of the English language, U.S. history and government.
A decision by USCIS to approve a request for an oath waiver does not mean that the applicant will also receive a waiver of the naturalization test. Applicants requesting an oath waiver may also request a disability waiver of the naturalization test.
Who Qualifies For an Oath Waiver?
For an applicant to receive an oath waiver, the person must provide documentation of a developmental or physical disability or mental impairment that prevents him or her from being able to understand the meaning of the oath or to communicate an understanding of the oath requirement.
What is a Designated Representative?
An applicant must be sponsored by a designated representative, who is either:
1. The applicant's court-appointed legal guardian or surrogate or,
2. A spouse, parent, adult son or daughter, or adult brother or sister of the applicant who is already a U.S. citizen.
How to Request an Oath Waiver
There is no standard form used to request an oath waiver. An applicant may include a written request for an oath waiver when first mailing in the Form N-400. This can be done in a separate cover letter or by writing OATH WAIVER REQUESTED at the top of the first page of Form N-400.
If the request was not included with the Form N-400, an applicant is allowed to request an oath waiver for the first time at a naturalization interview.
If you do not include a request for an oath waiver when you mail in Form N-400, be prepared to explain, at the interview, why you did not make your request earlier.
Documents to Submit for an Oath Waiver
There are two key requirements to receive an oath waiver:
1. The applicant must unable to take the oath; and
2. There must be a person who has the authority to act as the applicant's “designated representative.”
Both requirements are met by providing various documents, including, at a minimum, the following:
1. A statement from a medical or osteopathic doctor or psychologist who is licensed in the United States and is familiar with the applicant's medical history and condition.
2. A written affidavit from the designated representative stating:
a. No other person has been granted legal guardianship or authority over the affairs of the applicant.
b. They personally know relevant information regarding the applicant. (Note: this statement is not necessary if the representative is the applicant's legal guardian or surrogate.)
c. If applicable, that the designated representative was not aware, at the time that the application for naturalization was submitted, that the applicant's disability was so severe that he or she would be unable to understand and answer questions related to the naturalization process.
3. A court order showing that the designated representative is the applicant's legal guardian or surrogate OR, if there is no such court order, items 4-6, below.
4. Proof that the representative is a U.S. citizen,
5. Proof of the familial relationship between the representative and the applicant or,
6. Proof the representative has "primary custodial responsibility" for the applicant.
What Will Happen at the Naturalization Interview?
The USCIS officer may evaluate whether the applicant truly understands they are applying for citizenship, or whether are able to express support for the government and constitution of the United States.
The officer may do this by having the applicant's interpreter ask the officer's yes/no questions about naturalization, the oath, and the applicant's desires and wishes. The officer might also allow the applicant to respond with “physical motions or signals” if unable to speak.
Usually, it is obvious (because of the applicant's severe physical and mental disabilities) that an applicant qualifies for an oath waiver. But if the applicant's disability is not readily apparent, the USCIS officer may ask for more documents about the applicant's disability.
The USCIS officer may ask unusual or inappropriate questions. If this happens, your attorney, who will be with you, will challenge the questions or ask to speak with a supervisor.
What if the Waiver Request is Refused?
The USCIS officer may refuse to approve the request for an oath waiver because of some technical error in the applicant's oath waiver request. For more information about what to do if the first naturalization interview does not go as planned, see "What Happens If USCIS Rejects an N-648 Disability Waiver Request."
After Approval: Same-Day Administrative Oath
If the applicant qualifies for an oath waiver, and USCIS approves the application for naturalization, the applicant will not have to appear at a public oath ceremony.
Instead, the applicant's representative can complete a same-day administrative oath process. That means that the applicant will receive a naturalization certificate on the same day as the USCIS interview.