Disabled can skip citizenship exam

Q. Can my father naturalize despite his mental illness?
My father has been a permanent resident since 1965. He has suffered from a mental illness since 1970 that would make it impossible for him to pass his citizenship exam.
- S. Marino, Flushing

A. Your father can ask the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to waive the English Language and Civic Knowledge requirements for naturalization. He can apply by filing form N-648, Medical Certification for Disability Exceptions.
He submits the form with his naturalization application, USCIS from N-400. The USCIS can waive the English Language and Civic Knowledge requirements for applicants who can’t pass the exam because of a physical or developmental disability, or mental impairment.
To get the waiver, your father needs certification from a licensed medical doctor or psychologist with experience in diagnosing these disabilities.
The doctor or psychologist must complete and sign the N-648 form, indicating that it is your father’s disability that would prevent him from complying with the exam requirements.

‘Stokes interview?’
Q. My wife and I got a notice to come in for a second USCIS interview regarding my permanent residence application. Do you think this will be an interview about our marriage, a so-called Stokes interview?
My wife, a U.S. citizen, petitioned for me to become a permanent resident. We went to a USCIS interview and all went well until the examiner realized that I had an old file. I had applied for permanent residence in 2004 based on a prior marriage, but I never went to the interview. Should I be concerned?
- Eddie, the Bronx
A. If the USCIS addressed the letter to your wife, the interview will likely be a Stokes interview.
If USCIS addressed it to you, then it is likely a follow-up interview on your application for adjustment of status.
For readers not familiar with the term, a Stokes interview is a taped interview where the USCIS separates a couple and asks them questions.
The goal is to determine whether their marriage is bona fide or real.
As for your failure to appear for an interview on your prior application, that shouldn’t prevent you from getting permanent residence.
Still, the USCIS may want to question you about your prior marriage. Assuming that the USCIS denied your prior application simply because you failed to appear, that denial shouldn’t bar you from getting permanent residence now.

Q. I worked at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for 16 years. Does that qualify me for any legal status? I have been in the U.S. for four years without legal status.
- V.H., Rosedale
A. Having worked for the U.S. government at Guantanamo Bay does not give you any special right to legal status here.
Employment by the U.S. government does not confer immigration benefits unless Congress passes legislation to help a particular group. No such law exists for former employees at Guantanamo.

Anxious for citizenship
Q. When can my wife and I get our U.S. citizenship?
I became a permanent resident based on my wife’s petition in July 2007. My wife got hers in July 2005. If my wife becomes a U.S. citizen in 2010, can I then naturalize in less than five years as the spouse of a U.S. citizen?
- D., Manhattan
A. You will need to wait until July 2012 to naturalize. You can file your application three months before the fifth anniversary of the day the USCIS granted you permanent residence.
A permanent resident can naturalize after three years’ permanent residence instead of the usual five if that permanent resident has been married to the same U.S. citizen for three years.
Under the rule, the U.S. citizen spouse of the naturalization applicant must have been a U.S. citizen during the entire three years. That’s why your wife’s naturalization won’t speed up your own.

Allan Wernick is a lawyer and chair of the City University of New York Citizenship and Immigration Project. He is the author of “U.S. Immigration and Citizenship - Your Complete Guide, Revised 4th Edition.” Send questions and comments to Allan Wernick, Daily News, 450 West 33rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10001. Professor Wernick’s web site is www.allanwernick.com.

Allan Wernick’s Immigration column is reprinted from the Thursday, August 21 editions of the New York Daily News.

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