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Requesting Special Accommodations

As a federal agency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may not exclude qualified persons with disabilities from its programs or activities based solely on the person’s disability. To ensure that persons with disabilities are not excluded from USCIS programs or activities because of their disabilities, USCIS must provide modifications or accommodations that permit qualified persons with disabilities to have an equal opportunity to participate in its programs.

An accommodation is a modification, not an exemption from an existing practice or procedure that will allow an applicant with a disability to participate in the immigration processes. The applicant will still have to satisfy the requirement; however, the manner in which the applicant demonstrates meeting the requirement is changed. Accommodations are likely to vary with the individual’s disability. For example, an applicant who is unable to use his or her hands should be permitted to take any written tests orally. An applicant who is unable to speak might receive an accommodation that would allow that applicant to respond to questions with a previously agreed upon nonverbal form of assent. The essential aspect of an accommodation is that it is effective in allowing the applicant to participate fully in the process.

USCIS is not required to take any action that would result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of any program for this individual applicant or in undue financial and administrative burdens in conducting the program/process.

Only on rare occasions will an accommodation requested by an applicant rise to the level of a fundamental alteration of the program or an undue burden for the agency. In most cases, the field office must provide either the specific accommodation requested by an applicant with a disability or an alternative accommodation that enables that applicant to participate in the process.

Making a Request for Accommodation

The obligation to request an accommodation for a particular program requirement is initially on the applicant (or someone acting on the applicant’s behalf). For appointments at an Application Support Center (ASC), the applicant, or someone acting on his/her behalf should go to the ASC and make the request both verbally and in writing well in advance of the appointment date. For appointments at a local office, the applicant or someone acting on his/her behalf, should make an INFOPASS appointment and visit the local office to make the request both verbally and in writing well in advance of the appointment date.

Once an accommodation has been requested, the obligation is then on the field office to provide a timely response to that request.

An office's ability to provide an accommodation on the date that it is needed will depend on when the accommodation was requested and whether the accommodation is one that requires advance planning. Some types of accommodations, such as speaking loudly and slowly to an applicant with a mild to moderate hearing impairment, or allowing an applicant to take extra time to write the answers to a civics test because of arthritis, do not require advance notification and can be immediately provided. Others, like arranging for a sign language interpreter or scheduling an applicant for a homebound interview, cannot be accommodated without advance planning.

03-30-2015 07:12 PM CDT