In 2020, the Trump administration nearly doubled the length of the form that immigrants with disabilities can use to request exemptions from the citizenship test.
The government has recently shortened and simplified the form. Here, a man holds an American flag as he attends a naturalization ceremony to become a US citizen in Miami in 2018.
USCIS implemented several changes to make the naturalization process more accessible to applicants with disabilities.
After months of public input, a federal agency has shortened and simplified its disability waiver, which is used to exempt immigrants with physical, mental or learning disabilities from English language and civics test requirements.
The changes largely reverse efforts by the former Trump administration to expand requirements for citizenship applicants with disabilities.
“The recent policy change is a big step in the right direction and a big improvement on the old policy,” Laura Burdick, who works on disability waiver policy with the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, told NPR.
“It requires a much more human approach,” he added.
USCIS Director Ur Jaddo said in a statement last week that the changes were part of President Biden’s order to restore confidence in the US immigration system.
Among the steps to allow citizens to vote, immigrants are tested on how well they can read, write and understand English, and how well they understand American history and government. Since 199, the federal government has allowed immigrants with disabilities to waive such requirements.
In 2020, the Trump administration nearly doubled the length of the disability permit and added unnecessary complexity, Burdick said. USCIS itself described some parts of the application as “superfluous” and said they are “no longer practical.”
Questions such as how the applicant’s disability affects their daily life, a description of the severity of the disability and how often doctors receive treatment have now been removed.
Another policy change allows applicants who have not filled out their waivers properly to submit their forms with updated information instead of filling out completely new documents.
Burdick said these policy improvements remove barriers and create a more efficient path to citizenship for people with disabilities.
But there is more work, he added. The concerns of his organization include the limited number of certified medical professionals in facilities.
“Many of the immigrants we serve receive first aid from nurses because they are often more accessible than doctors, especially in poor communities,” she said.
During the three quarters from October 2021 to June 2022, approximately
5,000 immigrants applied for a disability permit.