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Congress Allows Waiver of Naturalization Oath for Disabled Applicants
by Carl R. Baldwin

The immigration law, at Section 337(a), requires that applicants for naturalization take an oath "of renunciation and allegiance" before an INS officer or court which includes these provisions: "to support the Constitution of the United States; to renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the applicant was before a subject or citizen; to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; to bear true faith and allegiance to the same."

In recent years there have been applicants for naturalization who in all other respects are eligible, but who, because of mental illness or disability, have been unable to comprehend the oath "of renunciation and allegiance." Their lawyers had asked the INS to waive the oath for deserving applicants, but the INS maintained that it had no authority to change a provision of law: that was up to the Congress. Congress has now taken that action, and the President signed the bill into law on November 6, 2000.

Under the new law, which amends Section 337(a), "The Attorney General may waive the taking of the oath by a person if in the opinion of the Attorney General the person is unable to understand, or to communicate an understanding of, its meaning because of a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment. If the Attorney General waives the taking of the oath by a person under the preceding section the person shall be considered to have met the requirements of section 316(a)(3) with respect to attachment to the principles of the Constitution and well disposition to the good order and happiness of the United States." The waiver applies to those who applied for naturalization before, on, or after November 6, 2000.

About The Author

Carl R. Baldwin graduated from Columbia University Law School in 1980, and became a member of the New York State Bar a year later. He worked for three years with the New York City Law Department, and then entered solo practice in immigration law, which he has continued to the present. His work with clients has included asylum applications, deportation defense, visa processing, adjustment of status, and naturalization. He has also worked to implement special laws, such as the 1986 "amnesty" (The Immigration Reform and Control Act), and the 1998 Haitian reform act (The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act). Mr. Baldwin is the author of Immigration News Monthly. He can be rached by e-mail at

He has written a book on immigration law, called "Immigration Questions and Answers," 1997, Allworth Press, 10 East 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010 (212) 777-8395. The book, which contains essential background information about how the immigration law works, can be ordered in both an English Edition and a Spanish version from