What is the U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony Like?
The naturalization oath ceremony (“ceremony”) will be one of the most memorable days of your life. You have reached the pinnacle of the naturalization process and you are moments away from being officially declared a citizen of the United States of America. By the end of the day, you will possess all the rights and privileges of a citizen of the United States.
As exciting as this day will be and as long as you have waited, you may still have many questions regarding this final step. When is the ceremony? What is it like? What will you have to do? What should you do next?
This article is intended to answer each of these questions because the oath ceremony is your day. You should enjoy it without having to worry about what will happen.
Learning About the Ceremony
Once USCIS approves your application for naturalization, you will be required to attend a ceremony to take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States. In certain situations, you may be able to take the oath of allegiance the same day as your interview with USICS. If you do not opt for a same day oath, or you are not able to do so, then, after your application is approved, USCIS will send you a N-445 which will tell you the date and location of your ceremony.
Form N-445 will notify you of what you need to bring with you to the ceremony and will ask you a few more questions regarding activities you have engaged in between your interview and the day of your ceremony.
What if You Cannot Attend the Ceremony on the Scheduled Date?
If you cannot attend the ceremony on the date scheduled, you should return the N-445 to your local USICIS office and include a letter explaining why you cannot be at the ceremony and requesting USCIS to reschedule your ceremony date.
Can You Receive An Earlier or Quicker Ceremony?
Under certain circumstances, you may request an expedited oath ceremony. This request can be made to a court or to USICIS.
When determining whether to grant an expedited ceremony, the individuals may consider special circumstances of a compelling or a humanitarian nature. Such circumstance include by are not limited to:
- A serious illness of the applicant or a member of the applicant’s family;
- A permanent disability of the applicant sufficiently incapacitating as to prevent the applicant’s personal appearance at a scheduled ceremony;
- The developmental disability or advanced age of the applicant which would make appearance at a scheduled ceremony improper; or
- An urgent or compelling circumstances relating to travel or employment determined by the court or USCIS to be sufficiently meritorious to warrant special consideration
USCIS will likely ask for evidence to verify any of the circumstances listed above.
Attending the Ceremony
You should arrive at the location of your ceremony at least 30 minutes early. You will have to check in. Remember, the ceremony is one of the most meaningful events in your, your family’s, and all other attendees’ lives. You should dress accordingly. Here is a glimpse into a naturalization ceremony
Checking in at the Ceremony
You will need to bring your Permanent Resident Card to the ceremony. When you arrive at the ceremony, you will be required to turn in your Permanent Resident Card to the USCIS officer because you will no longer need it. You will get your Certificate of Naturalization that day!!
You will need to bring ALL immigration documents that you have with you to your ceremony.
You will also need to bring the Form N-445 that you received in the mail. Before the ceremony, you should have already answered the questions on page two. These questions want to know whether you have engaged in certain activities between the date of your naturalization interview and the date of your naturalization ceremony.
You may also need to bring other information with you depending on your particular circumstances. For instance, if you have married, or been widowed, separated or divorced since your naturalization interview, then you will need to bring documentation for proof.
Beginning of the Ceremony
First, you will check in and receive a packet. In this packet is valuable information regarding being a U.S. citizen. Next, you will be seated to view a video about America’s immigrants called Faces of America. You will then be asked to stand for the playing of our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.
Next, you will hear welcoming remarks by the Master of Ceremonies and there will be a call of countries where an official will read aloud all the countries represented at the ceremony. Then comes the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
The Oath of Allegiance to the United States.
This is the most important part of the ceremony. To become a citizen you must swear in front of a United States official to do the following[i]:
- Support the Constitution of the United States;
- 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;
- Support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
- Bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and
- Bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; or
- Perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; or
- Perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.
You will be asked to stand, to raise your right hand, and to repeat after the speaker the following oath:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”[ii]
If you are not comfortable making this oath, there are limited circumstances where you may be able to waive making the oath or may modify the oath.
- If you are unable or unwilling to promise to bear arms or perform noncombatant service because of religious training and belief, you may request to leave out those parts of the oath.
- USCIS may require you to provide documentation from your religious organization explaining its beliefs and stating that you are a member in good standing.
- If you are unable or unwilling to take the oath with the words “on oath” and “so help me God” included, you must notify USCIS that you wish to take a modified Oath of Allegiance.
- You will not be required to provide any evidence or testimony to support a request for this type of modification.[iii]
- If you can show that you possess a physical or developmental disability, or a mental impairment, that makes you unable to understand, or to communicate an understanding of, the meaning of the oath, then USCIS can waive the Oath of Allegiance.[iv]
Concluding the Ceremony
After you have taken the Oath of Allegiance, you will be seated to hear remarks by a keynote speaker. Next, you will see a video the President of the United States has prepared to congratulate you and welcome you as America’s newest citizens. You will then be asked to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterwards, you will hear closing remarks by the Master of Ceremonies. Finally, you will be called up to receive your Certificate of Naturalization.
After the Ceremony
What should you after your ceremony?
You have just achieved something you have been waiting so long and working so hard for: you are a citizen of the United States.
Soon after your ceremony you should consider:
- Updating your information at your local Social Security Administration Office.
- Your Social Security information is important for you to obtain benefits and to prove that you can legally work in the United States. For this reason, it is important that soon after your ceremony you bring your Certificate to your local SSA office and update your information. To find the closest office to you call 1-800-772-1213 or visit socialsecurity.gov.
- Appling for a U.S. passport.
- If you want to travel abroad after you are naturalized, you will need to obtain a U.S. passport. It is important that you plan enough time between applying for a passport and your anticipated date of travel. You will receive an application for a U.S. passport in your packet at your ceremony.
- Getting or updating your driver’s license.
- Letting your voice be heard by registering to VOTE!!
The naturalization oath ceremony will be one of the greatest days of your life. It is a solemn event. It is an event envied by many nations. You have earned your spot here. This ceremony is for you. At this point, there is nothing to worry about; you have done the hard part. You have waited patiently and you have passed your exam. So take it in; enjoy it. You are about to be a citizen of the United States.
[i] See INA §337(a).
[ii] 8 CFR §337.1(a).
[iii] See 8 CFR §337.1(b).
[iv] See 8 USC §337.