Taking the Oath of Allegiance of the United States is the final step in the citizenship by naturalization process. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will send you an appointment notice with details of when and where the ceremony will occur. You’ll have to show up smartly dressed - specifically, no jeans, shorts, or flip-flops. There’s no need to memorize the words of the Oath of Allegiance - you’ll receive a script of the oath at the ceremony. This article explains what the Oath of Allegiance is, and what happens during and after the Oath ceremony.
What is the Oath of Allegiance ceremony?
The Oath of Allegiance ceremony is a sworn declaration that all applicants for U.S. citizenship must recite. Applicants must pledge the Oath of Allegiance at a formal ceremony before formally completing their naturalization process. This ceremony is a tradition in U.S. immigration law that dates back to the 18th century.
The Oath will ask you to swear that, as a new citizen of the United States, you will:
- Support and defend the values of the laws and Constitution of the United States against its enemies.
- Give up your allegiance to any other foreign states, nations, or sovereigns, and renounce your hereditary or noble titles, if any.
- Provide U.S. military service or civilian service if the government ever calls you to do so.
You must attend the ceremony to become a U.S. citizen. Attending your Oath of Allegiance ceremony is a mandatory final step of the naturalization process.
You may review the full text of the Oath of Allegiance, according to the Code of Federal Regulations, below:
“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.”
When does the Oath Ceremony occur?
The Oath of Allegiance ceremony takes place after U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your Form N-400 (the “Application for Naturalization”). In many cases, USCIS may have all of the information it needs to approve your application right after your citizenship interview and English and civics exam. Your naturalization ceremony can then occur on the same day. A USCIS official will ask you to leave after your naturalization interview and exam and return later that day for your Oath of Allegiance ceremony.
In other cases, USCIS may send you a Form N-445 appointment letter, the “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony,” with the date, time, and location of your ceremony. Usually, your Oath of Allegiance ceremony will occur at the same USCIS field office where you took your exam and interview.
If you are unable to attend the scheduled ceremony date, you must return Form N-445 to the USCIS field office where your ceremony would have taken place. You’ll need to provide a letter explaining why you can’t make the original date and time and request that USCIS reschedule your ceremony appointment.
Failing to attend your scheduled ceremony date more than once can result in USCIS denying your citizenship application.
What do you need to bring to the Oath Ceremony?
When you attend your Oath of Allegiance ceremony, you need to bring your Form N-445, which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will give to you either right after your interview or later on in the mail. This form will list everything else to bring to the ceremony, including the following:
- Your permanent resident card (or green card).
- Your reentry permit or Refugee Travel Document, if you have one.
- Any other immigration documents you have.
- Your children provided USCIS also approved their U.S. naturalization.
- Any other documents requested by USCIS.
Note that if you forget to bring your green card to the ceremony, you can still take the oath. However, you will need to return your green card first before receiving your naturalization certificate. If you have lost or had your green card stolen, you must sign a form and may need to provide a police report.
A USCIS officer will collect your Form N-445 before the ceremony. Form N-445 has a questionnaire section. The questions assess whether your eligibility for naturalization has changed since your citizenship interview. If you answer “yes” to any of the questions on this section of Form N-445, you might not be permitted to take the oath on that day.
What happens during the Oath of Allegiance ceremony?
When you get to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) field office, a USCIS officer will check you in. They will review your Form N-445 appointment letter to make sure that you did not answer “yes” to any questions in the questionnaire to confirm your eligibility for naturalization. If you are eligible for naturalization, you’ll need to hand in your green card and any USCIS-issued travel documents. USCIS will replace these documents with Form N-550, the “Certificate of Naturalization.”
As you check in, you may receive the following materials: a welcome packet, an American flag, Form M-76 (the “Citizen’s Almand”), and Form M-654 (a pocket-sized pamphlet of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution). You should arrive at least 30 minutes early to give yourself enough time to check in before your ceremony’s scheduled start time. Multiple applicants usually undergo the ceremony at the same time.
At the beginning of the ceremony, USCIS will present information, videos, music, and opening remarks from its Master of Ceremonies and, sometimes, a guest speaker. You and other naturalization applicants will need to stand, raise your right hand, and recite the Oath of Allegiance in front of USCIS officials.
The ceremony will end with you reciting the Pledge of Allegiance (note that the pledge and the oath are different). The Master of Ceremonies will then offer comments to close the ceremony.
What happens after the Oath of Allegiance ceremony?
After the ceremony, you will become a full U.S. citizen, with all of the privileges and rights of citizenship. After completing your Oath of Allegiance ceremony, you will receive your Certificate of Naturalization. Double-check this document for any errors and notify U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if you find any before leaving the USCIS field office.
Your naturalization certificate is your proof of citizenship, so be sure to keep it somewhere safe. If you lose your naturalization certificate at some point in the future, you will need to pay a replacement fee. To request a replacement for a lost certificate, you must file Form N-565 (the “Application for a Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document”) and pay a fee of $555.
After your ceremony, you should update your Social Security record, apply to receive your U.S. passport, and register to vote in the United States. At some USCIS offices, you may be able to register to vote on-site immediately after your ceremony.
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