What Is The Oath Of Allegiance Ceremony?

The Oath of Allegiance is a legally-binding declaration that every U.S. citizenship applicant must chant in a formal ceremony leading to recognition as a naturalized U.S. citizen. The Oath, considered a public event, is usually held annually between July 1 and July 4, the national Independence Day. Upon swearing the Oath of Allegiance to the United States, you promise to:  

  • Terminate allegiance to other countries
  • Repudiate noble titles and hereditary titles (if any)  
  • Support and actively defend the U.S. Constitution and law 
  • Participate in work of national importance to the United States when required by the law of the land

Who Administers The Oath?  

It is the duty of the Secretary of Homeland Security to administer this oath. However, this secretary may decide to delegate the task to other DHS officials or any other eligible designated United States government employee. 

Through the Director of USCIS, the Secretary of Homeland Security can delegate this authority to certain eligible USCIS officials during an administrative naturalization ceremony. The officials are free to re-delegate this authority to employees within their command chains through a delegation memorandum. E.g., the Director may delegate this duty to the Deputy Director and Field Office Directors. The Field Office Directors may decide to re-delegate the responsibility to other employees within their command chains, such as supervisory immigration services officers.  

Additionally, in the administrative ceremonies, the immigration judges are also authorized to administer the Oath. During a judicial naturalization ceremony, a districted proper jurisdiction judge is an exclusive authorized Oath administrator. 

When Is The Oath Of Allegiance Administered?  

The Oath is administered after you pass your English and civics tests and after your citizenship application’s approval. The ceremony is a crucial part of processing your U.S. citizenship. The USCIS sends you the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony by scheduling the time and date of the ceremony.  

Sometimes, the Oath is taken the same day as the English and civics tests. After the ceremony, you receive a Certificate of Naturalization and become a citizen of the United States of America immediately. You must attend the ceremony as this is the last process in naturalization.  

Location Of The Oath of Allegiance

Since there are two types of Oath of Allegiance ceremonies, your kind of ceremony, either judicial or administrative, will depend on the USCIS district you reside. The court then administers the Oath of Allegiance in a judicial ceremony while the USCIS administers it in an administrative ceremony.  

This ceremony can be held in various places, e.g., a courthouse, a stadium, a convention center, or a small room. If it pleases you, you are free to bring your family members to witness the event. 

What If I Fail To Attend The Ceremony On The Scheduled Date?  

Suppose you discover that attending your naturalization ceremony on the date and time scheduled by USCIS will be difficult for you? In that case, you have to return Form N-445 to the USCIS field office, where the oath administering ceremony will be held alongside a letter explaining why you are unable to attend the ceremony on the scheduled date and time. The letter must also request that your appointment be rescheduled.

Failure to attend the ceremony as required- more than once- leads to the USCIS denying your citizenship application.  

What Are The Requirements For U.S. Citizenship? | Read more

Modified Oath of Allegiance, Explained

This happens when you have religious beliefs preventing you from stating some things in the Oath of Allegiance. If this is the case, you are allowed to use a different oath texting provided you have proof of your religious beliefs.   

If you are unwilling to take the Oath in its entirety, you have to give written notice to explain your circumstances of requesting a modified oath of allegiance since USCIS grants modifications based on different cases.

How Do Applicants Renounce Nobility Titles?  

If you are holding any hereditary titles or any nobility position in any foreign state, you must expressly renounce them in a public ceremony. The USCIS records the renunciation as part of the naturalization process.   

Failing to renounce these titles shows that you do not have an attachment to the constitution of the United States of America. If your former country has abolished your title lawfully, or you do not possess the title anymore, you are not required to renounce it as it is no longer existent.

Waivers To The Oath Of Allegiance

If you have not attained 14 years of age during naturalization, you are exempted from taking the Oath of Allegiance. Additionally, you can be waived from taking this Oath if you are physically disabled or mentally impaired, rendering you unable to understand or demonstrate an understanding of the Oath.  

The waiver is requested any time before the oathing ceremony takes place. However, you must provide the following documents; 

  • A written request drafted by your legal guardian, surrogate, or representative.  
  • An evaluation showcasing your medical history

What To Bring To The Oath Of Allegiance Ceremony

Your Permanent Resident Card (green card): You may not bring your green card if during your interview you proved that it was lost or stolen, you are trying to recover it, or it was never issued to you as your naturalization application was based on your military service qualifications.  

Your appointment letter (Form N-445): You must have completed the questionnaire printed on the back of this letter before you arrive at the ceremony. It is mostly given if your Oath ceremony will take place at least two days after your interview. The questionnaire questions are based on clarifying any changes that might have occurred since your interview. A USCIS officer reviews your answers before the ceremony to ascertain no major changes affect your citizenship eligibility.  

Identification documents: Bring a copy of your government-issued photo I.D., e.g., a passport, a driving license, or a state I.D.  

Your USCIS-issued travel documents include a permit for your re-entry and your Refugee Travel Document (if any).  

Any other document(s) you might have forgotten to bring during your interview.  

Also, you must remember not to bring any prohibited items to the Oath of allegiance ceremony.  

What Questions Can I Expect In My U.S Citizenship Interview? | Read more

How To Prepare For The Oath Ceremony

Generally, there are no major preparations for the U.S. Citizenship Oath Ceremony after the USCIS approves your application. All you need to have are the requirements stated above. In case of any doubt, you are free to consult an immigration attorney for legal advice.

Also, you do not have to memorize any part of the Oath of Allegiance since the words are provided electronically or in written form when reciting this Oath. It would be best if you were groomed neatly in a decent manner as instructed by the USCIS. Outfits like jeans, T-shirts, shorts, or flip-flops are disallowed in the ceremony.  

What Happens After Arriving For The Oath Ceremony?  

A USCIS officer will welcome you on arrival to the facility which will hold your oathing ceremony. The officer will start by reviewing your appointment letter to determine if you are eligible to take the Oath of Allegiance. After the USCIS officer approves your eligibility, you hand in your green card at the end of the ceremony and any USCIS-issued travel documents. Your Certificate of Naturalization replaces the green card.   

During your check-in, you are also provided with a welcoming packet, an American flag, a citizen’s almanac, a pocket-size Declaration of Independence pamphlet, and a United States constitution. Since USCIS schedules a group of applicants to attend the ceremony on the same day, it is crucial to arrive at the venue earlier than the scheduled time so that you will have enough time to check-in before the actual ceremony begins.  

What Happens During The Oath Ceremony?  

The ceremony starts with opening remarks from a Master of Ceremony and any possible guest speaker. After the remarks, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will provide presentations in the form of videos and music.  

In the actual oathing, all the applicants are instructed to stand, raise their right hands, and recite the Oath loudly before a USCIS official. Here’s a copy of the actual 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.”

The ceremony ends with the applicants reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the MC’s closing comments.  

What Happens After You Take The Oath?

Once the Oath of Allegiance is administered to you effectively and lawfully, you now become a recognized citizen of the United States of America enjoying full citizenship privileges and responsibilities. These citizenship responsibilities may include:  

  • Registering as a voter in all elections of the United States
  • Applying for a United States passport as your official travel document  
  • Accessing a Certificate of Citizenship for your child if they were below 18 years and lawful permanent U.S. residents during your naturalization day  
  • Petitioning green cards for your relatives outside of the United States  
  • Run for an elected office
  • Apply for United States citizenship- required federal jobs
  • Expressing yourself freely while respecting the opinions of other citizens
  • Practicing your religious choice freely
  • Paying taxes to all tax authorities
  • Obeying all laws of the United States
  • Supporting and defending the U.S. Constitution, which includes agreeing to bear arms on behalf of the U.S. against enemies, foreign and domestic

After receiving your Certificate of Naturalization, you must check it for errors, and if any, you should notify a USCIS officer before leaving the Oath administering facility.  

The Certificate of Naturalization serves as your proof of citizenship, and you should keep it safely to avoid paying huge fees for a replacement. If you lose your Certificate of Naturalization, you will have to file the Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document form (Form N-565) and pay a fee of $555 to the USCIS.

A few days after the Oath, you should make sure that your social security record is updated, showing that you are a U.S. citizen. A federal agency makes the Social Security Administration (SSA) update. It provides benefits for retirement, disability, and survivor of eligible workers.

What Are The Benefits Of Becoming A Naturalized U.S. Citizen? | Read more

This update is very important as you will need to have your social security number (SSN) when applying for a job and receiving social security benefits or any other government-offered services. Your employers check the SSN to ensure you are lawfully eligible to work in the U.S.   

Also, you should apply for a U.S. passport; you may find the passport application documents on your welcome packet. Lastly, you must register to vote now that you are a full citizen in the United States. Some USCIS offices allow you to register as a voter immediately after your oathing ceremony is over.