What is the Oath of Allegiance?
The Oath of Allegiance to the United States is a sworn declaration that every citizenship applicant must recite during a formal ceremony in order to become a naturalized American. The Oath ceremony is a tradition dating back to the 18th century. When taking the Oath, the new citizen promises to fulfill the following duties:
- Support and defend the U.S. Constitution and the laws of the United States against its enemies.
- Give up allegiance to any other nation or sovereign, and renounce hereditary or noble titles, if any.
- Provide military or civilian service when called upon by the government to do so.
And if you’re worried, don’t be! The Oath of Allegiance is a painless process — in fact, it’s an inspiring life experience. In this guide, we’ll discuss everything you can expect before, during, and after the ceremony to help boost your confidence.
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Once U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves your Application for Naturalization (Form N-400), the next step will be to take the Oath of Allegiance.
How long after the citizenship interview is the Oath ceremony scheduled?
If USCIS has all of the information and documentation it needs to approve your application during your naturalization interview and exam, your swearing-in ceremony could take place on the same day. In this case, you’ll be asked to leave after your interview and exam and return later in the day for the ceremony.
Otherwise, USCIS will send you an appointment letter — officially called the “Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony” (Form N-445) — with the date, time, and location of the event. (See our guide to the naturalization timeline for more details.)
When and where does the citizenship Oath ceremony take place?
The Oath ceremony usually takes place at the same location, a USCIS field office, where your interview and exam were held.
What if I can’t attend on the date and time that USCIS has scheduled?
If you anticipate not being able to attend your naturalization ceremony on the date and time scheduled by USCIS, you must return Form N-445 to the USCIS field office where the ceremony will take place. You must also provide (with the form) a letter explaining why you cannot attend on the original date and time and requesting that they reschedule your appointment.
If you do not attend more than once, USCIS may deny your citizenship application, which underscores the importance of showing up for your first or second ceremony appointment.
What should I wear to the citizenship Oath ceremony
USCIS instructs all applicants to dress in attire that “respects the dignity” of the Oath of Allegiance ceremony. The agency specifically prohibits wearing jeans, shorts, and flip flops.
What do I need to bring to the ceremony?
You’ll need to bring the following:
1. Your green card (officially called the “Permanent Resident Card,” or Form I-551): You will not be required to bring your green card if either of the following applies:
- You gave proof (such as a police report) during your interview that it was lost or stolen and you tried to get it back.
- You were never issued one because you’re applying for naturalization based on your qualifying military service.
2. Your appointment letter (Form N-445): If your Oath ceremony takes place more than one day after your interview, you must complete the questionnaire on the back of this letter before arriving at your ceremony. The yes-or-no questions refer specifically to changes, if any, that occurred since the time of your interview. Before your ceremony, a USCIS officer will review your answers to the questionnaire to ensure that none of the changes affects your eligibility for citizenship.
Some examples of questions include:
- Have you married, or been widowed, separated, or divorced?
- Have you traveled outside the United States?
- Have you knowingly committed any crime or offense, for which you have not been arrested?
3. A second form of a government-issued photo ID: This can include a driver’s license, passport, or state ID.
5. Other documents: If you forgot to bring any documents to your interview, you must bring these to your Oath ceremony.
IMPORTANT: Make sure to also check this list of items that applicants are strictly prohibited from bringing to the ceremony.
How should I prepare?
There’s no preparation necessary. Just make sure to bring with you all of the required items listed above and follow the instructions on your appointment letter.
Do I need to memorize the words to the Oath of Allegiance?
No, you don’t need to memorize anything! During the ceremony, you’ll be given a sheet of paper with the words to the Oath of Allegiance, or the words will be projected on a screen. To help you prepare, you can also read the full text of the Oath below.
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When you arrive at the USCIS field office (or whichever facility holds your ceremony), a USCIS officer will check you in. They’ll start by going over your appointment letter (Form N-445) to make sure you did not respond “yes” to any questions in the questionnaire (if applicable) and determine your eligibility to take the Oath of Allegiance (basically, that you’ve passed your interview and exam and submitted all required information and documentation).
If the USCIS officer determines that you are eligible, you’ll then hand in your green card (to be replaced by a Certificate of Naturalization, Form N-550, at the end of the ceremony) and USCIS-issued travel documents, if any (see above).
Also during check-in, you’ll receive a set of materials that may include:
- A welcome packet
- American flag
- Citizen’s Almanac (Form M-76)
- Pocket-size pamphlet of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution (Form M-654)
It’s important to arrive at least 30 minutes early to ensure that you have enough time to check in before the scheduled start time of your ceremony. USCIS usually schedules multiple applicants to appear on the same day.
After checking in
Before you actually take the Oath of Allegiance, USCIS will give a presentation that includes videos, music, and opening remarks from a “Master of Ceremonies” and possibly a guest speaker.
You and other applicants will then be instructed to stand, raise your right hand, and recite the Oath of Allegiance aloud before a USCIS official. (See “Special Situations” below if you prefer to recite a different version of the Oath or can’t recite it at all for certain reasons.)
The ceremony ends with a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance (not to be confused with the Oath of Allegiance) and closing comments from the Master of Ceremonies.
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Congratulations! You’re now a U.S. citizen, enjoying the full privileges and responsibilities of citizenship.
Once you’ve taken the Oath of Allegiance, you’ll receive your Certificate of Naturalization. You’ll need to check it for errors, and notify USCIS if you spot any, before you leave the USCIS field office.
The Certificate of Naturalization will serve as proof of your citizenship, so make sure to store it in a safe place. Lost certificates are costly to replace. To request a lost certificate, you’ll need to file Form N-565 (officially called the “Application for Replacement Naturalization/Citizenship Document”) and pay a fee of $555.
Soon after the ceremony, it would also be a good idea to update your Social Security record, apply for a U.S. passport (your welcome packet may include a passport application), and register to vote. Some USCIS offices, however, may allow you to register to vote on-site after your ceremony.
Boundless stays with you throughout the naturalization process — from the moment you file your citizenship application all the way to your Oath of Allegiance ceremony. Learn more, or get started now. If you’re not sure whether you qualify for naturalization, you can check your eligibility through Boundless without providing any personal or financial information.
You may choose to recite a different version of the Oath of Allegiance or to not recite it at all if one of the following scenarios applies to you:
You cannot, or are not willing to, perform military service (combatant or noncombatant) because of religious objections. In this case, you may ask to omit those words when taking the Oath. Be prepared to provide documentation from the religious organization of which you are a member that explains this special circumstance and vouches for your good standing in the organization.
You cannot, or are not willing to, recite the Oath if it includes the words “on oath” and “so help me God.” In this case, you must notify USCIS that you wish to recite a “modified” version of the Oath. You will not be required to provide proof or explanation as to why you’d like to make this request.
You cannot understand, or are not able to express that you understand, the meaning of the Oath of Allegiance because of a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment. In this case, you can request that USCIS waive the Oath of Allegiance requirement. If approved, you will not need to recite the Oath. To request a waiver, which you can do at any time before the Oath ceremony, you’ll need to provide the following two documents (no special form is required):
- A written request (drafted with the help of your legal guardian, surrogate, or representative — see the USCIS Policy Manual for a definition of these terms)
- A written evaluation by a doctor who has known you the longest or is most familiar with your medical history (see the USCIS Policy Manual for complete instructions).
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“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 above text was current as of November 4, 2018. For the most recent version of the Oath of Allegiance, please refer to the Code of Federal Regulations.
Boundless can help you complete your citizenship application and guide you all the way to the finish line. We’ll help you stay on top of interview preparation, follow-on forms, and every other important milestone along the way, including the Oath of Allegiance ceremony. Ready to start?