Is it true that I can get a U.S. passport at my naturalization oath ceremony?

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Question:

I just received a notice with my date for my citizenship swearing in ceremony! I'm very excited to become a U.S. citizen, and hope I will soon be able to travel on a U.S. passport to see my family. Is it true that I can get a U.S. passport at the oath ceremony?

Answer:

You will receive an important document on the day of the naturalization swearing-in or oath ceremony, called a "Naturalization Certificate." It's not a passport, but a sheet of paper with your photo and some text on it. This certificate is useful for proving your citizenship status in various contexts, such as applying for family members to immigrate -- but it cannot be used in place of a U.S. passport.

You will not receive a U.S. passport on the day of your swearing-in ceremony -- but if you plan ahead and also leave yourself some time at the end of the ceremony to stand in a long line, you may be able to apply for one. The U.S. State Department sometimes provides staff to accept passport applications.

Plan ahead by obtaining two passport-style photos. (You can have these done at most chain drugstores, copy shops, or photo shops, typically for less than $10.)

It's a good idea to fill out the passport application form (DS-11) BEFORE you get to the oath ceremony, so as to make extra sure that it is complete and correct. If you weren't given a copy of this form at your naturalization interview with USCIS, you may download it from the "Passport Application: DS 11" page of the State Department website.

DO NOT, however, sign the form until you are in the presence of a State Department official.

Be prepared to pay not only the application fee (check the latest on the "Passport Fees" page of the State Department website) but money to have the completed passport mailed to you.

Expect a wait of around six weeks to receive your U.S. passport.

If you end up not applying for your passport during the oath ceremony, there are other ways to do so. Go to the "Passports" page of the U.S. Department of State website for basic instructions, and the "First-Time Applicants" page for specific instructions on where to go. (Everyone must go personally to a government office or post office to apply for their first passport, though you will be able to apply for renewals by mail.) 

by: , J.D.

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