What to Expect at the Naturalization Oath Ceremony

Learn what you can expect to happen at the naturalization oath ceremony and how to prepare for the ceremony.

By , Attorney · Temple University Beasley School of Law

Let's imagine you are a U.S. lawful permanent resident in the process of applying for naturalized citizenship. Your Form N-400, Application for Naturalization has been approved and you have attended and passed your U.S. citizenship interview. at an office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In this case, just one important step still lies ahead: You must recite the oath that will allow you to become a fully naturalized U.S. citizen.

What Is an Oath Ceremony for U.S. Citizenship?

At the oath ceremony, you will swear your allegiance to the United States and receive your naturalization certificate. Once you receive this certificate, you can apply for a U.S. passport and vote in national, state, and local elections.

If you have opted to change your name, your new name will be on your naturalization certificate and you will be able to apply for other official documents (Social Security card and driver's license, for example) in this new name.

When and Where Will the Oath Ceremony Take Place?

Depending on where you live and the oath ceremony schedule in your district, you could be scheduled as soon as the same day you pass your interview; or, you might have to wait several months before taking the oath.

It might take place in a small room or a courtroom in a federal or state building or a large stadium or convention center. Sometimes special ceremonies are scheduled in historical landmarks such as Independence Hall or the U.S.S. Constitution. No matter where the oath ceremony is held, this is a momentous occasion, so make sure to wear appropriate clothing. (This is really not the day for jeans, T-shirts, shorts, or flip flops.)

You must attend your oath ceremony appointment as scheduled unless you request a new date from USCIS and provide information as to why you cannot attend. You should arrive about an hour in advance of your appointment time, as you will need to check in with a USCIS officer. This officer will double check your eligibility and collect all your paperwork.

What Will I Need to Bring to My Citizenship Oath Ceremony?

You will need to bring Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, which you will either receive at the conclusion of your interview or later in the mail.

This notice will also contain a list of what else to should bring to the oath ceremony, which might include:

  • Your permanent resident card (green card). If you have forgotten it, you can take the oath, but will need to return it before you receive your naturalization certificate. If your card has been lost or stolen, you will need to sign a form and might need to provide a police report.
  • Your reentry permit or Refugee Travel Document (if you have obtained one).
  • Any immigration documents you might have.
  • Your children, if they were also approved for U.S. naturalization at the same time.
  • Any other documents requested by USCIS.

Form N-445 includes a questionnaire that is similar to the one you received on your Form N-400. When you arrive at the oath ceremony, a USCIS officer will collect your Form N-445. If you answer "yes" to any of the questions, you might not be allowed to take the oath that day. For more on these questions and maintaining eligibility prior to the oath ceremony, see You're Not a Naturalized U.S. Citizen Until You Take the Oath!.

What Am I Pledging to at the Citizenship Oath Ceremony?

When you take the U.S. citizenship oath, you are pledging that you will renounce allegiance to any foreign nations where you have previously held titles or citizenship. (Nevertheless, dual citizenship is allowed if your country also allows it.)

You also declare that you will support and defend the U.S. Constitution. You agree to bear arms on behalf of the U.S., perform noncombatant service in the armed forces, or perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law.

To take a modified oath leaving out the part about bearing arms and serving in the armed forces, you will need to prove that your objection is based on your sincerely held religious beliefs or a deeply held moral or ethical code. For more information on this, see FAQs About Taking Oath of U.S. Citizenship.

What Happens After You Recite the Naturalization Oath

After you take the oath of allegiance, you will hear a congratulatory speech welcoming you as full-fledged U.S. citizens. You will also receive your naturalization certificate.

Make sure that all information on the citizenship certificate is correct, and sign it and keep it in a safe place. For what to do if your certificate is incorrect, go to What Happens If the Information on My Naturalization Certificate Is Incorrect?.

You might also have an opportunity to apply for a U.S. passport at this time, depending on whether an official of the U.S. Department of State has come to the ceremony to assist new citizens with that task.

Congratulations, you are now a U.S. citizen!

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