A Guide to the US Citizenship Ceremony

For the hundreds of thousands of people who file US citizenship applications with US immigration services every year, the naturalization oath ceremony is the long-awaited culmination of a complicated process. But when someone attends the naturalization ceremony, many immigrants - overcome with emotion - describe the moment that they officially became Americans as being one of the most memorable days of their lives.

The process of becoming an American citizen begins when you file Form N-400, the Application for Naturalization. Within a few weeks, you will receive a biometrics appointment for your fingerprints to be taken in order to conduct a background check. The next step is to sit for a US citizenship interview with a USCIS officer, during which your understanding of English and knowledge of American civics will be evaluated. The reasons to deny a citizenship application are numerous and varied, but if your application is approved, there’s still one final step to become a US citizen: the naturalization ceremony. But what happens during the naturalization ceremony, and what can you expect?

What is the Naturalization Oath Ceremony?

The naturalization ceremony is the moment when you pledge allegiance to the United States and officially become an American. Note that you are not considered an American citizen until you’ve taken the Oath of Allegiance in front of a USCIS judge during an official citizenship ceremony, which means that you will be unable to enjoy any of the benefits of American citizenship that you’ve been waiting for (like applying for a US passport or voting) until you’ve attended the ceremony.

It is considered a special occasion and formal appointment with the government of the United States; appropriate attire (no jeans, shorts, or flip-flops) is thus strongly suggested.

When does the Citisenship Oath Ceremony take place?

USCIS determines the time and date of your naturalization ceremony, taking into account the district where you are presently living. You will be sent Form N-445, the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, with your appointment notice. Sometimes it is even possible for you to attend the oath ceremony directly following your citizenship interview, although a wait of a few months is also commonplace. (Make sure you stay current on your Green Card if you have to wait.)

When you receive your appointment, remember that your attendance is absolutely mandatory. If a scheduling conflict arises, you must explain why you cannot attend on the selected day and you may request another appointment.

What happens during the Naturalization Oath Ceremony?

After you check in at the naturalization oath ceremony, you will turn over your [Green Card] (https://www.usimmigration.org/glossary/green-card) to an immigration officer, as the naturalization certificate you’ll receive will serve as proof of your citizenship from now on. This also means that you can forget about having to renew your Green Card ever again. You will also be asked to answer the questionnaire on the back of Form N-445. This includes questions about your activities since the time of your interview, including any potential travel outside the US, or if you’ve claimed exemption from military service.

Once you’ve filled out the questionnaire, you will then sing the National Anthem of the United States and you will also recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. (Don’t worry, you will be provided with the words to both beforehand.) Finally, you will take the Oath itself. You will be asked to raise your right hand and recite the Oath of Allegiance to the United States.

The Oath includes several declarations, including that you renounce the country where you were previously a citizen, that you will defend the Constitution, and that you will bear arms on behalf of the US whenever it’s required by law. When you’ve finished reciting the Oath, congratulations! You are officially a citizen of the United States. At the conclusion of the naturalization oath ceremony, you will receive a Certificate of Naturalization that will serve as proof of your newly-minted American citizenship and all the rights and benefits it entails.

The road from initial application to the naturalization ceremony is time-consuming and arduous, and will require patience and advance planning on your part. But like millions of immigrants that came before you - and the millions that will follow in the future - becoming an American citizen fulfills a lifelong dream, a dream that will come true the moment you recite the Oath of Allegiance to your new country.

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