It can be difficult to figure out the process of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. In particular, the Oath of Allegiance ceremony might seem confusing. Here’s what you should know before taking the Oath and becoming an American citizen.

What Is the Oath of Allegiance?

The Oath of Allegiance is a promise of loyalty that you make to the United States at your formal naturalization ceremony. It essentially promises consistent support to the United States and its laws. The Oath ceremony is an American tradition that dates back to the 18th century.

During the United States Oath of Allegiance, you will raise your right hand and recite specific words. After the Oath, you are officially a U.S. citizen and have the responsibilities and duties you promised.

When you recite the Oath of Allegiance, you will say the following words as published by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services:

“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.”

Do You Have to Memorize the Oath?

No, you do not have to memorize these words. They will be provided for you at the Oath of Allegiance ceremony. You can also see people recite the Oath of Allegiance at a USCIS Naturalization Oath Ceremony on YouTube.

Oath of Allegiance Key Principles

It’s important to understand the key principles of the Oath of Allegiance so that you know your responsibilities and duties as a naturalized American citizen. There may be confusing words and concepts in the Oath. You should understand the principles before taking the Oath so that you know what you are promising.

The key principles of the Oath of Allegiance include:

  • Renunciation of other leaders and governments of other home countries where you were a citizen in the past
  • A promise to protect the Constitution and laws from all enemies of the United States
  • A statement of loyalty only to the United States
  • A promise to use a weapon if the U.S. government asks you to
  • A guarantee that you will serve in the U.S. military performing duties other than combat if asked
  • A statement that you will perform non-military work for the U.S. if asked
  • A promise, before God, that all of this is without influence from anyone or hesitation

These promises and statements may seem daunting, but they are part of a process many people go through each year to become a naturalized U.S. citizen.

What to Expect at the Oath of Allegiance Ceremony

You may not be sure what to expect at the Oath of Allegiance ceremony. Here is some information that will help you prepare.

Where Does the Oath Ceremony Take Place?

The Oath of Allegiance Ceremony is typically at the same location where your interview and exam were held, which should be a USCIS field office.

What to Wear to the Oath Ceremony

The USCIS tells applicants to wear clothing that “respects the dignity” of the Oath. They expressly prohibit jeans, shorts, and flip flop shoes.

How to Prepare for an Oath of Allegiance Ceremony

You should bring all necessary documents and follow the instructions on your appointment letter.

The Check-In Process

When you arrive at the USCIS field office, you will be checked in by an officer. They will review your appointment letter and other documents.

During check-in, you will receive a welcome packet, an American flag, a Citizen’s Almanac (Form M-76), and a copy of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution (Form M-654).

You should arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled start time to ensure you have enough time to check-in.

What Happens After Checking In?

After checking in, the ceremony will begin. It will involve a presentation with music, videos, and opening remarks from a “Master of Ceremonies” (MC). There may also be a guest speaker.

You and the other applicants will raise your right hand and recite the Oath of Allegiance. The ceremony ends with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and closing comments from the MC.

When Does the Oath Ceremony Occur?

An Oath of Allegiance Ceremony takes place very soon after your interview. In some cases, it may even occur the same day or the day after.

You will receive an appointment letter detailing when your ceremony will occur. If you cannot make the appointment, call the USCIS field office immediately to reschedule.

What to Bring to Your Oath of Allegiance Ceremony

There is a long list of documents you will need to bring to your Oath of Allegiance Ceremony, which includes the following:

  • Your green card (also called a Permanent Resident Card or Form I-551), if you have one
  • Your appointment letter (Form N-445)
  • A second form of government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license, passport, state ID, etc.)
  • Any USCIS-issued travel documents (such as a re-entry permit and a Refugee Travel Document)
  • Any other documents you failed to bring to your interview that are required for naturalization

There are also specific items that you are prohibited from bringing to the Oath ceremony. In general, items prohibited from federal property include firearms and other weapons.

Can You Modify or Waive the Oath?

There are certain situations wherein the Oath of Allegiance can be modified.

For example, if you are unwilling to perform military service because of religious objections, you can omit those words when taking the Oath. However, you must provide documentation from a religious organization to explain the circumstances.

You may also omit “so help me God” by notifying the USCIS that you wish to recite a modified Oath. You do not have to provide proof or explanation of why you make this request.

What Happens After You Take the Oath?

After you take the Oath of Allegiance, you are a U.S. citizen. You have all the privileges and responsibilities of an American citizen.

You will also receive a Certificate of Naturalization. Check your certificate and any other documents for errors before you leave the USCIS field office.

Your certificate serves as proof of your citizenship. If you lose your certificate, it can be replaced for a fee.

Soon after your ceremony, you should update your identity documents, including obtaining a U.S. passport, a Social Security card, and registering to vote.

Get Guidance for Your Oath of Allegiance Ceremony from an Immigration Attorney

The Oath of Allegiance Ceremony can be confusing. However, it doesn’t have to be. Our immigration attorneys can guide you through the process by ensuring you have all the necessary documents and understand your responsibilities.

Contact the American Immigration Law Group today for a consultation. You can use our secure contact form or call us at 314-416-8000 to get started.