Passing your citizenship interview may feel like the defining moment in your journey toward naturalization, but it’s not the final step. You’re not a US citizen until you receive your naturalization certificate, and you won’t receive your certificate until you attend an oath ceremony.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of consistency when it comes to scheduling an oath ceremony with USCIS. Standard practices and procedures tend to vary between local offices based on size and processing times. In some offices, you may be able to complete your oath ceremony on the day of your citizenship interview. If a ceremony is unavailable that day, you should receive a notice by mail with the date, time, and location of your oath ceremony.
Generally speaking, you should receive your notice by mail within 3 – 6 weeks of your citizenship interview. After that, the oath ceremony should be scheduled within the next few weeks. If it has been more than 30 days since your citizenship interview and you haven’t received a notice in the mail, you can call the local officer who interviewed you to check on your status.
When USCIS approves your Application for Naturalization (Form N-400), an officer will schedule a time for you to take the Oath of Allegiance at a naturalization ceremony. This ceremony completes the process and formally awards you US citizenship.
There are two types of oath ceremonies that you can take part in. In a judicial ceremony, the court administers the Oath of Allegiance. In an administrative ceremony, USCIS administers the Oath of Allegiance. Each experience is slightly unique, but the result is the same—you’ll leave the courthouse or the USCIS office as a US citizen with a naturalization certificate.
Naturalization Ceremony Process
If the prospect of taking the Oath of Allegiance in front of a judge or USCIS officer gives you anxiety, you’re not alone. Many immigrants report that it’s a little nerve-wracking. That said, you have nothing to fear when you go in prepared. You’ve already completed the hard part—this is just the final stretch to the finish line.
Here is a quick overview of what to expect during the naturalization ceremony process:
- Receive a notice – if you don’t complete the oath ceremony the day of your interview, USCIS will mail you a copy of Form N-445, Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony, with the date, time, and location of your oath ceremony. If you’re unable to attend the scheduled ceremony, you’ll need to return Form N-445 to the local USCIS office with a letter requesting a new ceremony date. The letter should explain why you cannot attend the scheduled ceremony and offer alternate dates or suggestions that would fit your schedule.
- Complete Form N-445 – take a few minutes to complete the questionnaire on Form N-445 before your ceremony. An officer will collect this from you and review your responses when you arrive at the ceremony.
- Check in at the ceremony – when you arrive at the ceremony, hand in your Form N-445 and your Green Card (if applicable).
- Take the Oath of Allegiance – there are four main parts to the Oath of Allegiance. First, you pledge support to the US Constitution. Second, you renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which you were previously a subject or citizen. Third, you pledge to support and defend the US Constitution and United States laws against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Fourth, you bear true faith and allegiance to the same, to bear arms on behalf of the US when required by the law, or to perform noncombatant service in the US Armed Forces when required by law, or to perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.
- Receive your certificate of naturalization – when you receive your naturalization certificate, carefully review the certificate and immediately report any errors before you leave the ceremony. This will serve as proof of your US citizenship, so it’s critical that everything is correct.
Activities to Avoid Before Your Oath Ceremony
It’s in your best interests to stay out of trouble and avoid any activities that could jeopardize your candidacy for naturalization during the period of time between your citizenship interview and the oath ceremony. Applicants have been turned away from oath ceremonies due to disqualifying activities, so you’re not safe just because you passed your citizenship interview.
Generally speaking, you should avoid the following activities or actions:
- Change in marital status – if your candidacy for citizenship is based on marriage to a US citizen, you must remain married to this citizen until after the Oath of Allegiance. Death or divorce can unfortunately lead to a rejected application, even if the events are not your fault. If you get married before your oath ceremony and change your name, USCIS will likely need to reschedule your oath ceremony to allow enough time to process the changes.
- Long trips outside of the US – short trips outside the US are fine, but USCIS officers will be on the lookout for long trips that indicate someone has abandoned their US residency. If you spend a few months abroad, you’ll want to provide USCIS with evidence that you have maintained your ties to the United States.
- Arrests and convictions – minor traffic citations or infractions likely won’t have an impact on your application for naturalization, but more serious crimes can affect your eligibility. Even worse, some crimes may result in deportation, which is still an option on the table until you become a naturalized US citizen.
- Lapses in moral character – individuals who participate in polygamy, drugs, heavy drinking, prostitution, and gambling are ineligible for US citizenship. Similarly, individuals who lie to immigration officials or assist others in breaking immigration laws are ineligible for citizenship.
- Joining the Communist Party – simply put, Communists are not eligible for US citizenship. Avoid joining any party or political organization with ties to Communism and avoid associating with groups that may pose a threat to the United States.
- Refusing military service or refusing to serve the US in a natural emergency – applicants for naturalization are asked to pledge that they will take up arms or perform noncombatant service if the US goes to war. If you join a religion or group that prohibits this, you must inform USCIS officials of the change and request to take a modified Oath of Allegiance as a conscientious objector.
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