Attending Your US Oath Ceremony: Everything You Need To Know in 2024!

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Attending Your US Oath Ceremony: Everything You Need To Know in 2024!

What are the things that you need to know about attending your oath ceremony and getting your certificates of naturalization? This ceremony is the final step in your citizenship journey. And while it can sometimes happen on the very same day as your naturalization N-400 interview, in most cases, it will happen two to six weeks after this interview date.

During this ceremony, you will turn in your green card, swear your oath of allegiance, and finally receive a certificate of naturalization. And at this point, you are officially a citizen of the United States.

But as simple as this sounds, there is a lot more that you need to know before you attend.

Before The Ceremony

The most important thing that you will need to do prior to your ceremony of naturalization is to prepare forms and documentation.

Once your ceremony is scheduled by USCIS, you should receive a copy of the form N-445, the notice of naturalization oath ceremony in the mail two to three weeks after your interview.

There is a chance that this form may not get mailed to you. So here are two things that you can do in case you receive notification on your status update online that it has been mailed up, but you have not yet received it.

First, if you did a paper filing of your N-400 and you have not received a copy of the N-445, then you can call the customer service line and request for a duplicate copy to be mailed again.

If you filed your application for naturalization online, then you may actually be able to visit your account online to print out the N-445 instead of waiting for it to be mailed to you. Your N-445 will have the date, time, and the location of your oath ceremony, along with the list of items that you will need to bring with you.

These include your green card, re-entry permits, or refugee travel permits, and any other documents that USCIS may have issued to you. In addition to the items listed on the N-445, you should also bring some form of ID, such as a driver's license, government issued identification, or passport. If you lost one or more of these items, then contact USCIS to report the loss and attend your oath ceremony without them.

If you lost your green card, then you may need to provide proof, such as a police report reporting the loss and the receipt notice for your I-90 application to replace your green card. But this should not prevent you from being able to naturalize.

Then the last thing that you will need to bring with you is the actual Form N-445 itself, which has eight questions on the back that you will need to fill out on the day of your oath ceremony. These questions are to determine whether or not you have done anything since the time of your interview that would prevent you from being naturalized, such as whether you were married or divorced, whether or not you have traveled outside of the US, if you have committed any crimes, or if you were discharged from military service.

Now, just because you answer yes to any of these questions does not automatically disqualify you from taking the oath of allegiance. It just means that USCIS may need to verify additional details before issuing a certificate of naturalization to you. For example, if you have traveled internationally since the date of your naturalization interview, then USCIS will need to know this information so that they can verify whether or not you continue to meet the physical presence and continuous residency rules required to naturalize.

And if you answer yes to any of these questions, make sure to bring documentation to continue supporting the fact that you are still eligible to naturalize. For example, if you got married or got divorced after your interview, make sure to bring those certificates. If you were arrested, make sure to bring your court dispositions or certificates of arrest. These will help the USCIS officer determine whether or not you are still eligible to naturalize.

It's important to note that these eight questions are still required to be answered on the day of your ceremony because even if you happen to satisfy some of the eligibility rules on the day of your interview, and even if you were recommended for approval of naturalization, you still must continue to show that you still meet these requirements up until the moment that you are sworn in as a US citizen.

Then at the bottom of the N-445, write down the city and state where your oath ceremony is being held, as well as the date it is occurring. Finally, sign the form and write out your complete address. And that's it.

These are the things that you must bring with you to your ceremony day. Now, in addition to these, you may wish to bring with yourself something for entertainment because there will likely be points during the ceremony where you have to sit alone and have nothing to do.

And also, depending on where your ceremony is being held, such as whether it's being held inside of an immigration office or whether it is being held inside of a federal courthouse, you may or may not be allowed to bring in your phone.

If your ceremony is being held at a USCIS facility, then you will most likely be allowed to use your electronics. My recommendation is to contact the facility prior to your appointment to see what the restrictions are. And if phones are not allowed, then consider bringing yourself a book.

Next, what should you wear?

USCIS asks that everyone in attendance dress in proper attire to respect the dignity of the event and avoid wearing jeans, shorts, or flip flops. Chances are that you would still be allowed to attend the ceremony and receive your naturalization certificate, even if you break the dress code. But it is better to be safe than sorry.

It's not uncommon for people who attend to attend a wide variety of clothing, including clothing of their own cultural or national heritage. Some will get dressed up, but some may also be in very casual clothes. It's really up to you, but do remember that this is meant to be a solemn, but also a joyous occasion.

Next, who can you bring with you to the naturalization ceremony? There are no rules on how many people you can bring.

However, before you invite your entire extended family, there are some important considerations. First, how big is the venue and is it a courthouse or a USCIS facility? If it is a small location with intimate seating and you bring a lot of guests, then some of them may need to sit outside in a separate room while you are taking your oath and they may be required to watch the ceremony on a screen, which won't be as rewarding or as fun as sitting in person.

This is frequently the setup in most federal courthouses that do not have a large area for guests. Second, consider the comfort and the needs of your guests.

Attendees and guests may be waiting for hours for the ceremony to start and to conclude, which could be rather boring for them. It could also be challenging to sit inside a closed location for several hours, such as for little children or those with disabilities. So perhaps only invite the people that you feel must attend.

Whoever you end up inviting, remember to ask them to bring valid identification so that they can enter the facility and warn them in advance if you think that there is a chance they may have to leave their mobile devices with security. Coming up, I'm going to explain what you can expect at the ceremony, but I want to let you know that I am accepting new clients.

My name is Moumita Rahman and I have been practicing immigration law for the past 14 years.

If you would like my help on your immigration case, call us at 212-248-7907.

I am based in New York, but I work with clients all over in the United States.

Day of The Ceremony

Okay, so what do you need to know on the day of your oath ceremony and what can you expect once you get there?

The amount of time you need to wait between your naturalization interview and the day of the ceremony will largely depend on the type of ceremony, where you are located, and how many other people are naturalizing at the same time.

There are two types of ceremonies, judicial and administrative.

Judicial ceremonies are presided over by a judge and are necessary for anyone requesting a name change during the naturalization process. In some states, these types of judicial ceremonies are not as frequent, which means that you may need to wait a bit longer than you'd like for yours to be scheduled.

Administrative ceremonies, on the other hand, are conducted by USCIS officials and are more frequent because you don't have to wait for a judge to conduct the ceremony. You might also need to wait longer for your ceremony if you live inside of a small city, because that means that there may be less people in your area who are naturalizing.

So USCIS may not schedule the ceremonies as frequently as other locations, and they may need to wait to conduct the ceremony until there are enough people there to justify holding the ceremony. When the day finally arrives, you can expect the whole process to take anywhere from one hour to multiple hours. Some oath ceremonies are short and sweet with just a few people in attendance, while others are massive with hundreds of people in attendance waiting to receive their certificates of naturalization.

If you are unsure of how much time you need, just know that most people will usually take off at least a half a day to attend their ceremonies. Try to arrive at least 30 minutes in advance because you may not be allowed in if you show up late. When you get there, you will first have to go through security and have your belongings examined. This is where you may have your phone taken away if the venue does not allow mobile devices. But don't worry, you will get it back.

Next, you will go into the room where the ceremony is being held and check in with a USCIS officer who will review the information on your N-445, recall those eight questions that are asked to be filled out. Assuming that you do remain eligible to take the oath of allegiance, you will then return your green card and any travel documents issued by USCIS.

They might also have you check your naturalization certificate for the information to make sure there are not any errors. You will then receive a set of materials, including a welcome packet, an American flag, the citizens almanac, which is a booklet listing their rights and responsibilities of US citizenship, a small copy of the Declaration of Independence, a small copy of the Constitution and an application for your US passport. At this point, you may find yourself waiting around for quite some time because the officers will need to go through the applications and paperwork of all of the attendees before a mass oath ceremony is conducted.

This is why you may wish to bring a book or a magazine or something to keep yourself preoccupied. Then once the ceremony gets underway, there will probably be videos, music and possibly opening statements by judges or by other officials or someone from USCIS, followed by a keynote speech about the rights, responsibilities and privileges of being a US citizen. This tends to be the part of the ceremony that takes the longest. So please have some patience.

After that, you and all the other attendees will be asked to stand, raise your right hand and repeat after the officer as you recite the oath of allegiance out loud.

The oath goes: "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 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."

They will then ask everyone in the room to rise and recite the pledge of allegiance together, which you also do not need to know in advance. At that point, they will call each of you up one by one to get your certificate of naturalization, which can take a long time, especially as there will be so many new American citizens. When you get your certificate, check it again carefully to make sure that all the information is correct.

If you find a mistake, notify the USCIS staff before you leave, and they can usually get you an updated version in a day or two. If you leave the oath ceremony and discover a mistake later, it will then cost you $555 and may take as long as six to 12 months to get a new certificate. So double check the details before you leave.

There will then be closing statements and closing comments from one of the speakers during which they will likely encourage you to vote before you leave.

But you're not done yet.

After The Ceremony

Once you finally leave as a brand new American citizen, there are still a few final things that you need to know. The first thing that you should do after receiving your certificate is to make sure you sign it to make it official.

While the USCIS policy manual does not specify the color of the ink required for signatures, USCIS has made it clear that the preferred color is black, and you want to make sure that the signature you use is the same one that you will use on other legal documents in the future.

Next, you want to make photocopies of your certificate for safekeeping, even though it says that doing so is punishable by law. Rest assured that it is not illegal for you because it is your certificate and you have the legal authority to make copies. Next, store it in a safe space.

As I mentioned, it costs a lot of money to replace a certificate of naturalization and can take a very long time to get the replacement, so you don't want to lose the official version. And while it may seem like a good idea, please do not laminate your certificate. In the eyes of the government, lamination is considering altering a federal document, which means that it would no longer be acceptable for official purposes.

So just store it safely in a place where it will not get lost, ripped, or trampled. And finally, keep in mind that you will not be able to travel internationally with the certificate of naturalization and that you will still need to apply for a US passport. Since you returned your green card at the oath ceremony and you cannot use your certificate of naturalization to travel, you'll need to get a US passport as quickly as possible.

I explained the entire process to get a US passport in my most recent video, including how to get one in as little as 24 hours.

So be sure to watch that if you think that you will have urgent travel upon getting naturalized. However, getting a US passport is only one of the seven things that you must know and do once you become an American citizen. There are six other things that you need to do after your oath ceremony, including one that you should probably do before applying for your passport.

I explain each one that video. Click to watch now, and I'll see you there.

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