Naturalization Ceremony After Citizenship Approval
The final step in becoming a U.S. citizen is reciting the oath of naturalization. This occurs at a naturalization ceremony after USCIS has approved your application for citizenship. The oath involves swearing allegiance to the U.S. You will receive a naturalization certificate after reciting the oath, which allows you to vote in elections, get a U.S. passport, and receive other benefits of citizenship. A foreign national who changed their name during the naturalization process will be able to start using their new name on official documents, since it will appear on the naturalization certificate. (Read more here about name changes during the naturalization process.) You should make sure that your naturalization certificate contains the correct information. You will need to sign it and keep it securely in your possession.
Preparing for the Naturalization Ceremony
The oath ceremony might occur soon after your naturalization interview, or it might be scheduled for several months afterward. The ceremony might occur in a courtroom, a convention center, or a room in a federal building. Unless you have a good reason for rescheduling the ceremony, you must appear at the time and place provided. A USCIS officer will meet with you before the ceremony to collect your paperwork and make sure that you are still eligible for citizenship. Thus, you should arrive early to complete this process.
You should carefully review Form N-445, which is the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony. The USCIS officer who conducted your naturalization interview may give you this notice, but more often a foreign national will receive it through the mail later. Form N-445 will tell you what you need to bring to the ceremony. A foreign national usually will need to bring their green card, any reentry permit or other immigration documents that they have, and any children who will be joining them as U.S. citizens. They also may need to bring other documents as required by USCIS. If you do not have your green card, you still can take the naturalization oath, but you will not be able to get your naturalization certificate until you return the green card.
In addition to swearing allegiance to the U.S., the naturalization oath involves renouncing allegiance to other nations in which you have been a citizen and promising that you will support and defend the Constitution. The standard oath includes a promise to bear arms for the U.S., assist the military as a non-combatant, or otherwise perform work of national importance if the law requires your participation. If you object to serving in the armed forces based on sincere religious, moral, or ethical beliefs, and you can provide proof of these beliefs, you can swear a modified oath that eliminates the military component of the standard oath.
Preserving Eligibility Until the Naturalization Ceremony
Form N-445 contains a questionnaire that resembles the questions on Form N-400, your initial application for citizenship. If you answer “yes” to any question on Form N-445, you must explain your answer to the USCIS official who will meet with you before the naturalization ceremony. If the officer determines that your answer makes you ineligible to take the naturalization oath, they will ask you to go home and provide more evidence or wait for further communications from USCIS. However, you should answer the questions honestly, since lying on the form could result in the loss of your citizenship and other serious penalties if the falsehood is ever revealed.
The main topics that the N-445 questionnaire covers include the foreign national’s marital status, trips outside the U.S., arrests or criminal convictions, certain issues related to their moral character, membership in the Communist Party or a similar organization, and readiness to serve in the military if a national emergency arises. All of these issues relate to common grounds for denying citizenship. If you need to answer “yes” to any question, you should make sure to bring documentation to explain why you are still eligible for citizenship. You may want to consult with an attorney if you are unsure about how to answer a question or concerned that you may have lost your eligibility for citizenship.