October 25, 2021

How to Prepare for Your Green Card Interview

When it comes time to take the Oath of Allegiance, it can be an exciting time in a person's life. You are finally achieving that dream of becoming an American citizen. However, you might have questions about the naturalization ceremony. Here are a few things that you should know about this important day.

What Is the Oath of Allegiance?

All individuals who wish to be United States citizens must take the Oath of Allegiance. This sworn declaration is recited during the formal ceremony for naturalized American citizens. The Oath has a long and storied history, going back to the 18th century. 

During the Oath, the new American citizen promises to:

  • Support and defend the U.S. Constitution and the country's laws against any enemies 
  • Provide military or civilian service if called by the government
  • Renounce noble or hereditary titles
  • Give up allegiance to other nations and sovereigns

If you are applying for citizenship, you must attend the naturalization ceremony. With attendance at the ceremony, you have satisfied the requirement to become a United States citizen. 

Many people worry about the process, but it is easy. In many cases, it is an inspiring experience for attendees and their families. Our guide will explain the steps of the naturalization ceremony, including what you can expect before, during, and after the Oath. With that, you can have an enjoyable and stress-free day. 

Related: An Easy Guide To U.S. Dual Citizenship 

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Before the Naturalization Ceremony

After the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services approves your Naturalization Application (Form N-400), you will have to take the Oath of Allegiance. 

When Will the Oath Ceremony Be Scheduled?

When the USCIS removes all of your documentation and information, the office will need to approve your application. You have to take a naturalization exam and interview. In some cases, that swearing-in ceremony can take place on the same day. You might be asked to leave after the exam and return later in the day for the Oath. 

If that is not the case, the USCIS will send an appointment letter with the ceremony's date, time, and location. This letter is also known as the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony (Form N-445). For most swearing-in ceremonies, the Oath will occur at the same location where the exam and interview were held. 

What Happens If I Cannot Attend the Scheduled Date and Time?

If you cannot attend your naturalization ceremony, you do have options. You can return the N-445 form to the USCIS field office. Along with that, you must explain in writing why you can attend at the original time and date. Plus, you must request that the office reschedule your appointment. 

However, if you cannot make it to the reschedule ceremony, USCIS could deny your citizenship. For that reason, you need to attend the swearing-in ceremony to show your commitment to your adopted country. 

A man preparing for a ceremony

What To Wear To the Oath Ceremony?

Since this is a solemn ceremony, you want to dress in attire that "respects the dignity" of the ceremony. The agency prohibits anyone from wearing flip-flops, shorts, or jeans. 

Related: The Length of The Citizenship Application Process

What Should I Bring To the Ceremony?

Before you attend the ceremony, you will want to take along a few essential documents. Make sure to bring the following:

Your Green Card

The document is also known as the Permanent Resident Card or Form I-551. However, you might not have to bring the card if you have a police report that the card was lost or stolen. If you were never issued a card due to qualifying military service, you might not need to bring your Green Card. 

Your Appointment Letter or Form N-445

If your ceremony is scheduled more than a day after the naturalization interview, applicants must complete a questionnaire. All of the questions are either yes or no, and they refer to any changes that may have occurred since your last interview. Before you can take the Oath, a USCIS officer will review whether those changes can affect your naturalization eligibility

Some of these questions include:

  • Have you traveled outside of the United States?
  • Have you knowingly committed any offenses or crimes where you have not been arrested?
  • Have you married, separated, divorced, or been widowed?

An Additional Form of Government-Issued Photo ID

This identification can include a state ID, passport, or driver's license

USCIS-Issued Travel Documents

Some of these documents can include Refugee Travel Documents and re-entry permits

Additional Documents

For any reason, if you have forgotten any necessary documents for the interview, you can bring them to the Oath ceremony. 

How Should I Prepare for the Ceremony?

While there is no preparation for the ceremony, you will want to bring all those documents mentioned above. Along with that, make sure to follow all of the instructions on the appointment letter

Do I Need To Memorize the Oath of Allegiance?

No, there is no need to memorize the Oath. Before the ceremony, you will be handed a sheet of paper with all the words to the Oath of Allegiance. In some locations, the words are projected on the screen. 

a man talking on the phone

During the Ceremony

As you arrive at the USCIS field office, an official will check you in for the ceremony. They will often look over your appointment letter to check whether you have not responded "yes" to any part of the questionnaire. If nothing has changed, your eligibility will stay valid, and you are handed a green card and USCIS-issued travel documents. 

During the check-in, you often receive other materials, such as:

  • An American flag
  • Citizen's almanac
  • Welcome packet
  • Pocket-size pamphlet of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence

You will want to arrive at least 30 minutes before the ceremony so that you can check-in and get ready before the Oath. 

Related: Criteria To Be Eligible For U.S. Citizenship

After Checking In

Before you take the Oath, USCIS will give a presentation to your group. During that ceremony, you will hear opening remarks from a Master of Ceremonies, watch videos, hear music, and listen to a guest speaker. 

After that, you will be asked to stand, raise your right hand, and recite the Oath of Allegiance before a USCIS official. The ceremony will conclude with a Pledge of Allegiance recitation and some closing comments from the Master of Ceremonies.  

After the Ceremony

Once you have taken the Oath, you are now a U.S. citizen. Congratulations! You can enjoy all the responsibilities and privileges of American citizenship

After the Oath, you will receive a Certificate of Naturalization. Before you leave, check it for any errors. If you happen to spot one, you must report it to the USCIS. 

This Certificate of Naturalization is your proof of citizenship. You will want to keep it in a safe spot. If you happen to lose the certificate, it can be expensive to replace. Lost certificates can be replaced by filling out Form N-565, and there is a fee of $555.

After the ceremony, you will want to update your Social Security record, apply for a U.S. passport, and register to vote. However, some USCIS offices may allow you to register to vote at the site. 

Other Things To Know

In some cases, you can recite a different Oath of Allegiance or not participate in the swearing-in process. However, this can happen only if a unique situation applies to you. For example, if you cannot or are unwilling to perform military service based on religious objections, you may omit certain words from the Oath. You will need to provide documentation of these particular circumstances

If the words "on oath" or "so help me God" are prohibited by your religion, you can say a modified version of the Oath. With this scenario, you will not have to prove or explain why you need to make this request. 

If the individual does not understand or cannot express the meaning of the Oath due to a mental impairment or physical disability, you can request that the USCIS waive this requirement. If approval is granted, you don't have to recite the Oath. Waivers can be requested before the ceremony, but you need to provide these two documents:

  • A written request by the individual's legal guardian, representative, or surrogate
  • A written evaluation by a medical professional or doctor

Enjoy Your Naturalization Ceremony

That is it! There is no reason to worry about participating in this special event. It is an essential step in your path to American citizenship. Once you have finished, you can enjoy all the privileges in the United States. With this information, you can have a successful naturalization ceremony. 

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