Last Step! The U.S. Citizenship Ceremony Timeline and Key Facts!

Congratulations! If you have made it to the United States naturalization ceremony, then you have gone through the lengthy and expensive process of becoming a U.S. Citizen. At this point in the journey, the N-400 application is completed, submitted, and approved; you have paid all relevant fees; and the interview with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer went well. Now, the final step is to take part in the Naturalization Ceremony.

It is also called the oath or citizenship ceremony; we will use naturalization, citizenship, and oath ceremony interchangeably. But, no matter what you choose to call it, this last step is necessary to complete the citizenship process. If you do not take the oath, all of your work will have been futile and your money and time will have been wasted. People have gone through the entire process and then decided to skip the oath ceremony, which meant that their entire application was denied. Don’t be that person.

Video — The Official Naturalization ceremony 2016

In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about the citizenship ceremony including a general timeline, the ceremony’s length, and how long after the ceremony’s completion until you can get a passport and other official documents.

What is the Citizenship Ceremony?

As stated above, the citizenship ceremony is the last step to fully becoming a United States citizen. After you successfully complete the interview and your application is approved, you will be notified of the time and date of your oath ceremony. Some people are allowed to attend their oath ceremonies on the same day after they complete their interview; while others will have to wait to be notified by mail. To get a better understanding of whether you may be offered a same-day oath ceremony slot, check your local field office’s to see if they offer it. Keep in mind that even if your local office does offer same-day opportunities, there may not be space and you will still have to wait to be notified by mail. If you are notified by mail, the notification should come within three months. If you haven’t received your notice by the 90th day, call USCIS immediately.

There are two types of ceremonies. The most common type is an administrative ceremony which is performed by a USCIS official. The second (less common) type of ceremony is a judicial ceremony, which is performed by a judge. The location of the ceremony is usually in close enough proximity to not serve as a travel hindrance. Some locations include USCIS field offices, city convention centers, and courtrooms. Again, all of the information you need will be in your notification letter.

If you are unable to make your scheduled appearance, you will be allowed to reschedule once. In order to reschedule you must write a letter informing USCIS why you will not be able to attend. This is not to be taken lightly and only the most serious of reasons will be justified.

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Oath Ceremony Day

When you arrive at the ceremony location, you will have to check-in. To be fully prepared, bring your completed form N-445, your naturalization ceremony notice, and your Green Card. The form N-445 will be mailed to you along with your ceremony notice and should be completed beforehand. The form is simple and asks for any updates on marriage status, criminal records, and travel schedules. An official will review your documents and let you know if you can proceed.

Additionally, at this time you will be required to surrender your Green Card. In the off chance that your card has been lost or stolen, you must submit proof of this before oath ceremony day. Also, don’t worry about losing your permanent resident card because you will get a ‘Certificate of Allegiance’ after you formally take the oath.

At this point you may be wondering what happens at a naturalization ceremony. Well, it is quite simple, during the ceremony, you will take an oath of loyalty to the United States and its Constitution. The oath ceremony’s Oath of Allegiance entire language is written on USCIS’s website if you would like to view it before the pledge. More, you will also have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and sing the United State’s National Anthem. If you do not remember either of them, USCIS helps you by providing copies of each. Also, the current President of the United States (POTUS) will give you a personal congratulations. Well, POTUS will not say your name, but will welcome each new citizen to the country and congratulate their achievement.

As stated earlier, immediately after the citizenship ceremony you will get a certificate proving you are a U.S. citizen. Ensure that all information on the Certificate of Naturalization is accurate before you leave the ceremony. Bear in mind that this is your official, and only, proof of citizenship in that moment. Having a typo or other error could severely undermine any efforts if you have to prove your citizenship.

All said, the entire oath ceremony day can take upwards of a few hours. There have been estimates ranging from an hour to four hours. Many factors dictate how long your ceremony will take, but the most important one is how many other people are taking the oath with you. To be safe, you should definitely block off at least half the day to complete everything. Even better, perhaps, you should take the whole day and make it a celebration to acknowledge your accomplishment!

After the Naturalization Ceremony

Once you are officially a United States citizen you can apply for a U.S. passport and register to vote. For most people, getting a U.S. passport is a top priority after gaining citizenship. Fortunately, USCIS knows how pressing obtaining a passport is and includes a passport application in the “U.S. Citizenship Welcome Packet.” The application is also available online and can be completed before the oath ceremony. Quick note: it may be beneficial to complete it beforehand because sometimes the State Department allots staff to collect passport applications after citizenship ceremonies. If you choose the same day route, and if it is available, ensure that you have everything you need including photos and fees. Also, allot more time because there will likely be a line. Blocking the whole day seems even more likely, right?

The passport processing time applies to new citizens the same way it does to other citizens. Typically, it takes about six weeks to receive a passport. However, if you would like it sooner, you can pay to have it expedited. It should go without saying, but it is probably a safe bet to not book any close travels while waiting for a passport.

On the other hand, registering to vote is a much simpler process as there will definitely be someone available to help with voter registration after the citizenship ceremony. You can choose to register then or register at a later date.

Also, you will need to update your social security record to reflect your new U.S. citizenship. The only stipulation here is that you wait at least ten days after the ceremony to allow your records to update.

Equally important, keep your Certificate of Naturalization in a safe place because it costs $345 to replace it. You have already spent enough time and money by this point, so do not lose it.

Get excited!

Are you excited now? This is the fun part! No more stress because you have done all the work necessary to become a citizen. Now you get to stand, pledge your allegiance, and become a full U.S. citizen with all the rights and responsibilities of all other citizens. Welcome!

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