What is the Oath of Allegiance?
The Oath of Allegiance is the public oath that you will take at your naturalization ceremony. It says: “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 the 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.”
I do not understand the Oath of Allegiance. What does it mean?
The Oath asks you to let go of loyalty to the government of your home country. This is important because the U.S. wants citizens to be loyal to the United States. The Oath also asks you to support the Constitution and to defend its values. This is very important because the Constitution contains all of the rights and responsibilities for U.S. citizens. The Oath also asks you to defend and uphold these values by serving in the armed forces and performing work of national importance. When you take the Oath, it should be something you are choosing to do. No one should be forcing you.
Are there any parts of the Oath of Allegiance that I can choose not to say?
Yes. It is possible to take a modified Oath at your naturalization ceremony. You may request to opt out of the portions of the Oath that ask you to bear arms (use weapons) and/or perform noncombatant services (not active fighting) in the U.S. armed forces if your objection is based on religious beliefs.
Will taking a modified Oath stop me from becoming a citizen?
No. If you explain the reasons why you are requesting to opt out of some portions of the Oath and your evidence is accepted by USCIS, you will still be able to become a citizen.
What evidence do I need to show to take the modified Oath?
To request a modified Oath, you must show:
- You have a clear objection to any kind of military service (not just a particular war or enemy);
- Your objection is related to a religious belief; and
- That religious belief is sincere, meaningful, and deeply held.
Do I need any documents to prove my religious beliefs?
It is very helpful to include a letter from a religious organization that shows you are a member in good standing of that organization. This letter should be written by an official in the organization, such as a minister or member of the clergy. The letter should also explain the beliefs of that organization and how those beliefs are the basis of the request for the modified Oath. Often, this official will also include portions of the organization’s written text that shows belief in non-violence or objection to military service.
What if my religious organization does not have a text?
USCIS does not require that specific text be submitted, but it can strengthen a person’s request for the modified Oath. The letter from the organization’s official should thoroughly explain the beliefs of the organization and how they support the request for exemption. You may also add additional evidence such as sworn affidavits.
What if I do not belong to a congregation?
You may still be eligible to take the modified Oath, but you will need to submit supporting evidence to show that you fulfill the requirements. This can include passages of religious text and a sworn affidavit of your beliefs. Although citizenship applicants have had some success in these cases, it can often be very difficult to fulfill the requirements without a certifying letter.
If a person cannot understand the Oath because of a disability, can he/she still become a citizen?
Yes. USCIS permits certain applicants to waive the Oath of Allegiance if the applicant is unable to understand or articulate the meaning of the Oath due to a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment.
How does someone with a disability request a waiver of the Oath?
The applicant, or a legal guardian or representative acting on the applicant’s behalf, should submit a written request to waive the Oath of Allegiance due to a medical condition. There is no specific form to request a waiver. Based on this request, USCIS will determine whether the applicant:
- Understands that he/she is becoming a citizen of the U.S.,
- Is willing to give up allegiance to his/her country of origin and be loyal to the U.S.; and
- Is voluntarily agreeing to become a U.S. citizen.
If the waiver is approved, the applicant will not be required to attend the oath ceremony.
Is there any way to not take the Oath and still become a citizen?
No. One of the requirements for naturalization is to show attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and to be favorable “to the good order and happiness of the United States.” This is shown by taking the Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. If you are unwilling to take the Oath in whole or in part, you are not eligible to become a U.S. citizen.
Can I affirm my beliefs rather than taking an oath?
Yes. You may request to substitute the words “solemnly affirm” in place of the words “on oath.” You may also choose not to recite the words “so help me God” at the end of the Oath. You do not need to provide any documentary evidence to support this request.