Civics 101: Naturalization ceremonies welcome new U.S. citizens

J. H. Osborne • Updated Jul 8, 2019 at 2:35 PM

Last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) celebrated the Declaration of Independence and the birth of our country by welcoming almost 7,500 new citizens in nearly 110 naturalization ceremonies between July 1 and July 5. Naturalization ceremonies were held in venues across the country, and they included several notable ceremonies.

The United States has a long history of welcoming immigrants from all parts of the world. During the last decade, USCIS welcomed more than 7.4 million naturalized citizens into the fabric of our nation. In fiscal year 2018, over 757,000 people were naturalized.

On July 4, 2019, at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., 40 candidates from 29 countries took the Oath of Allegiance to become citizens of the United States.

Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, and Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero spoke during a special naturalization ceremony in the Rotunda in front of the nation’s Charters of Freedom: the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. They shared their own families’ immigration stories and congratulated the new citizens on becoming Americans. USCIS Acting Director Kenneth T. “Ken” Cuccinelli administered the Oath of Allegiance.

The citizenship candidates originate from the following countries: Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Honduras, India, Iran, Iraq, Latvia, Mexico, Morocco, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The Oath

This is the Oath of Allegiance applicants must recite. 

“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."

Taking the oath completes the process of becoming a U.S.citizen.

But first, a test

Section 312 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires that naturalization applicants must demonstrate an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language and have a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government (civics). To meet the requirements of Section 312 of the INA, applicants must pass a naturalization test to become naturalized citizens. The naturalization test consists of two components: an English and a civics component.

As of March 2019, 90 percent of applicants passed the test since it was fully implemented on Oct. 1, 2009.

Other notable ceremonies

On July 2, Cuccinelli administered the Oath of Allegiance and delivered congratulatory remarks to 52 new Americans at the 9/11 Memorial & Museum in New York City, while that same day, Deputy Director Mark Koumans delivered congratulatory remarks to new citizens at a ceremony on board the USS Constitution in Boston.

Sources: National Archives; U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service.