One often-overlooked aspect of the Naturalization process is the taking of the Oath of Allegiance. Under most circumstances, all applicants for naturalization must take an oath to be loyal and pledge to support the Constitution of the United States.
What Does The Oath Say?
Applicants are expected to declare the following during the naturalization ceremony:
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 law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.
What If I am Opposed To Bearing Arms?
There are limited exceptions to taking the full oath as stated above. If an applicant has religious objections to the "I will bear arms" component of the oath, he or she may ask for a modified oath of loyalty that does not include "I will bear arms" or "I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by law." In evaluating whether to exempt an applicant from the arms requirement of the oath, USCIS will conduct a three-part test.
An applicant must demonstrate that:
- He or she is "opposed to any type of Service"
- The objection is grounded in his or her religious principles; and
- His or her beliefs are sincere, meaningful, and deeply held.
Practically speaking, it is not uncommon for USCIS to request that the applicant submit a personal statement explaining why he or she is requesting a modified oath. It might also be beneficial if the applicant is able to furnish a letter on official letterhead from his/her church or religious organization that confirms that the applicant is a member in good standing (ie., an active participant in congregational events) and what the church's position is with respect to armed conflict. During the interview, if you have not already indicated on the form, the immigration officer will have you cross out and put your initials by certain questions on the N-400 application pertaining to bearing arms and performing non-combatant service. Assuming the officer is satisfied that the applicant legitimately object to bearing arms and non-combatant service due to religious beliefs and conviction, he or she will be entitled to take the modified oath. This will ensure that the applicant takes an appropriate oath of loyalty to the United States without sacrificing his/her personal religious beliefs against certain types of service.
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