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Immigration Photo by: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Welcome to America! Being sworn in as a US citizen

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Immigration Photo by: Getty Images/iStockphoto

As we wrote last week, a friend recently went through the naturalization process successfully and is now a newly minted citizen of the United States.

The interview part, which we described last week, was naturally cause for some anxiety, but all went well and the application was approved.  Just over two weeks later, my friend found himself in a Brooklyn courthouse for the swearing in ceremony to make his citizenship official.

Those who are waiting to be sworn in should allocate at least a half-day for the event, and possibly more depending on how big the ceremony is.  My friend was sworn in with about 125 others from around the world; from start to finish it took about four hours.

Some words of advice? First, bring a pen.  There are forms to fill out, and having your own means to do so cuts down on waiting time.

And second? Get to your ceremony early.  First in is first out when it comes time to collecting the certificate of citizenship at the end of the swearing in and other matters of business.

When my friend arrived at the courthouse his cell phone was taken immediately and available for collection upon departure.  It’s apparently a very strict rule – no mobile devices are allowed inside the ceremony.

All citizens-to-be are given an information packet with handouts about their rights as a naturalized citizen.  The pack also contains a U.S. passport application, and a congratulations letter from President Obama.

A U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) officer is on hand to answer any questions and to inform on how citizens have the ability to sponsor many family members for permanent residence.   Another representative talks about discrimination in the workplace, and how it’s illegal to discriminate based on race.

New citizens also have the chance to register to vote. An official is present to help with the simple registration process. 

Family members of naturalization candidates are called into the courthouse for the actual swearing in ceremony.  A judge enters the room and the new citizens take the oath of allegiance, and also say the Pledge of Allegiance – a copy of which is provided in the info packet.

Another word of warning from my friend – under no circumstances should any new citizen leave the room during the actual ceremony and pledge. 

It seems unbelievable that anyone would, but sure enough two people did and they paid dearly for it.  They were handed their green cards back and told to return for another swearing in in six months.  The woman who led the ceremony warned the new citizens – in four different languages! – not to leave until all was said and done.  Clearly the two offenders weren’t paying attention.

At the end of the ceremony the new citizens are called to receive their certificate of citizenship.  This is done according to the order in which they entered the room – at least that was the case on this day.  So if you’re in first, expect to be called first.

The certificate confers all the rights and responsibilities that native-born Americans have – except when it comes to running for president.

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