How Can I Take a Modified Oath or Receive a Waiver for the Oath of Allegiance?
The final step to become a U.S. citizen is taking the oath of Allegiance at a special ceremony following the Naturalization interview. The majority of citizenship applicants are comfortable solemnly swearing under oath that they will be willing to perform noncombatant service or bear arms if required by the US government. However, there are some naturalization applicants who have a deep and sincere objection to taking the standard oath. Due to religious convictions or because they are a conscientious objector to violence, USCIS has a mechanism for taking a modified version of the oath. In addition, there's some naturalization applicants who simply are not able to understand or communicate that they understand the oath of Allegiance. Applicants in this situation are able to receive a waiver of the oath of Allegiance if they provide the required medical documentation.
Options for Modifications to the Oath of Allegiance
If an applicant can show by clear and convincing evidence that she is unable to sincerely affirm part of the oath, it's possible to take a modified version of the oath. Two sections of the standard oath can be modified, however there is no exception made for the statement “to perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.”
The two Clauses that can be modified if the required proof is shown, include:
- To bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; and
- To perform noncombatant service in the U.S. armed forces when required by the law
Required Proof to Take a Modified Oath
The standard requirement to show that a naturalization applicant is able to seek a modification of the oath is based upon "religious training and belief." However, USCIS will also accept an applicant who shows that her beliefs are not religious but are “sincere and meaningful” and essentially “equivalent to a religious belief.”
The specific legal standard that an applicant must meet is as follows in three parts:
- He or she is opposed to bearing arms in the armed forces or opposed to any type of Service in the armed forces
- The objection is grounded in his or her religious principles, to include other belief systems similar to traditional religion or a deeply held moral or ethical code; and
- His or her beliefs are sincere, meaningful, and deeply held.
Required evidence to show eligibility for an oath modification
USCIS will hold applicants seeking an oath modification to the standard of providing "clear and convincing evidence." Specific types of documents are not required, but it is recommended to provide a sworn or notarized statement from the applicant’s Church or organization that is representative of his beliefs. In addition, the USCIS officer at the naturalization interview will ask questions directly of the applicant to confirm if these beliefs are genuinely sincere and have been long-held.
If the USCIS officer at the Naturalization interview is persuaded that an applicant meets the required criteria for an oath modification, the applicant will be approved and invited to the oath ceremony to take the adjusted version of the oath. However, if the officer besides that applicant does not meet the requirements for an oath modification, the applicant will have to take the regular oath or simply will not be allowed to naturalize.
Waiver of Oath of Allegiance
USCIS only requires the oath of allegiance to naturalize from those who can actually understand its meaning. Therefore children ages 13 and younger have the oath requirement waived automatically.
In addition, USCIS will waive the oath of Allegiance requirement for those with a medical disability that prevents them from understanding the oath. The common medical issues that prevent an applicant from understanding the oath of Allegiance include a physical or mental disability. Therefore applicants for citizenship who are aged 14 and above with a medical issue preventing understanding of the oath are required to submit a formal written evaluation by a medical doctor or other qualified professional. This evaluation should be accompanied by a letter requesting the oath waiver. If possible, submit these documents with the original N400 application. However it is acceptable according to USCIS to provide the required proof at any stage leading up to the oath ceremony.