USCIS Policy Manual
VOLUME 12: CITIZENSHIP & NATURALIZATION
PART J: OATH OF ALLEGIANCE
The table below serves as a quick reference guide on general requirements for oath modifications and oath waiver. The sections and paragraphs that follow the table provide further guidance on each modification and oath waiver.
Oath of Allegiance Modifications and Waivers
Permitted Modifications to Oath
Testimony or Evidence
Modified Oath for Religious Objections
Deletion of either or both of the following clauses:
Bearing arms on behalf of the United States if required by law
[INA 337(a)(5)(A)(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-29/0-0-0-10309.html#0-0-0-7583)]; and
Performing noncombatant service in the U.S. armed forces when required by law
Must show opposition to clause (or clauses) based on religious training and belief (USCIS may request an attestation from the religious organization)
Affirmation of Allegiance in Lieu of Oath
Substitution of the words “solemnly affirm” for the words “on oath” and no recitation of the words “so help me God”
[8 CFR 337.1(b)(http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/SLB/HTML/SLB/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-11261/0-0-0-32547/0-0-0-32553.html#0-0-0-20463)]
Waiver of the Oath
Requirement to take the Oath of Allegiance may be waived
Evaluation by medical professional stating inability to understand (or communicate) the meaning of the oath due to a medical condition
An applicant may request a modified oath that does not contain one or both of the following clauses:
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. See INA 337(a)(5)(A) and INA 337(a)(5)(B).
There is no exemption from the clause “to perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law.” See INA 337(a)(5)(C).
In order to modify the oath, the applicant must demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, that he or she is unwilling or unable to affirm to these sections of the oath based on his or her religious training and belief. USCIS may request an attestation from the religious organization explaining its beliefs and that the applicant is in good standing with the organization.
Depending on the specific modified oath, USCIS deletes the relevant clauses and the applicant recites the modified form of the oath. See INA 337. See 8 CFR 337.1(b).
In order for an applicant to qualify for an exemption based on his or her “religious training and belief,” the applicant must satisfy a three-part test. An applicant must establish 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. See INA 337. See Welsh v. United States, 398 U.S. 333 (1970). See United States. v. Seeger, 380 U.S. 163 (1965). The term "religious training and belief” is limited to a person’s belief in relation to a Supreme Being involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation.
An applicant is not eligible for a modified oath when he or she is opposed to a specific war. See Gillette v. United States, 401 U.S. 437 (1971). Religious training or belief does not include essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code. In addition, qualification for the exemption is not dependent upon membership in a particular religious group nor does membership in a specific religious group provide an automatic modification to the oath.
An applicant is required to take the oath when he or she is not qualified for the modification. Otherwise, the applicant is not eligible for naturalization.
An applicant may request an affirmation in lieu of an oath. The applicant may request this affirmation in lieu of an oath for any reason. The INA indicates that the affirmation is requested “by reason of religious training and belief (or individual interpretation thereof), or for other reasons of good conscience.” See INA 337(a). In these cases:
The applicant substitutes the words “solemnly affirm” for the words “on oath”; and
The applicant does not recite the words “so help me God.” See 8 CFR 337.1(b).
USCIS grants this modification solely upon the applicant’s request. The applicant is not required to establish that the request is based solely on his or her religious training and belief. Applicants are not required to provide any documentary evidence or testimony to support a request to substitute the words “on oath” or “so help me God.”
USCIS must not require the applicant to recite the deleted portions of the Oath of Allegiance at the ceremony. The officer informs the applicant that he or she is not required to recite the deleted portions and that the applicant may take the oath in the modified form.
1. Oath of Allegiance Waiver
Oath Waiver Based on a Medical Disability
USCIS may waive the Oath of Allegiance for an applicant who is unable to understand or to communicate an understanding of its meaning because of a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment. See INA 337(a). See Pub. L. 106-448 enacted on July 12, 2000.
An applicant for whom USCIS granted an oath waiver is considered to have met the requirement of attachment to the principles of the Constitution of the United States, and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States for the required period.
In order for USCIS to adjudicate a request for an oath waiver because of a medical condition, an applicant with the assistance of a legal guardian, surrogate, or designated representative must provide a written request and a written evaluation by a certified medical professional. An applicant is not required to submit a specific form to request an oath waiver. The oath waiver requirements are distinct from the requirements for the medical exception to the English and civics requirements for naturalization under INA 312(b), which requires an applicant to submit a medical exception form. See Part E, English and Civics Testing and Exceptions, Chapter 3, Medical Disability Exception (Form N-648) [12 USCIS-PM E.3]. USCIS accepts an oath waiver request at any point of the naturalization process.
Oath Waiver for Children under 14 Years of Age
The INA permits USCIS to waive the taking of the Oath of Allegiance if USCIS determines the person is unable to understand its meaning. See INA 337(a). See 8 CFR 341.5(b). USCIS has determined that children under the age of 14 are generally unable to understand the meaning of the oath. Accordingly, USCIS waives the oath requirement for a child younger than 14 years of age. If USCIS waives the oath requirement, USCIS issues a Certificate of Citizenship after the officer approves the application. See Part H, Children of U.S. Citizens [12 USCIS-PM H].
2. Legal Guardian, Surrogate or Designated Representative
When an applicant is unable to undergo any part of the naturalization examination because of a physical or developmental disability or mental impairment, a legal guardian, surrogate or an eligible designated representative completes the naturalization process for the applicant. USCIS waives the Oath of Allegiance and the legal guardian, surrogate or designated representative attests to the applicant’s eligibility for naturalization. See Chapter 3, Oath of Allegiance Modifications and Waivers [12 USCIS-PM J.3]. In addition to oath waiver, this process may require accommodations including off-site examinations.
In order for USCIS to adjudicate a request for an oath waiver, an applicant, with the assistance of a legal guardian, surrogate, or designated representative must provide a written request and a written evaluation by a certified medical professional. USCIS accepts a request for the waiver at any point in the naturalization process until the time of the oath ceremony. As an accommodation, field offices should work with the legal guardian, surrogate or designated representative before the initial examination to obtain all the necessary documentation.
When an oath waiver is provided, a legal guardian or surrogate, or designated representative See Chapter 3, Oath of Allegiance Modifications and Waivers [12 USCIS-PM J.3]. signs on behalf of an applicant who is unable to understand or communicate an understanding of the Oath of Allegiance because of a disability. The guardian, surrogate, or representative acts on behalf of an applicant with a disability at every stage of the naturalization examination. The guardian, surrogate, or representative files the application on behalf of the applicant and must have knowledge of the facts supporting the applicant’s eligibility for naturalization.
The guardian, surrogate, or representative addresses every requirement for naturalization and bears the burden of establishing the applicant’s eligibility for naturalization.
Persons eligible to act on behalf of the applicant include:
A person who a proper court has designated as the applicant’s legal guardian or surrogate and who is authorized to exercise legal authority over the applicant’s affairs; A legal guardian or surrogate may act on behalf of an applicant regardless of the legal guardian or surrogate’s immigration status or whether he or she is a family member. or
In the absence of a legal guardian or surrogate, a United States citizen spouse, parent, adult son or daughter, or adult brother or sister, who is the primary custodial caregiver and who takes responsibility for the applicant.
USCIS will only recognize one designated representative in the following order of priority: If there is a conflict in priority between two or more persons seeking to represent the applicant, and the individuals share the same degree of familial relationship, USCIS gives priority to the person who is older.
Legal guardian or surrogate (highest priority)
U.S. citizen spouse
U.S. citizen parent
U.S. citizen adult son or daughter
U.S. citizen adult brother or sister (lowest priority)
The person acting on behalf of the applicant must provide proof of legal guardianship, or documentation to establish the familial relationship, such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or adoption decree. In addition, the person must provide documentation to establish that he or she has the primary custodial care and responsibility for the applicant (for example, income tax returns, Social Security Administration documents, and affidavits from other relatives). A spouse, parent, adult son or daughter, or adult brother or sister who is not the legal guardian or surrogate must provide evidence of U.S. citizenship.
USCIS continues an application where the family member acting as a designated representative is not a U.S. citizen. USCIS explains to the family member why he or she is not qualified to act as a designated representative and offers the applicant an opportunity to bring another person who may qualify.
3. Written Evaluation
In general, USCIS requires a written evaluation to establish the applicant’s inability to take the Oath of Allegiance. An applicant or designated representative requesting an oath waiver submits a written evaluation completed by a medical professional licensed to practice in the United States.
The written evaluation must:
Be completed by the medical professional who has had the longest relationship with the applicant or is most familiar with the applicant’s medical history;
Express the applicant’s medical condition and disability in terms that an officer and the designated representative can understand (except for medical definitions or terms to describe the disability);
State why and how the applicant is unable to understand or communicate an understanding of the meaning of the Oath of Allegiance because of the disability;
Indicate the likelihood of the applicant being able to communicate or demonstrate an understanding of the meaning of the Oath of Allegiance in the near future; and
Be signed by the medical professional completing the written evaluation and contain his or her state license number authorizing the medical professional to practice in the United States.
USCIS will not require medical professionals to provide an explanation of how they reached their diagnosis, a listing of clinical or laboratory techniques used to reach the diagnosis, or supporting documentation to establish the claimed disability. USCIS, however, will require the medical professional to provide a thorough explanation of how the applicant’s disability impairs his or her functioning so severely that the applicant is unable to demonstrate an understanding of the oath requirements or communicate an understanding of its meaning.
USCIS reserves the right to request documentation if there is a question upon examination about the applicant’s disability and ability to understand the oath requirement. If USCIS approves the oath waiver, USCIS does not require the applicant to appear in a public ceremony.