Oath of Allegiance (United States)

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A USCIS official administering the Oath of Allegiance to a group of U.S. servicemembers during a naturalization ceremony at Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan.
U.S. military personnel taking and subscribing to the Oath of Allegiance at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, California, in 2010.
Legal immigrants taking and subscribing to the Oath of Allegiance at the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, in 2010.
15 people from ten countries taking and subscribing to the Oath of Allegiance on World Refugee Day in Boise, Idaho, in 2015.
U.S. military personnel taking and subscribing to the Oath of Allegiance in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2008.

The Oath of Allegiance of the United States is the official oath of allegiance that must be taken and subscribed by every lawful permanent resident (LPR) who wishes to become a national of the United States (American).[1][2][3] The only LPR who cannot take this oath of allegiance is one who is "removable" from the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).[4][5]

The Oath of Allegiance of the United States may be administered by any immigration judge or any authorized officer of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), including by any eligible federal judge.[6][a] In exceptional circumstances, it can be administered anywhere around the world, including inside any U.S. embassy.[7]


The current Oath of Allegiance of the United States is as follows:

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.[8]


According to U.S. regulations, the phrase "so help me God" is optional and that the words on oath can be substituted with and solemnly affirm.[1]

According to U.S. Congress, if the prospective citizen is unable or unwilling to promise to bear arms or perform noncombatant military service because of "religious training and belief", he or she may request to leave out those clauses. The law specifies:

The term "religious training and belief" as used in this section shall mean an individual’s belief in a relation to a Supreme Being involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation, but does not include essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views, or a merely personal moral code.[2]

Qualifying for this modification may require supporting documentation from the applicant's religious organization.[9] The applicant is not required to belong to a specific religious group, but must have "a sincere and meaningful belief that has a place in the applicant's life that is equivalent to that of a religious belief."[10]

Waivers of the oath[edit]

The requirement to take and subscribe to the Oath of Allegiance of the United States is waived for children under 14 years of age at the time of naturalization.[10] The requirement may also be waived for any person unable to understand or communicate an understanding of said Oath due to a physical disability or mental impairment.


During the Revolutionary War, oaths of allegiance were administered to officers of the Continental Army, pursuant to a Congressional resolution of February 3, 1778.[11] An example appears below.

I James Glentworth, Lieut, of 6th Pennya. Reg. do acknowledge

the UNITED STATES of AMERICA to be Free, Independent and Sovereign States, and declare that the people thereof owe no allegiance or obedience to George the Third, King of Great Britain; and I renounce, refuse and abjure any allegiance or obedience to him; and I do Swear that I will, to the utmost of my power, support, maintain and defend the said United States against the said King George the Third, his heirs and successors, and his or their abettors, assistants and adherents, and will serve the said United States in the office of Lieutenant which I now hold, with fidelity, according to the best of my skill and understanding.


Sworn at the Valley Forge Camp this 11th day of May, 1778, before me


The Oath of Allegiance for prospective citizens originated with the Naturalization Act of 1790, which required applicants to take an oath or affirmation "to support the constitution of the United States", but did not provide a text. The Naturalization Act of 1795 added renunciation of the new citizen's former sovereign to the oath. The Naturalization Act of 1906 added the section of the oath requiring new citizens to defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; and bear true faith and allegiance to the same.

The Oath acquired a standard text in 1929.[8] Prior to then, spoken oaths were adapted from naturalization law, and each court could develop its own procedures for administering the oath.

The Internal Security Act of 1950 added the text about bearing arms and performing noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States. The section about performing work of national importance under civilian direction was added by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.

Changing the oath[edit]

The current exact text of the Oath of Citizenship is established only in the form of an administrative regulation promulgated by the executive branch. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, CIS could theoretically change the text of the oath at any time, so long as the new text reasonably meets the "five principles" mandated by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1953. These principles are:

  • allegiance to the United States Constitution,
  • renunciation of allegiance to any foreign country to which the immigrant has had previous allegiances
  • defense of the Constitution against enemies "foreign and domestic"
  • promise to serve in the United States Armed Forces when required by law (either combat or non-combat)
  • promise to perform civilian duties of "national importance" when required by law

There has been some controversy about the wording of the oath, parts of which are based on the British Oath of Supremacy[citation needed] which was written in the 16th Century. As a result, some[who?] have suggested much of the language is antiquated and confusing. In the fall of 2003, CIS planned to change the oath of citizenship in time for Citizenship Day (September 17).[13] The proposed oath was as follows:

Solemnly, freely, and without mental reservation, I hereby renounce under oath all allegiance to any foreign state. My fidelity and allegiance from this day forward is to the United States of America. I pledge to support, honor, and be loyal to the United States, its Constitution, and its laws. Where and if lawfully required, I further commit myself to defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, either by military, noncombatant, or civilian service. This I do solemnly swear, so help me God.[14]

The introduction of the new oath was scrapped by the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security, and Claims on April 1, 2004.[15]

Incidents and controversies[edit]

In United States v. Schwimmer (1929), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the denial of citizenship to an applicant who declared not to be willing to "take up arms personally" in defense of the United States. The applicant, Hungarian-born female suffragist Rosika Schwimmer, had written that she was an "uncompromising pacifist" with "no sense of nationalism, only a cosmic consciousness of belonging to the human family". The Court found that persons holding such views were "liable to be incapable of the attachment for and devotion to the principles of our Constitution" that are required for naturalization.[16]

English writer Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World, applied for U.S. citizenship in 1953 after having lived in the United States for fourteen years. When asked if he would bear arms and perform noncombatant military service as required by the Oath, Huxley answered in the negative and was summoned before a judge. Huxley explained that his objection was based on philosophical convictions about the evil of war rather than religious beliefs. The judge adjourned proceedings and postponed a decision on Huxley's application in order to report to Washington. Huxley never received U.S. citizenship.[17]

In the 1968 case In re Weitzman, a U.S. district court considered the naturalization petition of Brenda Weitzman, a 25-year-old mother of two children from South Africa and religious non-believer who had refused to take the part of the Oath requiring her to serve in the Armed Forces. She expressed a total "objection to warfare and the bearing of arms" (conscientious objectorship), being "repulsed by no particular war, but by all killing." The court, finding that her stance was "based on a personal moral code and not on religious training and belief" and that she did not recognize anything "tantamount to a God or a Supreme Being", denied her petition.[18]

The precedent relied upon was United States v. Seeger (1965). However, in Welsh v. United States (1970),[19] the Supreme Court, having noted the case factually similar and controlled by United States v. Seeger, determined in respect to the provision in the Universal Military Training and Service Act that exempts from military service persons who by reason of "religious training and belief" are conscientiously opposed to war, that the Act:

contravenes the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by exempting those whose conscientious objection claims are founded on a theistic belief, while not exempting those whose claims are based on a secular belief. To comport with that clause, an exemption must be "neutral" and include those whose belief emanates from a purely moral, ethical, or philosophical source.


This judgement was used in 2013 to reverse a denial of citizenship to Margaret Doughty, a 65 year old British atheist who had lived in the United States for 30 years, unless she could show proof of membership in a church with pacifist beliefs to support her claim that she was a conscientious objector entitled to omit the Oath's clause about bearing arms.[20][19] The USCIS retracted their demand after receiving a letter from an atheist group that objected based on Welsh vs. United States.[20][19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Section 310(b)(1)(A) of the Immigration and Naturalization Act provides that "an eligible court ... shall have authority to administer such oath of allegiance to persons residing within the jurisdiction of the court." Section 310(b)(5) defines "eligible court" for this purposes as "a district court of the United States in any State" or "any court of record in any State having a seal, a clerk, and jurisdiction in actions in law or equity, or law and equity, in which the amount in controversy is unlimited."


  1. ^ a b 8 CFR 337.1 ("Oath of allegiance")
  2. ^ a b 8 U.S.C. § 1448
  3. ^ 8 U.S.C. § 1452 ("Certificates of citizenship or U.S. non-citizen national status; procedure"); see also 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(22) ("The term 'national of the United States' means (A) a citizen of the United States, or (B) a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owes permanent allegiance to the United States.") (emphasis added); Black's Law Dictionary at p.87 (9th ed., 2009) (defining the term "permanent allegiance" as "[t]he lasting allegiance owed to [the United States] by its citizens or [permanent resident]s.") (emphasis added); Ricketts v. Att'y Gen., 897 F.3d 491, 493-94 n.3 (3d Cir. 2018) ("Citizenship and nationality are not synonymous."); Jennings v. Rodriguez, 583 U.S. ___, ___-___ (2018), 138 S.Ct. 830, 855-56 (2018) (Justice Thomas concurring) ("The term 'or' is almost always disjunctive, that is, the [phrase]s it connects are to be given separate meanings."); Chalmers v. Shalala, 23 F.3d 752, 755 (3d Cir. 1994) (same).
  4. ^ 8 U.S.C. § 1452(b) ("Application to Secretary of State for certificate of non-citizen national status; proof; oath of allegiance").
  5. ^ 8 U.S.C. § 1229a(e)(2) ("The term 'removable' means—(A) in the case of an alien not admitted to the United States, that the alien is inadmissible under section 1182 of this title, or (B) in the case of an alien admitted to the United States, that the alien is deportable under section 1227 of this title."); see also Lolong v. Gonzales, 484 F.3d 1173, 1177 n.2 (9th Cir. 2007) (noting that "the terms 'deportable' and 'deportation' can be used interchangeably with the terms 'removable' and 'removal,' respectively."); Tima v. Att'y Gen., 903 F.3d 272, 277 (3d Cir. 2018) ("Section 1227 defines '[d]eportable aliens,' a synonym for removable aliens.... So § 1227(a)(1) piggybacks on § 1182(a) by treating grounds of inadmissibility as grounds for removal as well."); Galindo v. Sessions, 897 F.3d 894, 897 (7th Cir. 2018) (same legal finding).
  6. ^ USCIS Policy Manual, Vol. 12 (Citizenship & Naturalization), Part J (Oath of Allegiance), Chapter 2 (The Oath of Allegiance).
  7. ^ 8 U.S.C. § 1445(e) ("A person may file an application for naturalization other than in the office of the Attorney General, and an oath of allegiance administered other than in a public ceremony before the Attorney General or a court, if the Attorney General determines that the person has an illness or other disability which... is of a nature which so incapacitates the person as to prevent him from personally appearing.") (emphasis added); see also 8 U.S.C. § 1446(a) ("The Attorney General may, in his discretion, waive a personal investigation in an individual case or in such cases or classes of cases as may be designated by him.") (emphasis added).
  8. ^ a b "Oath of Allegiance for Naturalized Citizens". Citizenship and Immigration Services. uscis.gov. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Retrieved 2010-06-30.
  9. ^ "Chapter 5, A Guide to Naturalization" (PDF). Citizenship and Immigration Services. uscis.gov. U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  10. ^ a b "USCIS Policy Manual". Citizenship and Immigration Services. uscis.gov. U.S. Department of Homeland Security. 12 USCIS-PM J.3.
  11. ^ Waldenmaier, Nellie (1944). Some of the Earliest Oaths of Allegiance to the United States of America. Lancaster Press.
  12. ^ Glentworth, James (1877). "The Oath Taken by the Officers at Valley Forge". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 1 (2): 174. JSTOR 20084276.
  13. ^ US Citizenship and Immigration Services Fact Sheet
  14. ^ John J. Miller (September 15, 2003), Oath on Ice, National Review Online, retrieved 2008-11-07
  15. ^ Preserve Oath of Citizenship, the American Legion, April 1, 2004
  16. ^ United States v. Schwimmer, 279 U.S. 644 (1929).
  17. ^ Bedford, Sybille (2002). Aldous Huxley: A Biography. Ivan R Dee. ISBN 978-1-56663-454-0., p. 531-535, 545-546.
  18. ^ In re Weitzman
  19. ^ a b c "Welsh v. United States". law.cornell.edu. Cornell University Law School. June 15, 1970. Retrieved September 1, 2016.
  20. ^ a b "Margaret Doughty Approved For Citizenship As USCIS Backs Down In Flap Over Atheist Opposition To War".