New Citizens May Not Be Required to Pledge to Defend the U.S.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services recently announced new modifications to the Oath of Allegiance, the final action in the naturalization process to be completed by U.S. citizenship candidates. Effective July 21, new citizens may choose to exclude the part of the Oath declaring to defend the U.S. based on a religious or conscientious objection.

Eligible new citizens may be able to omit from the Oath the following two clauses:

  • “I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law” and
  • “I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law.”

To qualify for modification of the Oath, candidates must meet certain eligibility requirements. The modifications to these requirements are clarified in new guidance in Volume 12 of the USCIS Policy Manual, stating that a candidate:

  • May be eligible for modifications based on his or her religious training and belief, or conscientious objection arising from a deeply held moral or ethical code.
  • Is not required to belong to a specific church or religious denomination, follow a particular theology or belief, or to have had religious training in order to qualify, but must have a sincere belief similar to that of a religious belief.
  • May provide, but is not required to provide, an attestation or witness statement from a religious or similar type of organization, as well as other evidence to establish eligibility.

USCIS is accepting feedback on the new guidance until August 4, 2015.

To read the new policy change, visit Volume 12 of the Policy Manual, and to provide your feedback, visit Policy Manual for Comment and add your comments before August 4.