Downside to Naturalization Oath Ceremonies Held at USCIS Offices: No Cameras!

In various parts of the U.S., moves are afoot to have fewer naturalization oath ceremonies done at federal courts, and more done at offices of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The stated motivation is to to give applicants the option of receiving citizenship within a shorter time (the wait for a court ceremony can be weeks). I imagine USCIS also has some internal motivations — the faster it can close pending naturalization cases, the less the chance that something will happen in the weeks before the swearing-in that causes the cases to need another look.

If you are applying for naturalization, then upon your approval, you may be given a choice between an oath ceremony at a courtroom and one at a USCIS office. You may have already figured out that timing is one important consideration in this decision, as well as being able to change your name, if you wish (only at court ceremonies can you legally change your name within the citizenship process).

However, there’s another consideration that I hadn’t even considered until reading some notes of a meeting between the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association (AILA) and the Sacramento office of USCIS: The ability to take pictures!

Federal buildings usually have a no-camera policy. So if your proud friends and family members want to join the occasion and take pictures to remember it by, they’ll be sorely disappointed, and perhaps a little anxious, when required to check their valuable camera equipment at the front door.

The Sacramento USCIS office, at least, recognizes this problem, and says it is looking into other options, such as having the ceremony held outdoors.

But if photos of your swearing-in are important to you, you’ll want to ask about your options for this ceremony.