What are the logistics of a naturalization ceremony?
March 23, 2015 12:09 PM   Subscribe

My husband is scheduled to become a US citizen in a couple weeks at the Eastern District of New York, in downtown Brooklyn. It's a weekday and we've been told to appear by 8:30 am. I understand that it will probably last until noon. Have you been through this process, and can you help me figure out some logistics?

I'd really like to go, but of course we have two kids that both need to go to school/daycare which open at 8:10/8:30 respectively, and it's at least a 40-minute trip to downtown BK from where we live.

So I'm thinking of three possibilities:
1. Take the kids along. Unlikely, since the court does not allow phones or recording devices, so no iPad to watch movies or keep them entertained and quiet. They're 4 and 2 years old.
2. Find volunteers to take the kids to school/daycare. Working on this, although it might involve dropping the kids off at said volunteers' houses at the ungodly hour of 7 am.
3. Take the kids to school/daycare myself and meet my husband at the courthouse late. Will they let latecomers in? What exactly will go on between 8:30 and noon?

Obviously it's not the end of the world if I don't get to go, but it's a big day for my husband and I'd like to be there. Can you think of any other solutions I haven't thought of, or describe your experiences so I know what to expect?

(And, um, do they allow things like knitting needles to pass the time, since they don't allow recording devices? Or is that considered a "weapon of any kind"?)
posted by Liesl to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think #1 is your best option. Take some books that are not on the iPad. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:13 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is what friends are for! This is a big deal and it's okay to ask a good friend to help out with your kids for one morning. I'm sure they will be happy to do it.
posted by something something at 12:17 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd try for #2 - the kids will almost certainly get bored, and you may end up needing to take them outside at some point (and thus not really being there with your husband). If you can't find someone who can help out with both kids, I'd at least try to find someone who can take the 2yr old to daycare. I don't think of 7am as that early - most parents with babies or toddlers will be up by then anyway. I'm sure your friends will be happy to help!

I've never been to a naturalization ceremony, but I've been to courthouses many times. You will probably need to show ID and go through a metal detector, but they aren't nearly as strict as the TSA. Since you can bring knitting needles on an airplane, I think it would be fine to bring them to the courthouse. However, if you're concerned, circular wooden/bamboo knitting needles look much less weapon-like than straight metal knitting needles.
posted by insectosaurus at 12:27 PM on March 23, 2015

We went through this relatively recently, at a USCIS office.

It's a pretty happy occasion so it's a very pleasant experience -- people are quite friendly unlike other phases of the process which can feel confrontational and intimidating.

Many people had their children/babies with them and nobody complained about it. I would say that you should take your children with you.

Here is a brief run-down of how it went for us:

When we arrived at the center, we sat for about 35 minutes in a room with everyone else (and their families) who will be attending the ceremony.

Then the whole group went into a large ceremonial room -- the people being naturalized were grouped toward the front of the room and friends & family asked to sit in the back or stand on the sides.

There were some speeches for about ~10 minutes, followed by the oath, followed by the presentation of certificates and small American flags. Everyone gets a chance to take a photo of their loved one as they get their certificate.

Then there's a short video and everyone says the pledge of allegiance together.

We had the opportunity to apply for a passport immediately after the ceremony-- you can give the naturalization certificate and passport application to a volunteer at the naturalization ceremony and the application will be processed immediately. They will take the naturalization certificate (ack!) and then mail it back to you in a week or so.

It's pretty convenient because its saves you the cost and hassle of having to mail your application in. But you must remember to take your checkbook, and if the people are organized enough, they will have someone onsite who can take passport photos for you. (You might want to bring passport photos with you just in case). You can also pre-fill out the passport application (but DON'T SIGN IT!) and take it with you to save time.
This was definitely worth it, so I'd be prepared for that.

Including the ceremony and filling out the passport application, I'd say we were there for 2.5 to 3 hours.

posted by amy27 at 12:33 PM on March 23, 2015 [7 favorites]

I vote #1. Kids can be occupied without electronics. They may complain or be annoying but in twenty years they'll probably feel really proud/glad that they were at your husband's naturalization ceremony.
posted by JackBurden at 1:38 PM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

It's a pretty happy occasion so it's a very pleasant experience -- people are quite friendly unlike other phases of the process which can feel confrontational and intimidating.

I naturalized in 2003 and can vouch for this. New citizens are given an American flag and a tiny copy of the Constitution, along with a certificate of citizenship. The process leading up to it is wholly dour and bureaucratic, but the ceremony itself is indeed celebratory or at least congratulatory.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:29 PM on March 23, 2015

I vote for dropping the kids off and going late. You will be able to enjoy the moment more if you are not stressing out about keeping small children occupied/happy/fed/changed. Congrats to your husband!
posted by JenMarie at 3:36 PM on March 23, 2015

Best answer: I naturalized a year ago, at the same Brooklyn location. It's boring as crap. You will have to go by yourself into the main room, where you will spend 2-3 hours sitting around and occasionally filling out a form. After 3 hours or so, your family will be allowed to come in and the ceremony will happen. The judge will say something (mine made a lovely speech) and you'll do the pledge and that will be about it. My 5 year old was miserable the whole time, and I'm glad my husband was dealing with her.

That said, I'm still glad they came. It's a significant ceremony, and it feels right that they were there.
posted by gaspode at 4:01 PM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

#1. Take the electronics, keep the volume low/headphones. Take options if there's a stickler for rules but find a quiet corner and let them do their thing. And probably don't need to arrive early, just well before the judge arrives. The one I was just at was in Boston (during a one of the big snows) and it was much lower key and inefficient than I'd expected.
posted by sammyo at 5:47 PM on March 23, 2015

And be prepared for your husband to be encouraged to register to vote. They will hand out forms to fill out on the spot, right after the ceremony.

My husband's ceremony also identified all the original countries of the new citizens, and asked the new Americans to stand when their original countries were called. It was a lovely part of the ceremony, and I was amazed at the variety of countries the new Americans had come from.
posted by citygirl at 6:20 PM on March 23, 2015

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