Citizenship in the Time of Covid

In spite of being in the Time of Covid, many immigrants are still making the decision to become American citizens.  Over the past year, this process has changed to incorporate Covid-safe practices during the interview process.  I spoke with our lawyer, Dana Boroos, to get some insight on changes that have been instituted.

From the mid March, 2020, until the end of July, 2020, there were no citizenship interviews or oath ceremonies as coronavirus protocols were implemented. 

Now that interviewing has resumed, the following requirements are in place:

  • The officer and applicant must wear a mask.  If an attorney or guardian is present, they are also required to wear masks.
  • Temperatures are taken before proceeding from the waiting area into the interview room.
  • A Plexiglas barrier separates the applicant from the officer. 
  • Only up to three people are allowed into the office at one time.  If both an attorney and a guardian present, they will take turns in the interview office as needed. 
  • Attorneys and interpreters may also appear at the citizenship interview via telephone. 
  • Finally if an applicant has any symptoms of Covid-19, an outstanding test, or known exposure within the last 2 weeks, the interview will be rescheduled.

Additionally, the Oath Ceremonies look different at this time.  There have been various adaptations for the Oath Ceremony. 

  • Some applicants may receive their certificates of naturalization the same day as the interview if traveling to Omaha, NE, or Minneapolis, MN.  These are “administrative ceremonies” without a judge.
  • In Sioux Falls, the USCIS office has been holding Oath Ceremonies for 5 to 10 applicants at a time with several ceremonies scheduled in one day about once a month.  Some of these ceremonies are administrative as well.
  • The judge will attend the ceremony via Zoom when needed for name changes. 
  • The ceremony is very short, no singing or speeches.
  • All attendees are required to wear masks and socially distance. 
  • Friends and family are not allowed to be present. 
  • Again, if the applicant has any symptoms of Covid-19, an outstanding test, or known exposure to coronavirus within the last 2 weeks, they are asked to reschedule.

Written by Heather Glidewell | LSS Center for New Americans | Adult ESL Instructor

300 East 6th Street, Suite 100 | Sioux Falls, SD 57103

1-866-242-2447 toll free | 605-731-2059 fax

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