Naturalization Ceremony Etiquette Guide

A naturalization ceremony takes place in a United States federal court. When a ceremony is held in a school auditorium, gymnasium, on a football field or in any other public venue, the ceremony, despite the setting, is still considered a federal courtroom. The judge and the court demand respect as representatives of the federal government of the United States of America. It is crucial that everyone in attendance recognizes that their dress, behavior, and conduct must be respectful and honor the government, the judge, members of the court, the new citizens and their guests. An etiquette guide that outlines some of the appropriate behavior is listed below:

DRESS

The appropriate dress for court is business casual. Clothing such as shorts, halters, tank tops, any clothing exposing the midriff or underclothing, beachwear, t-shirts with inappropriate graphics/wording are not allowed in the courtroom. Female students should wear modest blouses with skirts or pants, or dresses that don’t expose too much skin. Male students should wear slacks or khakis and with a nice shirt. Jeans are prohibited and clothing should be loose and not form-fitting.

Hats/headdresses are not permitted in the courtroom unless they are used for religious reasons.

BEHAVIOR

All electronic devices should be turned off. This includes cellular phones, pagers, PDAs, iPods, cameras, camera phones, and all recording devices.

The judge must grant permission to record and/or photograph the naturalization ceremony. If this is your intention, you must be sure to ask for this permission well in advance of the ceremony. If you plan to record any portion of the ceremony and/or take photos, you must be sure to seek permission from the judge, the new citizens and the students. It is imperative to have a signed release form from each of your students if you plan to webcast the ceremony. Please be sure that your students understand that they are not permitted to record any part of the naturalization ceremony.

Food, beverage, tobacco, and chewing gum are strictly prohibited in the courtroom at all times.

CONDUCT

At the beginning of the ceremony, the Clerk of Courts will enter the “courtroom” and ask everyone to rise. This means everyone in the courtroom will stand as the judge enters and calls the court to order. The Clerk will then state, “You may be seated.” At this time you will re-seat yourself and listen as court begins.

Please be respectful and do not speak during the naturalization ceremony. Not only does talking exhibit disrepect to the courts, but you might miss important information. Please be sure to listen attentively to what is said. You may leave the courtroom if an emergency arises. If you must leave do so quietly, trying not to disturb anyone.

The naturalization ceremony will conclude when the Clerk of Courts again states, “All rise.” This means everyone in the courtroom will stand as the judge exits and the court proceedings are concluded. The Clerk will then state, “You may be seated.” At this time the students will re-seat themselves until they are dismissed by their teacher.

RECEPTION ETIQUETTE

We recommend that following the naturalization ceremony the school hosts a small reception to honor the new citizens and their family and friends. This is a wonderful opportunity for your students to interact with the new citizens, as well as the federal judge, and any other officials such as the U.S. Marshalls, and the Clerk of Courts. Below is a list of suggested items to ensure that the experience is extra special for everyone involved:

Your students are the hosts and hostesses of the reception; it is important that they display courteous behavior throughout the reception. Proper etiquette at the reception includes making sure everyone is comfortable and enjoying themselves. The students should direct all guests to beverages and food and make sure they are comfortable. As hosts and hostesses, the students should be sure to greet all guests properly. When introducing themselves, all students should greet guests with a smile, handshake, and then clearly state their name. The other person should introduce himself/herself to you. If he/she does not, the student may ask them for their name. The students should not be afraid if they are unable to pronounce the person’s name correctly. Please encourage your students to continue to try until he/she gets it right. This effort will please the guest and make him/her feel proud that the student has taken the time to learn how to properly recite the guest’s name.

Mingling is a great way for the students to find out about the people who have become citizens. All students should be prepared to ask a few questions of the guests. Please stress to your students that they should ask general questions: what country did you come from, how long have you been going through the naturalization process, why are you most excited to become an American citizen, and so on. Students should avoid negative and sensitive questions such as what were the hardships you endured in your home country. The student should listen to the guest’s answers and create follow-up questions based on the flow of the conversation.

As student hosts and hostesses, they should check to make sure that all guests have been through the reception line. If not, students can offer to bring a beverage or refreshment to the citizen. Please make sure your students understand that all guests should be served before the students go back for a second round of food or beverage. After the student has spent time with the guest, he/she may introduce him/her to another classmate. The student should congratulate the new citizen again and then proceed to visit with another citizen.

TIPS AND POINTERS

Here are a few tips and pointers to share with your students:
Always remember to say “please” and “thank you.”
Try not to interrupt when someone else is talking.
Say “excuse me” if you bump into someone.
Look others in the eye when speaking to them.
Don’t chew with your mouth open.
Before taking any photos, ask the person if you may take his/her picture.
In general, smile, be positive, sincere, respectful and friendly.

THANK YOU NOTES AFTER THE CEREMONY

Following the ceremony, a student should be in charge of sending a thank you note to the following people: the judge, USCIS, the Clerk of Courts, any special guest speakers, volunteers, or anyone else who helped make the day a success.