28 powerful photos of people becoming American citizens

John Moore/Getty ImagesNaturalization ceremonies can be emotional.
  • The US citizenship process can be long, expensive, and stressful.
  • On the special day, immigrants gather together to recite the Oath of Allegiance during the naturalization ceremony, which is held by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.
  • Due to COVID-19, in-person naturalization services have been backlogged, creating more uncertainty for immigrants and their families.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

For many immigrants who come to the US, the citizenship process can be long, expensive, and stressful. So it comes as no surprise that, for those who have been through the process, the moment they become naturalized as citizens is typically filled with joy, relief, and tears.

This Constitution Day and Citizenship Day (September 17), here are powerful photos of newly naturalized American citizens.


The naturalization ceremony is joyful for those who have been through the long process to become a citizen. Pictured, a new citizen smiles and waves her flag among a crowd in Los Angeles.

REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonShe took her oath in Los Angeles, California.

This group became citizens on March 20, 2018.


Silvia Hunt cheers as Mexico is announced during a naturalization ceremony.

APSilvia Hunt during a ceremony at Turner Field in Atlanta.

She became a citizen on September 16, 2016. She was among 755 people who became new US citizens at Turner Field in Atlanta, the AP reported.


Maria E. del Rio kisses her husband Raul del Rio as he becomes a citizen. Originally from Mexico, he waited 53 years to become a citizen.

APMaria E. del Rio and Raul del Rio.

He became a citizen on August 20, 1998, among 10,000 people in two different ceremonies.


Roberta Minke hugs her daughter Sophia after becoming a citizen.

APRoberta Minke.

She became a citizen on July 3, 2014 in Irving, Texas. Over 9,000 new citizens were sworn in over the Fourth of July holiday week in ceremonies across the country that year, the Associated Press reported.


Robert Moshenko, who is originally from Canada, wears an American flag jacket during his ceremony to become a citizen.

APRobert Moshenko at his 2010 ceremony.

He became a citizen on September 20, 2010 at a ceremony with 60 other people.


Jean Naason waves his flag and smiles during a naturalization ceremony in Miami.

APAbout 50 people became citizens during that ceremony.

He became a citizen on June 5, 2014.


It’s also an emotional day for many — Brianna Valanzuele hugs her grandmother after she became a citizen.

REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonBrianna Valanzuele, 14, hugs her grandmother in Los Angeles.

The grandmother became a citizen on May 23, 2017.


Hatoumata Tounkara, a Muslim refugee who came to the US from Mali, holds up her naturalization certificate.

APHatoumata Tounkara became a citizen on World Refugee Day in New York City.

She became a citizen on June 20, 2016, World Refugee Day.


Congressman Charlie Crist, who serves Florida’s 13th district, hugs Ana Henriquez Diaz during a naturalization ceremony.

APCrist and Henriquez.

She became a citizen on December 19, 2007.


Ileana Gonzalez also holds back tears during a ceremony held at the Everglades National Park in Florida.

Al Diaz/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty ImagesA group of immigrants hold on to their American flags during the ceremony.

Gonzalez, of Cuba, became a citizen on July 3, 2019.


Immaculee Ilibagiza cries while reciting the pledge. She sought asylum in the US after fleeing the 1994 Rwandan genocide, according to the Associated Press.

AP Photo/Bebeto MatthewsImmaculee Ilibagiza.

She became a citizen on April 17, 2013. According to the AP, Ilibagiza said, “Who would know that this fantasy would finally happen.”

She is also the author of the best-selling book, “Left to Tell, Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.”


A new citizen has an emotional moment during his ceremony.

REUTERS/Brian SnyderHe stood for the invocation with his flag.

He became a citizen on March 21, 2013.


Stallone Laurel Dias recites the pledge of allegiance after taking the oath to become a US citizen in Boston.

REUTERS/Brian SnyderStallone Laurel Dias.

He became a citizen on July 18, 2018.


Scarlet Gammon shares an emotional moment with her husband, George, after taking the oath in Los Angeles in 2017.

REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonShe became a citizen in Los Angeles, California.

She took her oath on May 23, 2017.


In the US, you do not have to be a citizen to serve in the military, but you do need a green card, also known as a permanent resident card.

REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonTheir ceremony took place in Los Angeles, California.

While you can enlist in the military, you may have fewer options if you are not a citizen. This group became citizens on September 20, 2017.


Zuyu Nu, who was serving with the US Navy, takes the oath of citizenship at the Statue of Liberty in New York City.

APZuyu Nu.

He became a citizen on October 28, 2011, along with 125 other people.


In 2018, 142 citizenship candidates from 33 countries took their Oath of Allegiance in Miami.

APA naturalization ceremony at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services Miami Field Office.

Yanet Parano, right, of Cuba, and Rose M. Franky of Haiti, centre, hugged after becoming American citizens on August 17, 2018.


Also that year, new citizens smiled during the pledge of allegiance at the New York Public Library in Manhattan.

REUTERS/Shannon StapletonNew citizens.

They smiled during the naturalization ceremony on July 3, 2018.


Another smiling group raises their hand to take the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance during a ceremony in Salem, Massachusetts.

Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesA group of immigrants hold their American flags as they prepare to become citizens.

This ceremony was hosted at the House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts, on September 17, 2019.


This duo captured a selfie of the special moment.

REUTERS/Lucy NicholsonThey took their oath in Los Angeles, California.

They became citizens on May 23, 2017.


A group in New Jersey gathers to shake hands during a ceremony.

John Moore/Getty ImagesThe ceremony took place at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

They became citizens on September 17, 2015.


A woman in New York clutches her American flag as she recites the pledge.

REUTERS/Shannon StapletonShe took her oath at the New York Historical Society Museum and Library in Manhattan, New York.

She became a citizen on April 10, 2017.


Maria De Las Mercedes Nunez Salgado smiles as she becomes a citizen.

APShe took her oath of citizenship at the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia.

Originally from Spain, she became a citizen on June 14, 2006.


The El Paso County Coliseum in Texas hosted hundreds of immigrants for their naturalization ceremony in 2019.

PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty ImagesCountries from all over the world were represented in the crowd.

About 740 immigrants became US citizens on April 18, 2019.


In Salt Lake City, a woman wipes a tear away as she is sworn in as a US citizen.

George Frey/Getty ImagesThe ceremonies can be very emotional.

Forty-nine people from 26 countries became US citizens during this ceremony held on April 10, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah.


Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, US Citizenship and Immigration Services had to host drive-in naturalization ceremonies to help stop the spread of the virus.

Mario Tama/Getty ImagesOmar Abdalla, originally from Palestine, attends a drive-in ceremony in Santa Ana, California.

On July 29, 2020, 268 immigrants attended a drive-in ceremony in Santa Ana, California, including Omar Abdalla, who is originally from Palestine. In-person ceremonies had been suspended for three months to slow the spread of COVID-19 and protect residents.


In Brooklyn, New York, socially distant naturalization ceremonies started up again after months of delays.

Michael M. Santiago/Getty ImagesPeople stand 6 feet apart with masks on during the entire ceremony.

This naturalization ceremony took place in the US Citizenship and Immigration Services’ Brooklyn field office on July 22, 2020.


Margaret Marwieh, who came to the US from Liberia, attends a socially distanced ceremony in Minneapolis.

Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via Getty ImagesMarwieh wears a mask to a 2020 ceremony.

Usually held in large groups, this time, the ceremony hosted only ten immigrants, who were safely spaced outside in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 27, 2020.

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