expedited citizenship through military service

Expedited Citizenship for Military Personnel

Expedited Citizenship for Military Personnel and Families

u.s. citizenship for military service membersIn July 2002, President George W. Bush issued an executive order that made non-citizen members of the armed forces eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship.

Special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) now authorize U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to expedite the application and naturalization process for current members of the U.S. armed forces, recently discharged service members, and their spouses.

According to USCIS, over 100,000 members of the U.S. armed forces have been naturalized since September 2002. And over 10,000 gained their U.S. citizenship in naturalization ceremonies abroad such as the ceremony pictured above in an Iraqi palace.

Expedited Citizenship for Military Personnel

Military personnel enjoy some tremendous immigration benefits compared to their civilian counterparts. A person who has served honorably in the U.S. armed forces at any time may be eligible to apply for expedited naturalization; the military community sometimes refers to this as “peacetime naturalization.” The immigration benefits include:

1
Continuous residence requirement is waived.

While most naturalization applicants need five years as a permanent resident (or three years if sponsored by U.S. citizen spouse), military personnel can obtain U.S. citizenship much more quickly. What is the continuous residence requirement?

2
Physical presence requirement is waived.

While most naturalization applicants are required to be physically present in the U.S. for 30 months (18 months if sponsored by U.S. citizen spouse), military personnel can obtain U.S. citizenship much more quickly. What is the physical presence requirement?

3
USCIS filing fee is waived.

Naturalization will cost most civilian permanent residents $680 ($595 USCIS filing fee + $85 biometric fee). The filing fee is waived for military service members – only $85 is required to file the application for naturalization.

u.s. citizenship for military service members taking oath
Photo Credit: Sgt. Gaelen Lowers, U.S. Army

What’s more, a service member only needs to be a permanent resident by the date of the citizenship interview. In general an individual in the U.S. armed forces may qualify for naturalization if he or she meets all of the following requirements (under section 328 of the INA):

  • Must be age 18 or older
  • Has good moral character
  • Has the ability to read, write and speak the English language
  • Has knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics)
  • Is ready and willing to take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution
  • Obtained lawful permanent resident status before the citizenship interview/test
  • Served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year
  • Filed an application while still in the service or within six months of separation

However, some service members’ naturalization can be further expedited (under section 329 of the INA) if serving in periods of hostility. The applicant must have served honorably in active-duty status, or as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, for any amount of time (even one day) during a designated period of hostilities and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably. We are currently in a designated period of hostility (September 11, 2001 – present) that will terminate when the President issues an Executive Order terminating the period.

For additional information, see the USCIS website’s section for Citizenship for Military Members.

Expedited Citizenship for Family Members of Military Personnel
u.s. citizenship for military service member Gariela Lozano de Salinas
Photo credit: Edward N. Johnson, U.S. Army

Spouses of U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for expedited or overseas naturalization. And children of service members may be eligible for overseas naturalization.
Spouses of U.S. citizen service members who are (or will be) deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization in the United States. In general, an applicant for naturalization must meet the following requirements (under section 319(b) of the INA):

  • Must be age 18 or older
  • Has good moral character
  • Has the ability to read, write and speak the English language
  • Has knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics)
  • Is ready and willing to take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution
  • Obtained lawful permanent resident status before the citizenship interview/test
  • Establish that his or her U.S. citizen spouse is deployed abroad as a service member
  • Declare in good faith upon naturalization an intent to reside abroad with the U.S. citizen spouse and to reside in the U.S. immediately upon the citizen spouse’s termination of service abroad

For additional information, see the USCIS website’s section on Citizenship for Spouses and Children of Military Members.

Applying for Citizenship through Naturalization

All aspects of the naturalization process, including applications, interviews and ceremonies are available overseas to members of the U.S. armed forces and certain “command-sponsored” spouses.

Many military installations have a designated USCIS liaison to help you with the application process and certify your Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (Form N-426). Ask your chain of command for the contact information for this person.

CitizenPath provides step-by-step online assistance for U.S. service members applying for citizenship. Created by immigration attorneys, our online service makes it simple to complete USCIS forms, including N-400, Application for Naturalization for overseas applicants such as service members. You can try it for free, save it at any time, and only pay the preparation fee once you are satisfied and ready to file.