Foreign born--Citizenship possible with ACS help
Army Community Service (ACS) Relocation Readiness Program Manager Ruth Gonzalez shows some of the paperwork foreign-born nationals have to complete to become permanent U.S. residents. ACS provides Soldiers and Families help with the naturalization process.

FORT RUCKER, Ala.--When defense of the United States requires Soldiers to serve in foreign countries, occasionally romance blossoms and Family status changes. Should Family status change while a Soldier is serving on foreign soil, Army Community Services (ACS) can help new Family members establish permanent legal residency.

ACS Relocation Readiness Program Manager Ruth Gonzalez said the organization provides foreign nationals assistance with necessary documents and educates Soldiers and Families on the naturalization process. Gonzalez said the process differs for each type of Family status change - engagement, marriage or parenthood.

Any new Family members must enter the United States through some type of visa, including student, tourist or fiancAfAe. If a Soldier is engaged to a foreign country native, they have 90 days to marry upon returning here, Gonzalez said.

If a Soldier marries a foreign-born national while overseas, the couple must provide a marriage certificate to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and the new resident will receive a conditional residency. The new Army spouse must satisfy requirements for permanent residency 90 days before the marriage's two-year anniversary.

Gonzalez said children born overseas to one American parent do not automatically qualify for American citizenship, and steps must be taken to naturalize them as well.

While the different situations invoke various conditions, one thing remains constant with the naturalization process - it is long and tedious, Gonzalez said. She said missed deadlines allow authorities to ban immigrants from the country for a year.

Naturalization is also costly - $2,010 for paperwork processing when forms are filled out separately. USCIS gives Soldiers and Families a discount through an adjustment package that contains all the necessary forms. The package costs $1,365.

When completing the forms, Gonzalez offers community members advice. "Read it very carefully. Fill it out very accurately," she said. Gonzalez suggests immigrants use pencil before finalizing their work. Careful completion increases chances for selection.

After the paperwork has been submitted, selected immigrants will be interviewed in Atlanta and take a naturalization test, which requires knowledge of American history, civics and English. Test preparation classes are available at Wallace or Enterprise-Ozark community colleges, Gonzalez said.

Center Library also offers citizenship books, including "Citizenship Made Simple," "Our United States" and "How to Become a U.S. Citizen," library technician Melissa Kempfer said. She added the library has word recognition books to aid with the English portion of the exam.

Gonzalez said ACS is surveying how many people would be interested in using their naturalization services. If enough demand exists, ACS can set up a video teleconference with a USCIS liaison, who can inform students and answer questions.

To express interest in the ACS class, call 255-3735 or 255-3161. For more information on naturalization, visit www.uscis.gov.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16