By Arwen Consaul, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration ServicesNovember 9, 2016
It comes as no surprise that immigrants to the United States have chosen to serve in the Armed Forces before becoming U.S. Citizens. Every year U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) naturalizes thousands of immigrants who are currently serving the in U.S. Armed Forces. Since Oct. 1, 2001, USCIS has naturalized over 118,000 members of the military, with 11,240 of those service members becoming citizens during USCIS naturalization ceremonies in 35 foreign countries.
USCIS has partnered with the Defense Department to ensure the military community has accurate information about immigration services and benefits. USCIS not only provides training to military lawyers, but USCIS regularly conducts educational seminars and other classes on military installations around the country, answering questions about naturalization and other immigration services and benefits.
In addition to educational seminars, USCIS employees regularly conduct adjustment and naturalization interviews and Oath ceremonies for military members and their family members on military installations within the USCIS offices' jurisdictions.
USCIS brings immigration services to the troops wherever they serve, naturalizing more than 8,500 members of the military in 10 countries overseas in the past fiscal year. USCIS seeks to ensure that the military naturalization process is convenient, expedited and secure, so that service members receive the honor of citizenship on behalf of a grateful nation.
Special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorize U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to expedite the naturalization process for current members of the U.S. Armed Forces, Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserves and Veterans.
In general, only citizens and lawful permanent residents (green-card holders) of the United States may enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. Only U.S. citizens may become officers.
Under special provisions in Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the President signed an executive order on July 3, 2002, authorizing all noncitizens who have served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces on or after Sept. 11, 2001, to immediately file for citizenship. This order also covers veterans of certain designated past wars and conflicts. The authorization will remain in effect until a date designated by a future presidential executive order.
DESIGNATED WARS AND CONFLICTS
World War I: April 6, 1917 - November 11, 1918
World War II: September 1, 1939 - December 31, 1946
Korea: June 25, 1950 - July 1, 1955
Vietnam: February 28, 1961 - October 15, 1978
Persian Gulf: August 2, 1990 - April 11, 1991
Enduring Freedom: September 11, 2001 - Present
A member of the U.S. Army must meet the requirements and qualifications to become a citizen of the United States. He or she must demonstrate:
• Good moral character,
• Knowledge of the English language,
• Knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics), and
• Attachment to the United States by taking an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.
All Soldiers going through basic training, or technical school, fall under Title 10 and are considered Active Duty personnel for the naturalization process. In addition, military orders greater than 30 days also qualify as support to Title 10 and qualify for the expedited naturalization process. Proof of service through a DD-214 is required for expedited service.
Qualified Soldiers are exempt from other naturalization requirements, including residence and physical presence in the United States. These exceptions are listed in Sections 328 and 329 of the INA.
A person who obtains U.S. citizenship through his or her military service and separates from the military under "other than honorable conditions" before completing five years of honorable service may have his or her citizenship revoked.
HOW TO APPLY
Every military installation has a designated point-of-contact, generally in the personnel division or the Judge Advocate General's Office, to assist members of the military prepare and file their naturalization application packet.
That packet includes:
• Application for Naturalization, USCIS Form N-400 (Members of the military are not charged a fee to file the Form N-400.)
• Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service, USCIS Form N-426 (The military must certify this form before sending it to USCIS. Individuals separated from the military may submit an uncertified Form N-426 with their DD Form 214.)
In addition, USCIS and the DOD have partnered to conduct the naturalization process, including the capture of biometrics, the naturalization interview and administration of the Oath of Allegiance, on the military installation during Basic Training.
Participating installations include Fort Benning in Georgia, Fort Jackson in South Carolina, Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and Fort Sill in Oklahoma (Army); Naval Station Great Lakes, Great Lakes, Ill.; Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas; and Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C. and San Diego.