Immigration and Military Service

  • Oct 3 2017

Special immigration benefits will apply to current and former members of the U.S. armed forces. In fact, they also often apply to their immediate family members as well. Essentially, military members and their families will be able to expedite the application and naturalization process so they can become U.S. citizens faster. Spouses may even be able to complete the naturalization process abroad as well.

The following military service will qualify for these special benefits:

  • Army
  • Marine Corps
  • Coast Guard
  • Navy
  • Air Force
  • National Guard
  • Immigrants who are considering joining the armed forces must have, at a minimum, a valid green card. They should also live in the U.S. and have established the United States as their home country.

    Qualifications to Become a Citizen

    Any member of the U.S. military that also wants to become a citizen of the United States must demonstrate the following qualifications:

  • Knowledge of the English language
  • Knowledge of U.S. civics (history and government)
  • Good moral character
  • Taking an Oath of Allegiance to the United States
  • Military members are exempt from other requirements that are standard for naturalization, such as time periods for having physical presence and residence in the U.S.

    Members of the armed forces can complete the entire naturalization process, including interviews and ceremonies, overseas. Many “command-sponsored” spouses have this benefit as well.

    Generally, non-citizen military personnel will be able to apply for citizenship after just one year of military service in times of peace. Many times, they can apply immediately after receiving their green card.

    Service Requirements in Times of Hostilities

    In 2002, the President signed an executive order that authorized any and all noncitizens who have served in the military on or after September 11, 2001, to file for citizenship. As hostilities related to this conflict continue, this authorization remains in effect until a future executive order makes changes to it.
    Basic Training and Naturalization

    In 2009, the USCIS created the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, which permits the Army to give noncitizen members the opportunity to become naturalized when they graduate from basic training. The requirements of the naturalization process become built into the graduation process in these situations.

    The program has also expanded to the Navy, Air force, and Marine Corps as well. The program allows those who completed basic training to leave the training as U.S. Citizens in many situations.

    Benefits for Military Family Members

    Military family members have several benefits that apply to them regarding immigration status as well. These advantages include the following:

  • Any time living abroad while their spouse is servicing in the military counts toward residency requirements
  • Immediate family members of those who have been killed in action can apply for green cards (with no obligation to prove financial support or self-sufficiency)
  • All family members of someone who was killed in action who are green card holders can apply for citizenship
  • Non-citizens who have been killed in action will receive citizenship posthumously, which permits family members to adjust their status
  • Both military personnel and their family members may qualify for significant benefits regarding their immigration status. To find out more, schedule an appointment with our team.

    Posted in: Immigration Law