In previous blog posts in this series, we have looked at several of the benefits that military personnel can look forward to when it comes to immigration including Parole in Place benefits and Green Card for Military Families benefits. Special options for U.S. citizenship for active duty military personnel, and veterans, are also available.
What is the process for military members to become U.S. citizens?
One of the benefits given to immigrants in the military is allowing them to become U.S. citizens (also referred to as Naturalization) much faster than their civilian counterparts. There are two separate laws that allow this, the “wartime” military naturalization procedure and the “peacetime” military naturalization procedure.
Under the wartime statute, Section 29 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, any non-citizen who serves honorably during specified periods of conflict may naturalize as a U.S. citizen. We are currently in such a period of conflict, as President George W. Bush issued an executive order after the 9/11 tragedy. Since 2009, non-citizens active in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps may become naturalized U.S. citizens as soon as they complete basic training. To be eligible under this statue, a person must be serving active duty or in the Selected Reserve. Since 9/11, more than 85,000 non-citizens have naturalized through this law.
On the other hand, the peacetime statute, section 328 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, allows anyone with a green card and one year of service to naturalize. They do not have to have served in active duty or be in the Selected Reserve to qualify.
Are there other conditions that apply?
A military member must have good moral character, have knowledge of the English language, have knowledge of U.S. government and history, and take an oath of allegiance to the United States. Unlike regular civilians, military members do not need to have a physical or residential presence in the United States. The filing fees are also waived for military members.
Are there conditions in which military members can lose their citizenship?
An individual who naturalizes under either the wartime or peacetime naturalization laws may lose their U.S. citizenship if it is found that they have not served their country honorably for a period of five years or a period totaling five years.
Do these laws apply to anyone else?
These same laws also apply to veterans. However, they must file an application while still in the service or within 6 months of leaving the armed forces. These laws have also become applicable to those who have died while serving our country, known as posthumous citizenship. The military member must have died due to disease or injury incurred while serving in battle during a time of hostility. Their next of kin must apply on their behalf within two years of the service member’s death.
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