SERVICE IN THE US MILITARY & CITIZENSHIP
In the United States, service to one’s Country carries many risks, but also, many privileges. Perhaps most significant is the privilege of citizenship. Servicemembers born in other countries may gain citizenship by virtue of their service.
If you are a current or former member of the United States military, and a permanent resident, you may apply for citizenship (naturalization) based upon your service for at least one year. Typical naturalization would require 3 to 5 years of presence in the United States prior to application for naturalization. As such, this is a significant benefit.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has a streamlined process specifically for U.S. military personnel who file under the military naturalization provisions. This article is designed as an overview. Please coordinate with your local military legal assistance office prior to applying.
As with any applicant for citizenship, one must demonstrate:
- Good moral character;
- Knowledge of English language;
- Knowledge of U.S. government and history (“civics”);
- Attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution;
- Favorable disposition toward the good order and happiness of the United States; and
- Taking the Oath of Allegiance.
As indicated above, as a member of the U.S. military, certain naturalization requirements may not apply, to include residency and presence requirements. These exceptions under Sections 328 and 329 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA) are outlined below:
NATURALIZATION UNDER SECTION 328 OF THE INA
This section applies to members who served at any time in the U.S. military. You may qualify if:
- You have served honorably, in active duty or reserve duty, for a year or more, and if separated, you have never been separated except under honorable conditions.
- You are a lawful permanent resident.
Note: if you separated from Service more than six months before applying, there may be additional residency requirements imposed.
NATURALIZATION UNDER SECTION 329 OF THE INA (SERVICE DURING HOSTILITIES)
This section applies to current or former Servicemembers who served on active duty or in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve during designated periods of conflict as authorized pursuant to executive order. If you are still unsure if your service qualifies, were you awarded National Defense Service Medal?
You may qualify if:
- You served honorably in the U.S. military during a designated period of conflict, and if separated, you were separated under honorable conditions.
- After enlistment, you were lawfully admitted as a permanent resident of the United States, or at the time of enlistment, reenlistment, extension of enlistment, or induction, you were physically present in the United States or a qualifying area.
if you qualify under section 328 or section 329, there are no fees for filing or biometric services, go to www.USCIS.gov/N-400 for support/forms/filing information.
Forms to be completed include the N-400 (Application for Naturalization) and N-426 (Request for Certification of Military Service). If you separated, submit your DD-214 with your N-426. For active members, it is critical to ensure that your N-426 service be certified by your O-6, note: failure to do so will result in a Request for Evidence (RFE) and will delay processing of your application.
In addition to the N-400 and N-426, include copies of the following documents:
- a copy of your Permanent Resident Card (“Green Card”); and
- a copy of your official military orders;
You should mail your completed application and all required materials to:
P.O. Box 4446
Chicago, IL 60680-4446
You may also complete your application by creating an online account and filing your Form N-400 online. For more information about filing your application online at: www.uscis.gov/n-400 or contact the US Citizenship & Immigration Service (USCIS) at: 877-CIS-4MIL.
Naturalization is the process to become a U.S. citizen if you were born outside of the United States. If you meet certain requirements, you may become a U.S. citizen either at birth or after birth. Us