Certain applicants who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces are eligible to file for naturalization based on current or prior U.S. military service.
Lawful Permanent Residents with Three Years U.S. Military Service
An applicant who has served for three years in the U.S. military and who is a lawful permanent resident is excused from any specific period of required residence, period of residence in any specific place, or physical presence within the United States if an application for naturalization is filed while the applicant is still serving or within six months of an honorable discharge.
To be eligible for these exemptions, an applicant must:
- have served honorably or separated under honorable conditions;
- completed three years or more of military service;
- be a legal permanent resident at the time of his or her examination on the application; or
- establish good moral character if service was discontinuous or not honorable.
Applicants who file for naturalization more than six months after termination of three years of service in the U.S. military may count any periods of honorable service as residence and physical presence in the United States.
An applicant who has served honorably during any of the following periods of conflict is entitled to certain considerations:
- World War I – 4/16/17 to 11/11/18;
- World War II – 9/1/39 to 12/31/46;
- Korean Conflict – 6/25/50 to 7/1/55;
- Vietnam Conflict – 2/28/61 to 10/15/78;
- Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm – 8/29/90 to 4/11/91; or
- any other period which the President, by Executive Order, has designated as a period in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or were engaged in military operations involving armed conflict with hostile foreign forces.
Applicants who have served during any of the aforementioned conflicts may apply for naturalization based on military service after qualifying service and the requirements for specific periods of physical presence in the United States and residence in the United States are waived.
Service in Peacetime
Section 328 of the INA applies to all members of the U.S. armed forces and those already discharged from service. An individual may qualify for naturalization if he or she has:
- Served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least one year
- Obtained lawful permanent resident status, and
- Filed an application while still in the service or within six months of separation
Service During Periods of Hostilities
Under special provisions in Section 329 of the INA, 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.
Naturalization at Basic Training
USCIS and the Army established the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative in August 2009 to give noncitizen enlistees the opportunity to naturalize when they graduate from basic training. (The Navy joined the initiative in 2010.) Under this initiative, USCIS conducts all naturalization processing including the capture of biometrics, the naturalization interview, and administration of the Oath of Allegiance on the military base so (in most cases) the recruit is able to graduate from basic training as a U.S. citizen.
Customer Service to Assist the Military
USCIS customer service specialists are available to respond to inquires from members of the military and their families Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., Central Time, except federal holidays. They may contact USCIS by:
- Calling the military toll-free telephone help line — 1-877-CIS-4MIL (1-877-247-4645), or
- Sending an e-mail to the military customer service specialist at: email@example.com.
Section 329A of the INA provides for grants of posthumous citizenship to certain members of the U.S. armed forces. A member of the U.S. armed forces who served honorably during a designated period of hostility and died as a result of injury or disease incurred in or aggravated by that service (including death in combat) may be eligible to receive posthumous citizenship, as long as the next-of-kin applies for posthumous citizenship within two years of the service member’s death. Other provisions of the law extend immigration benefits to the service member’s surviving spouses, children and parents.
Please also refer to the Blog Entries concerning military personel