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Does military service provide benefits under US immigration law?

Throughout this country's history immigrants have volunteered to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Many have given their lives for this country. In Florida there are many veterans who joined the military as immigrants. For them and their family members, military service has often been a first step on the road to becoming a U.S. citizen.

Non-U.S. citizens can join the U.S. military, although they are not eligible to be commissioned officers. An immigrant who wants to join the armed forces must have a green card and reside in the U.S. They may also require a waiver if they are from a country deemed hostile to the U.S.

Immigrants in the U.S. military are eligible for citizenship after one year of honorable service. They can apply for naturalization as soon as they get a green card. Immigrants who serve on active duty can apply for citizenship upon completion of active duty.

Family members of those who have served also enjoy certain advantages under U.S. immigration law. If the service member's spouse is a permanent resident, the spouse may include time spent abroad with the service member toward their residency requirements for citizenship. If an immigrant is killed in action, the person's family members can apply for permanent resident status. If they already have green cards, they can apply to become naturalized citizens.

Military service members and veterans who seek U.S. citizenship or other immigration benefits may be confused by the complexity of U.S. immigration law. A knowledgeable immigration attorney can help guide them through the legal labyrinth.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Military Service & Immigration," accessed Sept. 18, 2016

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