Men and women from all walks of life, including people born in other nations, serve in the U.S. military. During or after their service, some military personnel may seek to naturalize and become citizens of the country they defended.
Members of the armed forces and U.S. military veterans may have a clearer path toward naturalization.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the naturalization requirements for military service members and veterans include meeting certain physical presence and residence requirements. To apply for naturalization, service members must also have lawful permanent resident status, demonstrate good moral character and exhibit belief in the principles of the U.S. Constitution. Like other applicants for naturalization, armed forces personnel and veterans must also show their abilities to speak, read and write in English, as well as their knowledge of the U.S. government and history.
Provisions for service members
Naturalization applicants who served honorably in the U.S. military may receive certain provisions in the USCIS process. For example, USCIS may waive the residency or physically present requirements for military member-applicants on active duty. Additionally, eligible military service members do not have to pay application fees.
Bars to naturalization
According to USCIS, certain factors permanently bar U.S. military service members from naturalization. With few exceptions, those discharged from the armed forces because they are not U.S. citizens may lose citizenship eligibility. Failure to have registered for the military draft until 1975, or failing to comply with a military induction notice may also cost naturalization applicants their eligibility. Court-martial convictions for desertion or absence without official leave will also result in a permanent bar from naturalization for armed forces members or veterans.
Understanding the options for naturalization available to them as military service members or veterans may help people achieve their goal of becoming U.S. citizens.