Immigrants who have served in the US Armed Forces during a time of hostilities are eligible for expedited naturalization.
Those who served honorably since September 11, 2001 are eligible to immediately apply for naturalization. This is also true for those who served honorably in a prior conflict (World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, etc.)
There is no requirement that an applicant for naturalization through military service during wartime have any period of continuous residency or physical presence in the US.
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Applicants must be persons of good moral character, know English, and pass a US history/government test. In addition, they must take an oath of allegiance to the US.
They must submit a Form N-400 Application for Naturalization, as well as forms verifying their military service.
Naturalization through military service during peacetime requires a minimum period of 3 years of permanent residence in the US. The applicant must be physically present in the US for over 50% of the past 3 years.
In 2008, the Department of Defense established the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program.
The MAVNI program allowed certain non-immigrants (not US citizens or permanent residents) to enlist in the US Armed Forces based on the skills in various healthcare related fields or proficiency in certain foreign languages.
The MAVNI program was originally limited to 1,000 to 1,500 persons per year. However, in fiscal year 2015, this number increased to 3,000, and in fiscal year 2016, it increased to 5,000.
However, the rule change linked to above has all but destroyed the MAVNI program.
Spouses and children of members of the US Armed Forces are also eligible for immigration benefits.
For example, if the spouse and children of a citizen serving in the US Armed Forces entered the US without inspection, they are nevertheless able to adjust their status to permanent residents without having to leave the US. Generally, they will be granted parole-in-place by the USCIS.
In addition, if the person serving in the military is deployed abroad, certain dependents may be eligible for expedited naturalization and/or for overseas processing.
Success Stories – Naturalization Through Military Service
- Citizenship – Military Service Exemption (June 2007)
- Private Romero’s 50-Year Odyssey to US Citizenship (October 2000)
- Undocumented Marine Gains Green Card and Citizenship
Naturalization Through Military Service Links
- Citizenship for Military Members (USCIS)
- Citizenship for Spouses and Children of Military Members (USCIS)
- Family-Based Survivor Benefits (USCIS)
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Carl Shusterman served as an INS Trial Attorney (1976-82) before opening an 8 attorney firm specializing in immigration law. He is a Certified Specialist in Immigration Law who has testified as an expert witness before the Senate Immigration Subcommittee. Carl was featured in the February 2018 edition of SuperLawyers Magazine.
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