For immigrants thinking about serving in the US military, the military citizenship path seems hard to pass up.
Becoming a US citizen is a process that takes years and costs thousands of dollars in fees. But United States Citizenship and Immigration Services recognizes the many sacrifices that members of the military make on behalf of the US. For this reason, the path to citizenship for military personnel is simple and expedited.
Meeting the Requirements for Military Citizenship
To qualify for military citizenship, a person must serve in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps or Navy. Certain members of the National Guard or the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve may also qualify.
While the military citizenship path is shorter, USCIS still upholds the security and integrity of the naturalization process. Military members must meet some of the requirements to become a citizen, such as demonstrating excellent moral character as well as proficiency in English and civics.
Requirements that are waived include the fees for the application and the biometrics processing. Service members are not required to provide proof of a residence in the US.
Applying for Military Citizenship in Peacetime
To apply for citizenship through the military during peacetime, you must be a lawful permanent resident. You must have served for at least one year and show current honorable service. If you are no longer serving, you must show honorable discharge and file for citizenship within six months of leaving the service.
Applying for Military Citizenship in Wartime
If you apply for citizenship through the military during a specifically designated period of hostility, you do not need to be a lawful permanent resident, nor do you need to be active in the military for a certain amount of time.
You may qualify for military citizenship if you have been serving honorably on active-duty status for any period of time during war. In addition, USCIS now allows military members to become citizens while serving overseas.
Applying for Citizenship for the Family of Service Members
USCIS now allows spouses and children of US armed forces service members to obtain citizenship through the military.
Eligible family members can even obtain US citizenship without having to travel to the US or show proof of a US residence.
Obtaining Posthumous Military Citizenship
If a US service member fought during wartime and died in combat or as a result of disease or injuries incurred in that period, he or she may be eligible for posthumous citizenship.
If a family member or the Secretary of Defense completes a posthumous citizenship application with USCIS, the deceased veteran is considered a US citizen as of the date of his or her death.
The deceased veteran’s surviving spouse, children and parents are considered immediate relatives of a US citizen and are eligible to apply for citizenship.
A History of Military Citizenship
Speeding up the citizenship process for military members is not a recent development. The US has held overseas citizenship ceremonies in the past. During the Korean War, the US naturalized 7,756 members of the armed forces. 20,011 service members became citizens overseas during World War II.
The military citizenship path is perhaps the simplest route to citizenship. However, it should certainly not just be treated as an easy way around the process. Enrolling in any branch of the armed forces during a period of hostility requires the utmost commitment to the United States.