U.S. citizenship is not required to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. In a Veterans Day post titled, Honoring the Contributions of Immigrants Serving in the Military, the White House noted, “Currently, we have more than 30,000 lawful permanent residents who are serving in our Armed Forces.” The White House added, “Since 2002, more than 102,000 men and women, including individuals serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, Japan and elsewhere, have become citizens while wearing the uniform of the U.S. military.”
Once they join the military, non-citizens are eligible to naturalize more quickly than their civilian counterparts. In wartime, any non-citizen who serves honorably during specified periods of conflict may naturalize even if he or she does not yet have a green card. In peacetime, anyone with a green card and one year of military service may naturalize, even if he or she has not served on active duty or in the Selected Reserve.
The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) Program also allows certain non-citizens who are lawfully present in the United States to join the U.S. military and apply immediately for U.S. citizenship without first obtaining lawful permanent residence. The program applies to lawful nonimmigrants with critical skills — physicians, nurses and certain experts in languages with related cultural backgrounds.
In late September, the Department of Defense extended the MAVNI Program to undocumented immigrants (specifically, those who came to the U.S. with their parents before age 16 and are approved under a 2012 Obama policy known as Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA). For more information, see the DOD’s Fact Sheet.
This article provides general information only. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.
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Photo by: U.S. Pacific Fleet