Members of the U.S. Armed Forces may apply for citizenship under special provisions
of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Generally, that includes service
in one of the following branches of the U.S. Military:
Recent changes in sections 328 and 329 of the INA make it easier for qualified
military personnel to become U.S. citizens. In addition, U.S. Citizenship and
Immigration Services (USCIS) has created a streamlined process specifically for
military personnel serving on active-duty status or recently discharged. As of
October 1, 2004, members of the U.S. Armed Forces do not pay a fee when filing
- Air Force,
- Marine Corps,
- Coast Guard,
- Certain Reserve components of the National Guard, and
- Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.
A military service member must meet certain requirements and qualifications to
become a U.S. citizen. These include:
Military service members are exempt from other naturalization requirements outlined
in the INA as amended by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year
- Demonstrating good moral character;
- Demonstrating knowledge of the English language;
- Demonstrating knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics); and
- Demonstrating attachment to the U.S. by taking an oath of allegiance to
the U.S. Constitution.
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004
Section 1701, Requirements for naturalization through service in the United
States Armed Forces
- On November 24, 2003, President Bush signed the National Defense Authorization
Act for Fiscal Year 2004. Title XVII (Naturalization and Other Immigration
Benefits for Military Personnel and Families) of that Act contains five sections
that pertain to naturalization requirements and benefits for members of the
U.S. Armed Forces.
Section 1702, Naturalization benefits for members of the Selected Reserve
of the Ready Reserve
- A service member needs only to serve one year of active duty service to
qualify for citizenship. Before this change, the requirement was three years.
- A service member filing an application for citizenship is not charged a
- A service member dishonorably discharged prior to completing five years
of service may have his/her citizenship revoked.
- The Secretaries of Homeland Security, State and Defense will ensure that
all aspects of the naturalization process, including: citizenship applications,
interviews, oaths, and ceremonies are made available overseas through U.S.
embassies, consulates, and U.S. military installations.
Section 1703, Extension of posthumous benefits to surviving spouses, children,
- In addition to service members on active duty, members of the Selected Reserve
of the Ready Reserve are also eligible for naturalization benefits.
Section 1704, Expedited process for granting posthumous citizenship to
members of the armed services
- An alien spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen service member of the
U.S. Armed Forces who dies in combat or as a result of combat can file for
citizenship within two years of that service member’s death. For immigration
purposes, the applicant will remain an immediate relative of the deceased
service member. This status would be revoked should the spouse remarry.
Section 1705, Effective date
- A service member who dies in combat or as a result of combat may receive
- The service member’s next of kin, the Secretary of Defense, or the
Secretary’s designee with USCIS may make this request on behalf of the
- A request for posthumous citizenship must be made within two years of the
service member’s death or within two years of the enactment of this
section of the law.
Expedited Naturalization Executive Order
- The amendments made by these provisions take effect as if enacted on September
On July 3, 2002, President Bush signed the “Expedited Naturalization Executive
Order” calling for the expedited naturalization of aliens and non-citizens
serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces during the War on Terrorism. The
Executive Order permits active duty personnel serving on or after September 11,
2001 to immediately file for citizenship. Normally, a military service member
would have to complete one-year of honorable service before qualifying to file
for citizenship. Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act authorizes
the President to waive this requirement during periods of military hostilities.
How to Apply
Every military installation has a designated point-of-contact to handle
military naturalization applications. Military service members should use this
contact to help file a complete naturalization application packet.
That package will include:
The complete package is then sent to the USCIS Nebraska Service Center for expedited
The INA allows for the awarding of posthumous citizenship to active-duty
military personnel who die while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. In addition,
surviving family members seeking immigration benefits are given special consideration.
To learn more, contact your military point-of-contact or the local district USCIS
Since President George W. Bush signed the Expedited Naturalization Executive Order
on July 3, 2002, USCIS has naturalized more than 32,000 service
In October 2004, USCIS began hosting the first overseas military naturalization
ceremonies since the Korean War. During this time, USCIS personnel have naturalized
more than 3,600 Soldiers, Sailors Airmen and Marines during ceremonies
in Afghanistan, Djibouti, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Kenya,
Kuwait, South Korea, Spain, the United Kingdom and in the Pacific aboard the USS
USCIS has granted posthumous citizenship to 93 service members
stemming from the War on Terror.
USCIS welcomes nearly 700,000 citizens each year during naturalization
ceremonies across the United States. That number includes nearly 7,000
members of the armed forces who naturalize both in the U.S. and abroad through
an expedited process stemming from their military service.