QUESTION: I’m in the military and I know somebody who was in the military years ago. Can we become US Citizens?
Answer: Members and certain veterans of the US armed forces may be eligible for naturalization through their military service under a couple of different sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Additionally, the INA provides for posthumous naturalization if that particular person in the military has died.
Question: What branches of the armed services will qualify for military naturalization?
Answer: Qualifying military service is generally in the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and certain components of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve. The general requirements for naturalization may be diminished or waived for qualifying service member.
Question: I am still in the military and have served for two years. What do I qualify for under the INA?
Answer: You may qualify for naturalization through serving at least one year of qualifying service during “Peacetime.” Of course, if you have served during a time of designated hostilities, you may qualify for the other provision of military naturalization which waives even more provisions to allow you to become a US Citizen. However, under the peacetime provisions, a person who has served honorably in the US armed forces at any time may be eligible to apply for naturalization. The military community sometimes refers to this as “peacetime naturalization.”
Question: What are the requirements for ‘peacetime naturalization’ for somebody in the military?
Answer: You must be age 18 or older, have served honorably in the US armed forces for at least 1 year and, if separated from the US armed forces, have been separated honorably; be a permanent resident at the time of examination on the naturalization application; be able to read, write, and speak basic English; Have a knowledge of US history and government (civics); Have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law; and have an attachment to the principles of the US Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the US during all relevant periods under the law.
Question: What about the residency and physical presence requirements? I have been serving outside the US for my tour of duty and do not have physical presence requirement.
Answer: If you are filing this naturalization application under the peacetime provisions, and you are still serving or have been honorably discharged no more than 6 months ago, you are not required to meet the residence and physical presence requirements. Otherwise, you are required to meet those provisions.
Question: What about my friend who served years ago, but was serving in a period of hostility?
Answer: Generally, members of the US armed forces who serve honorably for any period of time (even 1 day) during specifically designated periods of hostilities are eligible for naturalization under this provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Question: What are the requirements for naturalization for people who served under a period of hostility?
Answer: In general, an applicant for naturalization under this provision must have served honorably in active-duty status or as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, for any amount of time during a designated period of hostilities and, if separated from the US armed forces, have been separated honorably.
Question: My friend was never a lawful permanent resident. Is that a requirement?
Answer: Generally, the answer is yes. However, your friend would not be required to have been a resident if that person has been physically present in the United States or certain territories at the time of enlistment or induction (regardless of whether that person was admitted as a permanent resident).
Question: Does a person under this section have be a certain age?
Answer: There is no minimum age requirement for an applicant under this section.
Question: What are the designated periods of hostility?
Answer: The designated periods of hostilities are: April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918; September 1, 1939 to December 31, 1946; June 25, 1950 to July 1, 1955; February 28, 1961 to October 15, 1978, August 2, 1990 to April 11, 1991; September 11, 2001 until the present. Therefore, any military personnel serving anytime from September 11, 2001 until now can apply under this provision of naturalization during hostilities if they qualify.
Question: What about if the person died while serving in the military?
Answer: There is what is known as Posthumous Citizenship for Military Members. Generally, individuals who served honorably in the US armed forces and who died as a result of injury or disease incurred while serving in an active duty status during specified periods of military hostilities, as listed above, may be eligible for posthumous citizenship.
This application must be filed within 2 years of his or her death. If approved, a Certificate of Citizenship will be issued in the name of the deceased veteran establishing posthumously that he or she was a US citizen on the date of his or her death.
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Brian D. Lerner is an Immigration and Naturalization Attorney. He is a Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law as Certified by the State Bar of California, Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Lerner is married to a Filipina and has been helping Filipinos immigrate to the United States for nearly 20 years. His firm represents clients in Deportation/Removal proceedings, does Waivers, Appeals, Naturalization, Adjustments, Criminal Relief, Citizenship, Consulate Processing, Work Permits, Investment Visas and all other areas of Immigration and Naturalization Law. You can go online to http://www.californiaimmigration.us/ and get a free consultation or call us at (562) 495-0554 for an in-person office consultation.