If you are under the age of 39 and are in good physical and mental condition then you may be able to pursue a path to United States citizenship by enlisting in the military. If you have already served in the Armed Forces but have since been honorably discharged you may still be able to turn that service into a pathway to citizenship.
This immigration benefit is open both to military personnel who served during peacetime and veterans of war. It is open to people who served in any branch of the military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Space Force.
If you are an immigrant who has served in the US military or are considering it, you can contact me, Boston immigration attorney Giselle M. Rodriguez, for a free consultation to discuss how that can help you gain US citizenship. Or you can read on to find out more about gaining citizenship though military service.
Do you need a green card to enlist in the US military?
Yes. You cannot enter any military service without getting a green card first.
USCIS will not issue a green card based on your intention to enlist.
Often, military service as a path to citizenship is something that is undertaken by those who received green cards through family members, as victims of crimes, or as refugees or asylum seekers.
You will only be able to serve as an enlisted man or enlisted woman: Federal law prohibits non-US citizens from becoming commissioned officers or warrant officers. You will also be barred from any position that requires you to take a security clearance. That doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily lack opportunity. (For example, many immigrants who enlist find opportunities as military translators.) Of course, you may have more options if and when you become a US citizen.
Who can apply for citizenship through service in the military?
You are eligible to apply for citizenship through US military service if you are at least 18 years old, have served for at least one year, and are a permanent resident at the time of your naturalization interview.
You must also demonstrate you are a person of good moral character and you must be able to pass the US history and government test, as well as an English-language test.
Though most of our military clients here in Boston and nearby are former service members, it’s worth noting that you may apply for citizenship if you are still in active duty. If you are granted citizenship you may continue to pursue your military career as any other citizen might.
What are the advantages of military service?
Though any permanent resident can begin applying for naturalization after five years of permanent residency in the United States, service members can progress a little faster. You will be eligible after three years of residence in the United States. You also don’t need a state-of-residence requirement, the way civilian applicants do.
Finally, USCIS waives both the application fees and biometric fees for service members, which can save applicants some money.
Military service offers no guarantees; it’s simply an opportunity
Military service offers many advantages to people who want to become US citizens, but it does not guarantee any specific outcome. The application process is still complex. You will still need to attend an interview with an USCIS officer. There may be problems along the way.
You can the most of your military service by contacting me, Giselle Rodriguez. You’ll get support from a qualified immigration lawyer who will take the time to get to know you and your goals.