Certain members of the U.S. military might qualify for U.S. citizenship based on their military service. People who have been recently discharged from the U.S. military might also qualify. You can be naturalized even while you are serving in the military abroad.
How to Determine Whether You Are Eligible
To be eligible for U.S. citizenship as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, you must be a current or former member of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines or Navy or a qualifying member of the National Guard or Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.
People who served honorably as a noncitizen in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time after September 11, 2001, might qualify to become U.S. citizens.
People who served in the Armed Forces during peacetime might qualify to become U.S. citizens if:
- They served honorably for at least one year.
- They became lawful permanent residents (green card holders).
- They applied to become U.S. citizens while still serving in the U.S. Armed Forces or within six months of ending their service.
In addition to the above, you will have to meet the general requirements for naturalization that apply to all applicants. You will have to show that:
- You have good moral character.
- You understand the English language.
- You have knowledge of U.S. history and the U.S. government.
- You have an attachment to the U.S.
Good moral character: The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will look at a person’s past criminal convictions (if any). Certain types of criminal convictions could make it impossible or difficult for you to prove that you have good moral character. People who can’t show good moral character will not be allowed to become U.S. citizens.
Understanding of the English language: Before you can be granted U.S. citizenship, you must pass an English test (unless you qualify for an exemption from the English requirement).
Knowledge of U.S. history and government: You must pass a civics exam before you can be given citizenship. You will be asked to answer six out of 10 questions correctly. These 10 questions will be picked from a list of 100 by the USCIS officer who gives you the test. The USCIS publishes study guides with all 100 questions that you can use to prepare.
Attachment to the U.S.: You must make an Oath of Allegiance where you promise to be loyal to the U.S. and the U.S. Constitution. You will make this oath at a citizenship ceremony after your application has been approved. Then you will receive a Certificate of Naturalization and officially become a U.S. citizen.
Applying for U.S. Citizenship
To apply for citizenship, you will need to fill out two forms and send in supporting documents with these forms. Each military installation has a person to help service members file these applications if they have trouble getting or completing the forms. You can find out who that person is by contacting the Judge Advocate General’s office at your military installation.
The two forms you will need to complete are:
- USCIS Form N-400, Application for Naturalization
- USCIS Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (people who are no longer in the military can submit an uncertified Form N-426 along with DD Form 214, Discharge Papers and Separation Documents)
Once you have prepared all of your forms and supporting documents, you will need to mail them to the USCIS.
Family Members of U.S. Service Members
Certain family members of qualifying U.S. service members might also qualify for U.S. citizenship. This includes the husbands or wives of service members.
Becoming a U.S. Citizen after Death
Service members who served honorably during combat and died as a result of their service might qualify for U.S. citizenship. The closest family member would need to apply for this benefit within two years of the service member’s death. This could allow the service member’s family members to take advantage of certain immigration benefits.