Naturalization for Military Service

Naturalization for Military Service

Since 1862, the naturalization laws have provided special benefits for noncitizens who performed specified service in the U.S. armed forces.

The benefits of this statute are available to any person who has served in the U.S. armed forces at any time for a period or periods totaling three years,covers all branches of military service, whether in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, or a National Guard organization recognized as a component of the armed forces of the United States. The applicant must have served honorably in the armed forces for the requisite period and, if separated from such service, must never have been separated except under honorable conditions. One who has received an undesirable discharge obviously has not served honorably. Moreover, one who has procured relief or discharge from military service on the ground that he is a noncitizen is expressly disqualified from becoming a citizen of the United States except under special circumstances. The applicant must have been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence. The naturalization application must be filed while the petitioner is still in the service or within six months after the termination of such service. A person who applies for naturalization under this subsection must comply with all requirements of the naturalization laws, both substantive and procedural, with the following exceptions:

  • No residence within the state or INS district where the application if filed is required, and the application can be filed in any Service district, regardless of the applicant’s place of residence.
  • The generally prescribed requirements of five years residence and prescribed physical presence in the United States, and three months residence in the state or Service district, do not apply.
  • The preclusion of naturalization because of an outstanding removal proceeding or order does not apply to an applicant who is then actually in the armed forces of the United States.

Persons with Active-Duty Military Service During Specified Periods of Hostilities

He has served, while he was an alien or a noncitizen national, in the U.S. armed forces during one of the following periods:

  • World War I, defined by regulation. as beginning April 6, 1917 and ending November 11, 1918.
  • World War II, for this purpose specified in the statute as beginning September 1, 1939 and ending December 31, 1946.
  • The Korean hostilities, for this purpose specified in the statute as beginning June 25, 1950 and ending July 1, 1955.
  • The Vietnam hostilities, specified in the statute as beginning February 28, 1961 and ending on a termination date to be fixed by Executive Order. An Executive Order terminated the Vietnam hostilities for this purpose on October 15, 1978.
  • During any subsequent period of hostilities designated as such by Executive Order.
  • A 1994 Executive Order authorized expedited naturalization for noncitizens who served honorably in active-duty status between August 2, 1990 and April 11, 1991 in the Persian Gulf conflict. This time period covers both “Operation Desert Shield” and “Operation Desert Storm.”
  • A July 3, 2002 Executive Order authorized expedited naturalization for noncitizens who served in an active-duty status in the “war against terrorists of global reach.” The order designated September 11, 2001 as the start date for this designated armed conflict. A terminating date will be set by a future Executive Order.

On October 1, 1991, the President signed the Armed Forces Immigration Adjustment Act granting special immigrant status to noncitizens who have served honorably or are enlisted to serve in the military for at least 12 years. The Act benefits primarily about 3,000 Filipino sailors in the U.S. Navy.

A 1990 statute authorized the posthumous grant of U.S. citizenship to an alien or noncitizen national who dies as a result of injury or disease incurred in or aggravated by active-duty service in the U.S. armed forces during certain specified armed conflicts. Another 1990 enactment provides for the grant of naturalization benefits to Filipinos who served in the Philippine Army or in other Philippine forces under command of the U.S. armed forces during World War II. Such military service must have been honorable, and if the applicant was separated from the service, he or she must have been separated under honorable conditions. The law specifies that the executive department under which the service was performed determines and certifies whether it was honorable and in active-duty status and whether separation from such service was under honorable conditions. Unlike the statute discussed above, the statutory provisions dealt with here do not explicitly state that such executive determinations and certifications are conclusive, but it is clear that this was intended and that the executive certification is the exclusive method of proving the nature of the service.

Exemptions

A person who applies for naturalization under this subsection must comply with all requirements of the naturalization laws, both substantive and procedural, with the following modifications:

  • He or she may be naturalized regardless of age.
  • The preclusion of naturalization because of an outstanding deportation proceeding or order does not apply.
  • The special restrictions relating to alien enemies do not apply.
  • The generally prescribed requirements of five years residence and requisite physical presence in the United States, and three months residence in a state do not apply.
  • No residence in the jurisdiction of the USCIS district is required, and the petition can be filed in any Service district, regardless of petitioner’s place of residence. However, under the prior naturalization petition procedure, the applicant must have been physically present in the office of the clerk of court, unless excused by illness or disability.
  • Persons filing naturalization petitions under this subsection for service at any time after February 27, 1961 and before official termination of the Vietnam hostilities were exempt from federal naturalization fees.
  • The regulations require good moral character as well as an attachment to the principles of the Constitution and a favorable disposition for one year before the naturalization application.

Posthumous Citizenship for Military Service

The Posthumous Citizens for Active Duty Service Act of 1989 provided for the granting of posthumous citizenship at the time of death to a person meeting the requirements listed below if the Attorney General approves such a request made under specific circumstances specified in this statute. The deceased must meet the following requirements:

  • He or she must have been an alien or a noncitizen national;
  • He or she must have served honorably in active-duty status in the military, air or naval forces during the periods described above;
  • The service person must have died as a result of injury or disease incurred or aggravated by that service;
  • The person must have served honorably.

A request for posthumous citizenship for an eligible person may be filed only by the next of kin or representative of the deceased (both terms to be defined by the Attorney General), and such request shall be approved for a person if:

  • The request is filed not later than two years after the person’s death;
  • The request is accompanied by a duly authenticated certificate from the executive department under which the person served, which states that the person satisfied the eligibility requirements set forth in INA § 329A(b).
  • The Attorney General is satisfied that the requirements concerning honorable service have been met.

When such a request for posthumous citizenship is approved, the Attorney General shall send to the individual filing the request a document stating that the U.S. considers the person to have been a citizen of the U.S. at the time of the person’s death.

It is important to note that this posthumous citizenship is essentially an honorary grant. The 1989 Act grants no immigration benefits to any spouse, son, daughter, or other relative of a person granted posthumous citizenship under this section.