Naturalization through Service in the Military

  • Published
  • By Ross Larson, Public Affairs Intern (Senior at Westfield High School)
  • 104FW
United States citizenship is granted in two specific ways. Birth is the most common way one becomes a citizen, whether through birth by parents, who are U.S. citizens, on U.S. soil, or within a U.S. territory. The other way to gain citizenship is granted by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, or USCIS. Naturalization is the process used by the USCIS to bestow citizenship on immigrants.

From the start of the War on Terror, more than 39,825 members of the U.S. Armed Forces have honorably gained their United States citizenship by naturalization through their service in the military. With the proper qualifications to become a citizen, service members of the armed forces can apply for a special naturalization process.

Any immigrant who has served in the military for at least one year and has a permanent resident status is a viable candidate for citizenship. With these qualifications there are also a list of initial basic requirements needed for naturalization. Fluent understandings on how to read, write, and speak the English language and knowledge of
U.S. history, government, and the Constitution are crucial. Good moral character towards others and respect towards the United States is also required.

The wait for this process is much shorter than if an immigrant with no military service was applying. The point-of-contact of the service member handles the application and necessary forms needed for naturalization and sends it to the service center. The service center then sends the information to the nearest district office, which reviews and performs security checks on the applicant. The district office sets an interview date and test of knowledge of English and Civics, and if granted, the USCIS will provide a date the applicant can take their Oath of Allegiance.

"It's a good thing, it's free of charge and the wait for your Citizenship is much shorter than the wait if applying in the real world," says Senior Airman Neisha Nixon (104th Fighter Wing, Finance), who gives her perspective on the subject. "Also, it will benefit you and it is well worth it in the long run." Airman Nixon is a Jamaican citizen who is going to apply for a dual citizenship for the United States and her home country. She has a few negative thoughts as well. "It will take longer for the dual citizenship and you can't deploy because you have no access to secret information." With that aside, Airman Nixon and a fellow member of her section are still going to apply for their citizenship through their service in the Guard.

All in all, with the adequate qualifications and requirements met to become a United States citizen, service members of the armed forces can apply for naturalization by the USCIS. Therefore, naturalization enables them the opportunity to honorably become a citizen of the United States of America, fulfilling a duty for the country and themselves.