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Marine Corps Staff Sgt. takes the oath of allegiance at a U.S. Naturalization ceremony at Kadena Air Base in Japan

Your Military Service Offers a Faster Track to US Citizenship

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

Every year, thousands of foreign-born service members and their family members become naturalized U.S. citizens. Learn more about steps to become a U.S. citizen and how you can use your military service to speed up the process and save money on processing fees.

Advantages of Applying for Citizenship Through Military Service

There are three main advantages for foreign-born service members who apply for U.S. citizenship:

  • Shorter residency requirements. Typically, applicants must reside within the United States as a lawful permanent resident for five continuous years, or three years if they’re married to a U.S. citizen, before they can apply to become a U.S. citizen. At most, eligible foreign-born service members only need one year of honorable service before they can file their Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
  • No state-of-residence requirement. Civilian applicants must live in the state or service district where they file their Form N-400 for a minimum of three months. Eligible foreign-born service members do not need to meet this requirement.
  • Waived application fees. Between the naturalization application and fingerprinting fees, civilian applicants pay almost $800 to become a U.S. citizen. Foreign-born service members are not required to pay the application fee, but spouses must do so.

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Six Steps to U.S. Naturalization and Citizenship Through Military Service

As of 2017, Department of Defense policy changes to how foreign-born service members may apply for U.S. citizenship while serving may impact the time it takes for you to apply for citizenship.

Here is a step-by-step guide for how the naturalization process typically works for foreign-born service members. Many military installations have a designated U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services liaison to help you with the Form N-400 application process. Make sure you ask your commanding officer and local installation for the latest information on naturalization policies for active-duty service members.

  1. Make sure you’re eligible for citizenship. Use the Naturalization Eligibility Worksheet, Form M-480.
  2. Have your chain of command complete and certify Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service, Form N-426 after you have completed your portion of the form. Your chain of command, who must be an 0-6 or above, may certify this form, making a characterization of service determination after you honorably serve at least 180 days of active duty during periods of hostility – which we have been in since Sept. 11, 2001 – or one full year during peacetime. This time includes basic training.
  3. Complete the Form N-400. This is a part of the process that includes the Form N-426 completion and certification from the previous step. The Form N-400 Instructions provide information to complete the form, as well as documents you may need to provide to USCIS to complete the naturalization process. It saves you time by providing those documents at the beginning of the process. Gather those materials before completing and filing your application. As part of the application process, USCIS will conduct security checks, which include obtaining your biometrics.
  4. Provide your biometrics. If you live stateside, you will receive a notice to go to an application support center to provide biometrics to confirm your identity, such as fingerprints. Active-duty service members can provide their biometrics before they file, and they do not need an appointment to go to an ASC. If you are overseas, you must provide passport photos and FD-258 cards at the time of filing the Form N-400.
  5. Interview in person with an assigned USCIS officer at a designated location. The officer will review your application materials with you, as well as test your knowledge of both spoken and written English and U.S. civics and history. Depending on how your interview goes, the USCIS officer may recommend your naturalization application be approved, denied, put on hold or continued for further review. If USCIS denies your Form N-400 application, you will receive a written notice outlining the reasons for the denial and how you can appeal that decision by filing a Form N-336, Request for a Hearing in Naturalization Proceedings.
  6. Attend an oath naturalization ceremony to take the Oath of Allegiance and officially become a U.S. citizen, if USCIS approves your Form N-400. This could occur on the same day as your interview or be scheduled for a future date.

Citizenship for Family Members, Survivors and Other Special Immigration Options

Dependents of service members and veterans may also be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.

  • Certain eligible spouses of service members may naturalize abroad without traveling to the United States, as explained in section 319(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. To be eligible for naturalization abroad, the permanent resident spouse of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces must:
    • Be authorized to accompany the service member abroad pursuant to the member’s official orders
    • Be married to the service member and be residing with them abroad
    • Meet the requirements of either Section 316(a) or 319(a) of the INA at the time of filing the naturalization application, except for the residence and physical presence requirements
  • Spouses of service members who do not meet the requirements of Section 319(e) may be able to naturalize under Section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, even if they are living overseas. However, those applicants must be interviewed and take the Oath of Allegiance in the United States.
  • Children of U.S. service members who are living overseas and on official orders – including those adopted by American parents – may become naturalized U.S. citizens by filing Form N-600K, Application for Citizenship and Issuance of Certificate Under Section 322. Those children do not have to travel to the United States.

If you are the spouse, child or parent of a U.S. citizen service member who died on active duty, you may be able to apply for citizenship under Section 319(d) of the INA.

  • You must be a lawful permanent resident and meet the other general naturalization requirements.
  • You must have been living with your spouse at the time of their death, except for circumstances beyond your control, such as your spouse’s military service.
  • You remain eligible for naturalization even if you have remarried since your service member’s death.

The USCIS military webpages describe special immigration options for service members and their families on a case-by-case basis. These options are based on specific circumstances and are not available to everyone.

  • You may be granted “parole in place” for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit. You can receive parole in place a year at a time.
  • “Deferred action” prevents you from being deported for a certain period of time, even if you have a deportation order.

Military Help Line

Support is available to service members and their families who have questions about applying for citizenship:

  • Call the USCIS toll-free Military Help Line: 877-247-4645, TTY 800-877-8339, or see the Military Help Line webpage. USCIS representatives are available to answer calls Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (Central), excluding federal holidays. Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families stationed in the U.S. or overseas may access the help line using the toll-free number through their base telephone operator or using Defense Switched Network.
  • For service members, designated spouses or children stationed in Asia-Pacific who have pending applications with USCIS, a specific email has been provided for inquiries:
  • Contact Military OneSource for help with immigration, citizenship and the naturalization process. Overseas? See OCONUS calling options.

Important U.S. Naturalization Information and Resources for Service Members

The information contained on this website is designed to educate and inform service members and their families on their personal legal affairs. Nothing contained in the website is a substitute for the competent legal advice of a licensed attorney. Service members and their families seeking legal advice should consult the staff of the nearest installation Legal Assistance Office.

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