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Your Military Service Offers a Faster Track to U.S. Citizenship

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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.

Each year, thousands of foreign-born service members and their family members become naturalized U.S. citizens. Learn more here about how to become a U.S. citizen and the ways you can use your military service to speed things up 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 for citizenship. But eligible foreign-born service members require no more than one day 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 about $800 to become a U.S. citizen. Foreign-born service members are not required to pay the application fee, though their spouses are.

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Five steps to U.S. naturalization and citizenship through military service

Below is a step-by-step guide for how the naturalization process typically works. Many military installations have a designated U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) liaison at a local USCIS office to help you with the application process. Be sure to check with your commanding officer and the Legal Assistance Office at your local installation for the latest information on naturalization policies for active-duty service members.

  1. Make sure you’re eligible for citizenship. Use the online Naturalization Eligibility Tool to start the process. After you have completed your portion of the form, have your chain of command complete and certify Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service. Your chain of command, who must be an O-6 or above, may certify this form after you honorably complete at least one day of active duty during periods of hostility – which have been continuous since Sept. 11, 2001 – or one full year during peacetime. This time includes basic training.
  2. Complete Form N-400. This includes completing Form N-426 and receiving certification from the previous step. Form N-400 instructions tell you how to complete the form, and indicate what documents you will need to provide to USCIS to complete the naturalization process. Gather those materials before completing and filing your application. You may file a paper application by sending it to the Lockbox indicated in the instructions, or you may file online after creating a myUSCIS account. USCIS will conduct security checks as part of the application process.
    If you are overseas, you must provide two passport photos and two FD-258 fingerprint cards at the time you file Form N-400 (see step 3).
  3. Provide your fingerprints. If you live stateside, you will receive a notice to go to an Application Support Center to provide fingerprints as part of the required security checks. Service members and veterans do not need an appointment to provide fingerprints at an Application Support Center, but you will need to bring your current military identification card. USCIS will use fingerprints from a previous immigration application if they are available. If you are overseas, you may submit two FD-258 fingerprint cards and two passport photos taken by the military police or officials with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. embassy, or U.S. consulate at the time you file Form N-400. Your enlistment fingerprints, if available, may be used if you are unable to report for fingerprinting.
  4. Interview in person with an assigned USCIS officer at a designated location. The USCIS officer will review your application with you and will test your knowledge of both spoken and written English and U.S. civics and history. Depending on how your interview goes, the officer will recommend that your naturalization application be approved, denied, put on hold or continued for further review. If your Form N-400 application is denied, 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 .If you are stationed OCONUS you may be interviewed and naturalized overseas at certain installations.
  5. 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.

  • 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 their 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 Immigration and Nationality Act 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(a) 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 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. These 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 Immigration and Nationality Act.

  • 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-Friday from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. (Central time zone), excluding federal holidays. Members of the armed forces and their families stationed in the U.S. or overseas may access the help line toll-free through their base telephone operator or via the Defense Switched Network.
  • Service members, designated spouses or children stationed in the Asia-Pacific region who have pending applications with USCIS may email for more information.
  • Service members, designated spouses or children stationed in Europe, the Middle East or Africa with pending applications may email if they have questions.
  • 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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