How do I apply for naturalization through military service?
Immigrants make up a great part of the U.S Armed Forces. Ever since the foundation of the country, foreign-born men and women have defended the United States in every armed conflict and have proved they deserve to be treated as true American citizens.
The Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) allows permanent residents who serve or have served the country to apply for naturalization through military service after meeting some requirements.
Currently, there are approximately 511,000 foreign-born veterans in the United States, and a lot of them, along with people who are currently serving can become American citizens based on their military service.
Eligibility requirements to become an American citizen based on your military service
Most veterans and serving members of the U.S. Armed Forces decide to become U.S. citizens through their military service because there are fewer requirements and several benefits that come with this process.
However, it is important to read and pay attention to all the qualifications and make sure you comply with all of them. To be eligible for naturalization through military service, you must:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have served honorably in the US armed forces for at least one year during peacetime
- Be a permanent resident at the time of your naturalization interview
- Have basic knowledge of English and U.S history
- Demonstrate you have good moral character
If you served during periods of hostility, you need to have served at least 180 days in order to apply for citizenship.
Advantages of applying for naturalization when you’re a service member
Although choosing this path doesn’t guarantee your process will be easier, there are certainly some benefits that can help you start this process sooner.
1- Shorter residency requirements
Normally, immigrants must reside for at least 5 years as legal permanent residents in the United States in order to apply for citizenship. When you apply for naturalization based on your military service, you only need to prove you’ve been a green card holder for one year.
2- No state-of-residence requirement
Another big obstacle that civilians face when they decide to apply for naturalization, is that they must reside in the state where they are applying for a period of at least 3 months prior to their application.
Since service members are often sent abroad, they don’t need to comply with this requirement and actually, can apply while being in another country.
3- Waived application fees
Perhaps another great benefit of applying based on your military service is that you are not required to pay the application fees.
While nonmilitary applicants need to pay a fee that has gone up to $1,160 USD, service members do not need to pay such high amounts to become U.S. citizens.
You can find information regarding this topic in: How much does it cost to become a US citizen in 2020.
Steps to request naturalization for immigrants in the military
Although the steps to become an American citizen based on your military service are fairly similar to the ones that any other civilian must follow, there are some main differences that you must take into consideration, here is an explanation of the process:
1- Complete and certify form N-426
First of all, you need to prove you’ve served honorably in the military and to put that into paper, you’ll have to file form N-426 (Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service).
In this form, you’ll need to fill some information about you and then take it to your chain of command for certification. To do this you must have served a minimum of 180 days of active duty during periods of hostility, or one year during peacetime.
2- Fill Form N-400
The next step is a bit delicate, after you have your certified form N-426, you’ll need to complete Form N-400 (application for naturalization) and answer accordingly to your situation.
Although it may seem quite simple at first, as you advance through the form you’ll find some points where you might have doubts, and you will also find you are not really sure of which supporting documentation is the one you need. If you find yourself in that situation, you can check our guide: All you need to know about Form N-400.
If you’d like to save time and guarantee everything is correct, you can also get help from our self-service platform in which we simplify the questions in the form, prove your eligibility and, give you a customized list of the supporting documents you need.
3- Attend your biometrics appointment
After you’ve filed your application you’ll receive a notice to attend your biometrics appointment at your closest Application Support Center (ASC) and confirm your identity.
Active members can get their biometrics taken before they file and do not need an appointment to go to an ASC. If you are currently overseas, you don’t need to go to a biometrics appointment, but you do need to attach passport photos and FD-258 cards to your application.
4- Prepare for the interview
Just like any other applicant, the final outcome of your application will depend on your naturalization interview. You will be evaluated on your written and spoken English, as well as your knowledge of U.S history and civics.
Depending on the decision of the USCIS officer that evaluates you, you will be notified whether your application is denied, approved, or put on hold. This decision can be announced at the time of the interview or you can be notified of the decision later on.
If you do not pass the English or history exams, remember you can retake the section you didn’t approve or take a new exam. Although we highly suggest you try to prepare the best you can to avoid this inconvenience.
5- Take the oath of allegiance
If your application is approved, you’ll attend the oath naturalization ceremony and take to the oath of allegiance to become a U.S citizen. Depending on when you get your answer, this could happen on the same day as your interview or be appointed on another date.