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Members of the Military and Their Families

If you are a U.S. armed forces member and you want to sponsor your family member for permanent residence (Green Card), several options may be available to you.

Citizenship for Military Members and Their Families

Members and veterans of the U.S. armed forces and their dependents may be eligible for citizenship under special provisions of the law.  Additionally, there are certain circumstances that may allow you to expedite processing.

Citizenship for Spouses & Children of Military Members

Spouses of U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces who are (or will be) deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization or for overseas processing.

A lawful permanent resident (LPR) who is married to a member of the U.S. armed forces can naturalize abroad without traveling to the United States.  The requirements are as follows:

Certain children of service members, including certain children adopted by U.S. citizen parents, can become naturalized U.S. citizens without having to travel to the United States for any part of the naturalization process.

Generally, a parent who is a U.S. citizen (or, if the citizen parent has died during the preceding 5 years, a citizen grandparent or citizen legal guardian) may apply for naturalization on behalf of a child born outside of the United States who has not acquired citizenship automatically.

However, a child of a member of the U.S. armed forces who  accompanies such member and resides abroad with the member, pursuant to the member’s official orders, is not required to be present in the United States pursuant to a lawful admission nor maintain such status.  In addition, the service member  may count any period of  residence abroad on official orders as physical presence in the United States for purposes of satisfying the 5-year requirement.

Family Based Survivor Benefits (for Relatives)

If you are an immediate relative of a U.S. armed forces member who died from combat-related injuries while on active duty, you may be eligible for certain “survivor” immigration benefits, including citizenship.

Citizenship for Military Members

Generally, a person who has served honorably in the U.S. armed forces at any time may be eligible to apply for naturalization.

Naturalization through One Year of Qualifying Service During “Peacetime”

An applicant for naturalization must:

  • Be age 18 or older
  • Have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least 1 year and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably
  • Be a permanent resident at the time of examination on the naturalization application
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)
  • Have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law
  • Have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law
  • Have continuously resided in the United States for at least five years and have been physically present in the United States for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application, UNLESS the applicant has filed an application while still in the service or within 6 months of separation.  In the latter case, the applicant is not required to meet these residence and physical presence requirements.

Naturalization through Qualifying Service during Periods of Hostilities

Generally, members of the U.S. armed forces who serve honorably for any period of time (even 1 day) during specifically designated periods of hostilities are eligible for naturalization if they:

  • Have served honorably in active-duty status, or as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, for any amount of time during a designated period of hostilities and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably
  • Have been lawfully admitted as a permanent resident at any time after enlistment or induction, OR have been physically present in the United States or certain territories at the time of enlistment or induction (regardless of whether the applicant was admitted as a permanent resident)
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)
  • Have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law
  • Have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law

There is no minimum age requirement for an applicant under this section.  The designated periods of hostilities are:

  • April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918
  • September 1, 1939 to December 31, 1946
  • June 25, 1950 to July 1, 1955
  • February 28, 1961 to October 15, 1978
  • August 2, 1990 to April 11, 1991
  • September 11, 2001 until the present

The current designated period of hostilities starting on September 11, 2001, will terminate when the President issues an Executive Order terminating the period.

Note:  current members of the U.S. armed forces who qualify for naturalization can proceed with their naturalization application either in the United States or overseas.