The United States allows individuals who are not citizens to join the U.S. Armed Forces as enlisted members, a policy with a long-standing history. As a part of this tradition, the United States has adopted policies that allow enlisted members of the armed forces who are not citizens to naturalize more quickly.
- In 2013, the active duty military had more than 65,000 non-citizens including more than 30,000 lawful permanent residents. Non-citizens account for 4% of all new military recruits and roughly 12% of all living veterans are non-citizens or children of non-citizens.
- In addition to all other general requirements to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces, an individual who is not a citizen must also have a green card (form I-551), currently live in the United States, and speak, read, and write English fluently.
- The Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) Program allows asylees, refugees, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, and others who are physicians, nurses, and experts in specific languages the opportunity to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. (This program remains suspended.)
Naturalization in the U.S. Armed Forces
- From FY2001 to FY2016, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) naturalized 117,927 noncitizen service members. USCIS has also naturalized 2,650 military spouses from FY2008 to FY2015.
- The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) establishes different requirement for citizenship for non-citizen service members during “peacetime” or “periods of hostilities” (since Sept. 11, 2001, we have been in a period of hostilities).
- The INA requires all citizenship applicants to have good moral character, have knowledge of the English language, U.S. government, and U.S. history, and take an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution.
- In addition, applicants must meet the following requirements:
- Under the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps allow non-citizen enlistees the chance to naturalize when they graduate from basic training.
Published June 9, 2017