Like many immigrants, the path to U.S. citizenship is a long and arduous one. Not so for those immigrants that join the military. For these few the path to citizenship has been expedited though special rule of the INA (Immigration and Nationality Act) for members of the military. Special rules of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) empowers the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to expedite the application and naturalization process for existing members of the U.S. armed forces and newly discharged members.
Generally, qualifying military service includes service with one of the following military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, certain sections of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve. Additionally, spouses of members of the U.S. armed forces who are or will be deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization. Other sections of the law also permit certain spouses to complete the naturalization process abroad.
A member of the U.S. armed forces must meet the requirements and qualifications to become a citizen of the United States. He or she must demonstrate:
- Good moral character
- Knowledge of the English language
- Knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics), and
- Attachment to the United States by taking an Oath of Allegiance to the U.S. Constitution
Qualified members of the U.S. armed forces are exempt from other naturalization requirements, including residence and physical presence in the United States. These exceptions are listed in Sections 328 and 329 of the INA.