Military

There are special provisions of the  immigration laws which apply to members of the military and their families for citizenship and lawful permanent residence (LPR or “green card”).

Also, family members (spouse, children and parents) who entered the U.S. without inspection, which is normally a bar to adjusting status to LPR, may qualify to adjust status based on their relation to a U.S. citizen who is serving or has served in the military through a procedure called parole-in-place.

Citizenship (Naturalization)

Military Member

1) One Year of Qualifying Service During “Peacetime”

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

2) Qualifying Service during Periods of Hostilities

In general, members of the U.S. armed forces who serve honorably for any period of time (even 1 day) during specifically designated periods of hostilities (see below) are eligible for naturalization through such military service. He or she must:

  • 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

3) Posthumous Citizenship

Generally, individuals who served honorably in the U.S. armed forces and who died as a result of injury or disease incurred while serving in an active duty status during specified periods of military hostilities, as listed above, may be eligible for posthumous citizenship.

An application must be filed on behalf of the deceased service member within 2 years of his or her death.  If approved, a Certificate of Citizenship will be issued in the name of the deceased veteran establishing posthumously that he or she was a U.S. citizen on the date of his or her death.

Military Family Members

1) Expedited Naturalization for Spouses of Military Members  

Spouses of U.S. citizen service members who are (or will be) deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization in the U.S.  He or she must:

  • Be age 18 or older
  • Establish that his or her U.S. citizen spouse is deployed abroad as a service member
  • Be present in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence (green card holder) at the time of examination on the naturalization application
  • Be present in the U.S. at the time of naturalization
  • Declare in good faith upon naturalization an intent to reside abroad with the U.S. citizen spouse and to reside in the U.S. immediately upon the citizen spouse’s termination of service abroad
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)
  • Have been, and continue to be, a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law

2) Overseas Naturalization for Spouses of Military Members  

Certain eligible spouses of service members may naturalize abroad without traveling to the U.S. for any part of the naturalization process.  Also, qualifying residence abroad may be treated as residence and physical presence in the U.S. for purposes of naturalization.  To be eligible, he or she must:

  • Be authorized to accompany the service member abroad pursuant to the member’s official orders
  • Be residing abroad with the member in marital union
  • Have been a permanent resident for 3 years immediately preceding the filing of the application and lived in marital union with his or her citizen spouse for at least those 3 years; or have been a permanent resident for 5 years immediately preceding the filing of the application

3) Overseas Naturalization for Children of Military Members  

Certain eligible children of service members can become naturalized U.S. citizens without having to travel to the United States for any part of the naturalization process.

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 U.S. who has not acquired citizenship automatically. The general conditions are that:

  • At least one parent is a U.S. citizen or, if deceased, the parent was a U.S. citizen at the time of death.
  • The U.S. citizen parent or his or her U.S. citizen parent has (or at the time of death had) been physically present in the United States or its outlying possessions for at least 5 years, at least two of which were after attaining the age of 14.
  • The child is under the age of 18 years.
  • The child is residing outside of the United States in the legal and physical custody of the U.S. citizen parent (or, if the citizen parent is deceased, an individual who does not object to the application).
  • The child is temporarily present in the United States after having entered lawfully and is maintaining lawful status in the United States.

A child of a member of the U.S. armed forces who is abroad with the service member pursuant to official orders is not required to be present in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission, and the U.S. citizen parent service member may count any period of time of residence abroad on official orders as physical presence in the U.S.

4) Citizenship for Surviving Spouse, Child, or Parent  

The spouse, child, or parent of a deceased U.S. citizen member of the U.S. armed forces (service member) who died as the result of his or her honorable service, including a service member granted posthumous citizenship, and who, in the case of a surviving spouse, was living in marital union with the citizen service member spouse at the time of his or her death, may be eligible for naturalization as the surviving relative of the service member.

The surviving spouse, child, or parent must meet the general naturalization requirements, except for the residence or physical presence requirements in the U.S.

Note: If you were the spouse of the deceased service member, you must not have been legally separated at the time of his or her death.  However, you remain eligible for naturalization under this provision even if you have remarried since the service member’s death.

Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR or “Green Card”)

Survivor Benefits for Relatives of U.S. Citizen Military Members

The spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen who died as a result of combat while serving in active duty status in the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for immigration benefits as an “immediate relative” for up to 2 years after the service member relative’s death.

1) Spouse of a Deceased Service Member

You will be considered an immediate relative for immigration purposes provided:

  • Your service member spouse served honorably in active-duty status in the U.S. armed forces
  • Your service member spouse died as a result of injury or disease incurred in or aggravated by combat
  • You were not legally separated from your service member spouse at the time of his or her death
  • You file a petition for an immigration benefit (Form I-360) within two years of your service member spouse’s death
  • You do not remarry prior to obtaining permanent residence based on your relationship to your U.S. Citizen spouse.

2) Child or Parent of a Deceased Service Member

You will be considered an immediate relative for immigration purposes provided:

  • Your service member relative served honorably in active-duty status in the U.S. armed forces
  • Your service member relative died as a result of injury or disease incurred in or aggravated by combat
  • You file a petition for an immigration benefit (Form I-360) within 2 years of your service member relative’s death. 

Survivor Benefits for Relatives of  Non-U.S. Citizen Deceased Military Members

If the deceased service member’s spouse, child or parent applied for adjustment of status based on his or her relationship to the service member prior to his or her death, this application will be adjudicated as if the service member’s death did not occur provided:

  • The service member served honorably in active-duty status in the U.S. armed forces
  • The service member died as a result of injury incurred in or aggravated by combat
  • The service member was granted posthumous citizenship

The service member’s spouse, child, or parent writes a letter to the district office having jurisdiction over his or her case, or indicates at the time of the interview that he or she is eligible for adjustment under Section 1703 of Public Law 108-136 and provides proof of eligibility.

If the deceased service member was an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, and had filed a visa petition for his or her spouse or child, the spouse or child may file a self-petition as an immediate relative provided the deceased service member:

  • Served honorably in an active duty status in the military, air or naval forces of the U.S.
  • Died as a result of injury incurred in or aggravated by combat,
  • Was granted posthumous citizenship.

 

Source: USCIS.gov