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Examining the criteria for citizenship through military service

California residents who are seeking U.S. citizenship may be interested in one way to make it happen more quickly. Under U.S. law, military service often provides a faster track toward naturalization.

Immigrants who have served in the military may be eligible to apply for naturalization in return for their service under Sections 328 and 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This waiver applies to those who have served in the five branches on the U.S. Armed forces as well as some parts of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve and the U.S. National Guard.

When the service member was on active duty during a time of peace and served honorably, they may apply for citizenship. They must also meet several other requirements, including being over the age of 18, having served for one year, and being knowledgeable about U.S. government and history. Applicants must also speak basic English. Furthermore, unless they have filed while still a member of the armed forces or within 6 months of leaving, the service member must have resided in the U.S. for at least five years to be eligible.

For those who served during periods of hostility, any duration of service, even one day, is sufficient to qualify. The service member must also meet the English and U.S. government and history knowledge requirements, but there is no requirement that the person be 18 years old. They must also have been either a permanent resident or physically present within the country at the time of their enlistment in the armed forces.

An attorney may be helpful in ensuring that the proper forms are filled out in a timely manner. The attorney may also be able to assist with other matters related to immigration and citizenship claims.

Source: US CIS, "Citizenship for Military Members", December 10, 2014

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  • State Bar of California | California Board of Legal Specialization
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