Citizenship for Military Members and Family


Part 1: Citizenship for Military Members

Members and certain veterans of the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for naturalization through their military service under Section 328 or 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Additionally, the INA provides for posthumous naturalization under section 329A.

General Requirements & Exceptions

Qualifying military service is generally in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and certain components of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve. The general requirements for naturalization may be diminished or waived for a qualifying service member.

Naturalization through One Year of Qualifying Service during “Peacetime”

Generally, a person who has served honorably in the U.S. armed forces at any time may be eligible to apply for naturalization under section 328 of the INA. The military community sometimes refers to this as “peacetime naturalization.”

In general, an applicant for naturalization under Section 328 of the INA 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 (see below) are eligible for naturalization under section 329 of the INA through such military service.

In general, an applicant for naturalization under INA 329 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; and 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. Current members of the U.S. armed forces who qualify for naturalization under sections 328 or 329 of the INA can proceed with their naturalization application either in the United States or overseas.

Posthumous Citizenship for Military Members

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 under section 329A of the INA.

Form N-644, Application for Posthumous Citizenship, 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.

Part 2: Citizenship for Spouses and Children of Military Members

Spouses of U.S. citizen members of the U.S. armed forces (service members) may be eligible for expedited or overseas naturalization. Children of service members may be eligible for overseas naturalization.

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 United States under Section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In general, an applicant for naturalization under section 319(b) of the INA 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

Overseas Naturalization for Spouses of Military Members

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 added Section 319(e) to the INA which allows certain eligible spouses of service members to naturalize abroad without traveling to the United States for any part of the naturalization process and also treats qualifying residence abroad as residence and physical presence in the U.S. for purposes of naturalization.

In general, to be eligible for naturalization abroad pursuant to section 319(e) of the INA, the permanent resident spouse of a member of the U.S. armed forces 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; and meet the requirements of either Section 316(a) or 319(a) of the INA at the time of filing the naturalization application, except for the residence and physical presence requirements.

Section 319(a) applies to spouses of U.S. citizens who have been permanent residents for 3 years immediately preceding the date of filing the naturalization application and who have lived in marital union with their citizen spouses for at least those 3 years. Section 316(a) applies to spouses who have been permanent residents for 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the naturalization application.

Overseas Naturalization for Children of Military Members

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 amended Section 322 of the INA to allow certain eligible children of service members to become naturalized U.S. citizens without having to travel to the United States for any part of the naturalization process. Under section 322 of the INA, 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 under section 320 of the INA. 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 has (or at the time of death had) been physically present in the U.S. 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 U.S. after having entered lawfully and is maintaining lawful status in the U.S.

Pursuant to section 322(d) of the INA, 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 time of residence abroad on official orders as U.S. physical presence.