Immigration laws have attempted to recognize the service of those in the US military by enacting laws to help members of the Armed Forces become citizens. These laws apply to the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Coast Guard, certain Reserve components of the National Guard, and selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.
Generally, the laws apply to lawful permanent residents of the United States who have a good moral character, and can demonstrate: 1) a knowledge of the English language, 2) knowledge of US government and history (civics), and an attachment to the United States by taking an oath of allegiance to the US Constitution.
Some requirements such as residency and physical presence in the United States may be waived. The specific sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act, referred to as the INA, which apply to citizenship for Armed Forces members, are Sections 328 and 329.
Section 328 applies to all members now serving, and to those who have been discharged. Section 329, on the other hand, applies to members of the Armed Forces who are currently serving or have been on active-duty during certain periods of time, including WWI; September 1, 1939-December 31, 1946; June 25, 1950-July 1, 1955; and February 28, 1961-October 5, 1978, or any addtional period designated by the Presendent in an Executive Order. The most recent such Executive Order identified September 11, 2001 and after as an authorized period of conflict.
In either case, to qualify, the applicant must have served honorably for one or more years, and file the citizenship application with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) while still in service or within six months of being discharged.
For members of the Armed Forces at US embassies, consulates, and military installations abroad, applications may be filed while overseas, and the normal filing fee of $675 will be waived. In the case where an Armed Forces member is married to a US citizen who is or will be deployed abroad for one year, naturalization may be expedited. Citizenship may even be awarded posthumously to those who die while serving in the Armed Forces, and surviving family members are given special considerations.
A Military Help Line has been established at the USCIS in order for you and your family to have access to immigration information. The number to call is 1-877-247-4645. You will be able to find additional information about citizenship on the government website at www.uscis.gov. We, at Goldman & Loughlin, strongly recommend you seek counsel from an attorney before filing for citizenship. A number of crucial issues should be addressed before a decision is made to file your application. A misstep in this process can in some cases lead to a loss of permanent resident status.