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DOD Policy Changes are Derailing the Armed Services Expedited Citizenship

April 13, 2018

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The United States military used to promise immigrant recruits a quicker review of their citizenship applications. During a period of hostility, such as the War on Terror launched by George W. Bush after 9-11 and continuing today, members of the Armed Forces who completed basic training and served honorably qualified for expedited citizenship. Approximately 5,000 lawful permanent residents (LPRs), willing to fight and die for this country, enlist in the military every year and more than 100,000 service members have been naturalized since 2001.

But a clear sign that the so-called “fast track” to citizenship is being derailed was delivered in January when USCIS shut down its immigration offices at U.S. Army basic training locations in Fort Benning, GA; Fort Jackson, SC; and Fort Sill, OK. New citizenship policies put into place by the Department of Defense in October 2017 are placing thousands of lawful permanent residents and other non-U.S. citizens—who apply for naturalization after serving our country honorably—in citizenship limbo.

“Marine becomes citizen at Statue of Liberty ceremony” by MarinesCorps NewYork is licensed under CC by 2.0*

The Immigrant Legal Resource Center, the National Immigration Forum, and the New Americans Campaign recently published a practice advisory that outlines the shift in policy and its potential impact. Two key changes under the new policy include requiring recruits to finish a currently-backlogged background screening process before entering basic training, and a more onerous process for certifying honorable service. According to the analysis, “Because of these changes, it may now be faster for LPRs seeking citizenship to remain civilians when applying for naturalization.” Read the advisory to learn how this impacts the LPRs thinking about signing up as well as those currently serving in Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or the Reserve Components, including the National Guard.

*Full photo credit: “Marine becomes citizen at Statue of Liberty ceremony” by MarinesCorps NewYork is licensed under CC by 2.0