It has long been recognized that immigrants contribute to our nation in a multitude of ways. This is particularly evident when looking at military service, where, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the foreign born composed half of all military recruits by the 1840s and 20 percent of the 1.5 million service members in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Those who enlist provide a great service and sacrifice on their journey to becoming a U.S. citizen. But military enlistment itself can impact this path to citizenship.

USCIS reports that it has naturalized 102,266 United States service members around the world since October 1, 2002, including those serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, Japan, and elsewhere.

Naturalization Through Military Service

USCIS has the ability to expedite the application and naturalization process for current members of the U.S. armed forces and recently discharged members, something Congress approved after the U.S. entered World War II. Today, spouses of military members who are or will be deployed may also be eligible for expedited naturalization. In some cases, certain spouses can even complete the naturalization process abroad.

The Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, a program developed by the Department of Defense in 2009, allows enlisted service members to complete the naturalization process during basic training. Under this initiative, USCIS conducts all naturalization processing including the capture of biometrics, the naturalization interview and administration of the Oath of Allegiance, on the military base. The program, which initially only applied to the Army, now gives enlistees of all branches of the military an equal opportunity to (in most cases) leave basic training as a U.S. citizen.

Honoring Those Who’ve Served

On this Veteran’s Day, USCIS is recognizing the service members, military spouses, and veterans taking the Oath of Allegiance to become U.S. citizens at naturalization ceremonies across the country. 3,000 new Americans will be naturalized at nearly 40 naturalization ceremonies held from November 7 through 14.

Five new recruits will also become new Americans at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, CA through the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative.