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How armed forces personnel can secure citizenship - II

Last time, our blog took a closer look at the special treatment those courageous men and women serving or who have served in the armed forces are afforded under U.S. immigration law. Specifically, how soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen can pursue what is known as peacetime naturalization if they meet a host of conditions.

We'll continue this discussion in today's post, exploring the process of applying for naturalization through military service during armed conflicts.

Naturalization and Periods of hostilities

Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act establishes that U.S. armed forces personnel who serve honorably during any designated periods of hostilities -- even if for only one day -- are eligible for naturalization via their military service.

Much like the qualification process under Section 328 of the INA, applicants under Section 329 must satisfy a host of stringent conditions:

  • They must have served honorably in active-duty status in any of the qualifying service branches for any amount of time during a designated period of hostilities, and, if no long serving, separated honorably.
  • They must have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. as a permanent resident any time after enlistment or induction, or been physically present in the U.S. or designated territories at the time of enlistment or induction.
  • They must be literate and able to speak English.
  • They must have some grasp of U.S. civics and history.
  • They must have demonstrated good moral character, have "an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution" and shown themselves "well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S." during all relevant periods.

As you've probably noticed, there is no age requirement for naturalization applications submitted under Section 329. Rather, the focus is instead on which of the designated period of hostilities the applicant service falls under:

  • April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918 (World War I)
  • September 1, 1939 to December 31, 1946 (World War II)
  • June 25, 1950 to July 1, 1955 (The Korean War)
  • February 28, 1961 to October 15, 1978 (The Vietnam War)
  • August 2, 1990 to April 11, 1991 (The Persian Gulf War)
  • September 11, 2001 to the present (The War on Terror)

As we stated before, the process of applying for naturalization through this route, while theoretically easier and faster, can actually prove to be neither if a service member or veteran tries to complete it on their own.

As such, military personnel in these scenarios should strongly consider consulting with a skilled legal professional who can answer their questions, explain the law and guide them through the process.

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