Service Members Can Apply for Expedited U.S. Citizenship
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 24, 2004 Foreign-born service members can now speed up the process to obtain American citizenship.
The immediate eligibility for service members to become a naturalized citizen is based on Executive Order 13269 signed by President Bush on July 3, 2002. Section 329 of the 8 U.S. Code allows the president to authorize expedited citizenship during periods in which the United States is engaged in armed conflict with a hostile foreign force.
For example, members who have served honorably for any period of time beginning on or after Sept. 11, 2001, are eligible to apply for expedited U.S. citizenship, Air Force Col. Michael A. Pachuta, director of DoD's Morale, Welfare and Recreation policy office, told American Forces Radio and Television Service in a Feb. 20 interview.
The peacetime waiting period is shortened to one year of honorable service, thanks to the fiscal 2004 National Defense Authorization Act. Prior to the executive order, the peacetime waiting period, Pachuta pointed out, was three years of honorable military service.
Effective Oct. 1, 2004, he continued, the new law allows for U.S. citizenship applications to be finalized at U.S. embassies, consulates and selected military installations overseas, to include citizenship interviews, testing, and oaths of allegiance. Also effective Oct. 1, the new law waives the $310 citizenship application and fingerprint fee.
The new law also provides sped-up avenues for the non-U.S.-citizen spouses, children and parents of service members who have died as a result of service in combat to obtain "immediate relative" alien status, Pachuta said.
He said the new citizenship application rules cover active duty service members and National Guard and Reserve personnel who are classified as members of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.
Service members who want to become naturalized U.S. citizens must apply for it, the colonel pointed out. Army and Air Force members seeking to become naturalized U.S. citizens under the expedited process can contact their military personnel offices, Pachuta noted, while Navy and Marine Corps members can contact their legal assistance offices for help.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Web site, he noted, provides forms, instructions and more helpful information about the naturalization process.