Military Members U.S. Citizenship Eligibility Requirements

The table below summarizes the naturalization eligibility requirements for military members and their spouses. After the table is a section that provides more information on each requirement. If you still have questions about your eligibility, you should consult an immigrant assistance organization or INS or read the following article: How to become a citizen of the United States of America.

 

 

Requirement

Time as permanent resident

Continuous residence

Physical presence in the U.S.

Time in district or state

Good moral character

English & civics knowledge

Attachment to the Constitution

If you are in the U.S. armed forces and have served for at least 3 years) Must be a permanent resident on the day application is filed Not required Not required Not required Required Required Required
If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen who is a member of the U.S. armed forces and your citizen spouse is assigned overseas for at least one year according to the Permanent Change of Station (PCS) order Must be a permanent resident at the time of INS interview Not required Not Required Not required Required Required Required

The categories in the table above are described as follows:

Time as a Permanent Resident

Permanent Residents are people who have “Permanent Resident” status in the United States as provided for under immigration laws. Permanent residents are normally given permanent resident cards. (Note: These cards used to be called Alien Registration Cards and are called Green Cards today).

Continuous Residence

quot;Continuous residence” means that you have not left the United States for a long period of time. This requirement does not apply to active duty military members or their spouses.

Physical Presence in the United States

“Physical presence” means that you have actually been in the United States. Most applicants must be physically present in the United States for a certain number of months to be eligible for naturalization. However, this requirement does not apply to active duty military members and their spouses.

Time as a Resident in District or State

Most people must live in the district or state in which they are applying for at least three months before applying; however, this requirement is also not required for active duty military members and their spouses.

Good Moral Character

To be eligible for naturalization, you must be a person of good moral character. INS will make a determination on your moral character based upon the laws Congress has passed. Some of the things the INS may consider are:

  • Criminal record: The “Application for Naturalization” (Form N-400) asks several questions about crimes. You should report all crimes you have committed including ones that have been expunged (removed from your record) and ones that happened before your 18th birthday. If you do not tell the INS about these crimes and they find out about them, you may be denied naturalization even if the crime itself was not a crime for which your case could be denied.
  • Lying: If you do not tell the truth during your interview with the INS, they may deny your application for lacking good moral character. If INS grants you naturalization and you are later found to have lied during your interview, your citizenship may be revoked. If you have questions, you may want to seek advice from an immigrant assistance organization or an immigration attorney before applying.

English and civics knowledge

According to the law, applicants must demonstrate:

  • An understanding of the English language, including the ability to read, write, and speak simple words and phrases in ordinary usage in the English language and
  • a knowledge of and understanding of the fundamentals of the history, and of the principles and form of government, of the United States. This means that to be eligible for naturalization, you must be able to read, write, and speak basic English. You must also have a basic knowledge of U.S. History and Government (also known as “civics”).

Many schools and community organizations help people prepare for their citizenship test. Some of these programs are very good. However, INS does not review or approve any of these outside classes or materials. You can obtain all the civics questions from the this link: The New Redesigned Naturalization Test. The New Redesigned Naturalization Test will have sample sentences similar in structure to the ones you might be asked to write or read aloud during your English test.

Attachment to the Constitution

When military members take their enlistment oath, they must affirm that they will support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The Oath of Allegiance is slightly different and it is not until you take this oath that you actually become a U.S. citizen. Military spouses applying for citizenship must also affirm that they will support and defend the Constitution. When required by law, they must be willing to:

  • Fight in the U.S. Armed Forces,
  • perform noncombatant service in the U.S. Armed Forces, and
  • perform civilian service for the United States.

If, because of religious teachings and beliefs, the military spouse is against fighting or serving in the military, INS may exempt them from these requirements. They will need to send a letter with their application requesting a modified oath and explaining why they are unable to take the oath as it is written above. Please see the section titled “Taking the Oath” for more information about this process.

I addition to the promise to serve the United States when required, INS also considers the following three things when determining if an applicant is truly willing to serve the United States.

Selective Service

Male spouses of military members generally need to register with the Selective Service before applying for naturalization. If you are male and lived in the United States (in any status other than as a lawful nonimmigrant) at any time between your 18th and 26th birthdays, you must be registered with the Selective Service System. Males who first entered the United States after they turned 26 years old are exempt from the requirement to register. If the spouse was required to register, they will need to provide their Selective Service number to INS when they apply. They may get their Selective Service number by calling 1-847-688-6888 if they were born after 31 December 1959. If they were born before 29 Mar 1957, they should call 1-703-605-4047. If the spouse has not registered, they must register at a United States post office or on the Internet to receive a Selective Service number. The Selective Service System Internet site can be reached at www.sss.gov or through the INS Internet site at www.ins.usdoj.gov. They must have a Social Security number to register on the Internet

If the spouse was required to register but did not register before they turned 26, they must do the following:

  • Call 1-847-688-6888 and complete the Selective Service System’s Questionnaire Form (Males born before 29 March 1957 should call 1-703-605-4047) and
  • Receive a “Status Information Letter” from the Selective Service,
  • Submit the Status Information Letter with their application.

Naturalization process guide for military members and their spouses

Some naturalization requirements are difficult to understand and many people have questions about naturalization. If you read the guide (Naturalization process for military members and their spouses) before beginning the naturalization process, many of your questions will be answered.