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US Citizenship for Military, Veterans, and Dependents

Closeup of ruffled American flag

If you are military member or veteran you may may be eligible for naturalization under special regulations. Surviving family members of deceased military members may also be eligible. There is even a provision in the law that allows for posthumous granting of US Citizenship of military members who died in the line of duty, or as a result of their military service.

Naturalization through One Year of Qualifying Service During Peacetime

Generally, a person who has served honorably in the military at any time may be eligible to apply for naturalization. The military community sometimes refers to this as “peacetime naturalization.”

In general, an applicant for naturalization must:

  • Be age 18 or older
  • Have served honorably in the military for at least 1 year and, if a veteran, must have received an honorable discharge
  • Be a permanent resident when they apply
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)
  • Have continuously resided in the US for at least five years and have been physically present in the US for at least 30 months out of the 5 years immediately preceding the date of filing the application, UNLESS the applicant has filed an application while still in the service or within 6 months of separation.

Naturalization through Qualifying Service during Periods of Hostilities

Generally, military members who serve honorably for any period of time (even 1 day) during specifically designated periods of hostilities (see below) are eligible for naturalization.

In general, an applicant for naturalization must:

  • Have served honorably in active-duty status, or as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, for any amount of time during a designated period of hostilities and, if a veteran, must have received an honorable discharge
  • Have been lawfully admitted as a permanent resident at any time after enlistment, OR have been physically present in the US or certain territories at the time of enlistment
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English
  • Have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics)

There is no minimum age requirement for an applicant under this section. The designated periods of hostilities are:

  • April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918
  • September 1, 1939 to December 31, 1946
  • June 25, 1950 to July 1, 1955
  • February 28, 1961 to October 15, 1978
  • August 2, 1990 to April 11, 1991
  • September 11, 2001 until the present

Posthumous Citizenship for Military Members

Generally, individuals who served honorably in the military and who died as a result of injury or disease incurred while serving in an active duty status during specified periods of military hostilities, listed above, are eligible for posthumous citizenship.

Survivor Benefits for Relatives of Non-U.S. Citizen Military Members

If you are a spouse, child, or parent of a deceased servicemember and applied for citizenship before they died, the application will be processed as if the service member’s death did not occur if:

  • The service member served honorably in active-duty status in the U.S. armed forces
  • The service member died as a result of injury incurred in or aggravated by combat
  • The service member was granted posthumous citizenship

Survivor Benefits for Relatives of U.S. Citizen Military Members

If you are the spouse, child, or parent of a U.S. citizen who died as a result of combat while serving in active duty status in the U.S. armed forces, you may be eligible for immigration benefits as an “immediate relative” for up to 2 years after your service member relative’s death.

If You are the Spouse of a Deceased Service Member

You will be considered an immediate relative for immigration purposes provided:

  • Your spouse served honorably in active-duty status in the U.S. armed forces
  • Your spouse died as a result of injury or disease incurred in or aggravated by combat
  • You were not legally separated from your service member spouse at the time of his or her death
  • You file a petition for an immigration benefit within two years of your spouse’s death
  • You do not remarry prior to obtaining permanent residence based on your relationship to your U.S. Citizen spouse.

If You are the Child or Parent of a Deceased Service Member

You will be considered an immediate relative for immigration purposes provided:

  • Your relative served honorably in active-duty status in the U.S. armed forces
  • Your relative died as a result of injury or disease incurred in or aggravated by combat
  • You file a petition for an immigration benefit within 2 years of your relative’s death.

For More Information

See the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services website for details.

Related Topics

Immigrants

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