MARINE CORPS BASE QUANTICO, Va. -- Each year thousands of highly qualified men and women earn the title Marine by successfully completing 12 rigorous weeks of recruit training. Following a recent change in policy at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., some earn another title as well – American citizen.
In August 2012, Marine Corps Recruiting Command released an administrative message detailing a pilot program designed to grant U.S. citizenship to foreign-national Marines upon their graduation from recruit training. Previously, Marines waited until arrival at their first duty station before starting the naturalization process. Since October, recruits arriving at Parris Island with the proper paperwork in hand become citizens before leaving the recruit depot.
“Recruits arrive at recruit training with their completed naturalization packages,” said Master Sgt. Patrick Griffin, recruit liaison chief, MCRD Parris Island. “During their initial processing we collect and screen the packages and electronically submit them to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.”
A completed naturalization package consists of USCIS forms N-400 (Application for Naturalization), N-426 (Request for Certification of Military Service), a birth certificate, green card, passport and other photo-IDs for identification.
After Marine personnel at Parris Island submit the naturalization packages, USCIS begins the process of granting citizenship.
“There is a four week screening process and eight week interview process that USCIS conducts with potential citizens,” said Griffin.
Once recruits pass the screening process and successfully complete recruit training, the path is clear for them to become American citizens. Since the program began, 202 individuals have earned their U.S. citizenship through the program, according to Griffin.
On family day, the new Marines take their oath of citizenship in front of their fellow Marines, drill instructors, family and friends. Individual Marines aren’t the only ones benefitting from the program. According to Griffin, the power of the ceremony has the potential to inspire other young men and women to enlist and to leave a positive impression on influencers attending the ceremony.
“The parents who see their sons or daughters become U.S. citizens on family day and graduate as Marines the next day witness a powerful transformation,” said Griffin. “When those parents get back home they’ll be talking to everyone they know about what they saw. This program can be a powerful recruiting tool and it shouldn’t be ignored or neglected.”
Following the tremendous success of the program at Parris Island, MCRD San Diego will be adopting it as well, giving recruits from both the Eastern and Western Recruiting Regions an equal opportunity to become American citizens.