How Does Naturalization Through Military Service Work?


Hoping to become a United States citizen through military service? 

It’s a viable pathway, but it’s not as simple as signing up for your chosen branch of the armed forces. There are still eligibility requirements you’ll have to meet and steps you’ll have to take in order to successfully complete the process. 

Here’s what you need to know.

Advantages of Military Service

Immigrant service members enjoy three major advantages.

  • Shorter residency requirements.
  • No state of residence requirements. 
  • Waived application fees. 
  • Dependents of service members and veterans may also be eligible to apply for citizenship. 

The residency requirements are different depending on whether you served in wartime or in peace time. 


If you served honorably for a period of one year during peacetime, then you may apply for citizenship. Your branch of the service must designate your service as “honorable,” and if you’ve been discharged it must be an honorable discharge. 

If you wait more than 6 months after your discharge to apply, then you must live in the United States for a continual period of at least 5 years before you may apply. If you are still in the military, you can bypass the physical presence and residence requirements.

Periods of Hostility

Anyone who served from September 11, 2001 to the present is considered to have served during a “period of hostility.” Other periods of hostility include:

  • April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918
  • September 1, 1939 to December 13, 1946
  • June 25, 1950 to July 1, 1955
  • February 28, 1961 to October 15, 1978
  • August 2, 1990 to April  11, 1991

Serving during a period of hostility means waiving all residency and physical presence requirements. 

Eligibility for Citizenship

Whether you served or not, you must still meet all of the eligibility requirements for citizenship.

  • Must be able to speak, read, understand, and write English.
  • Must either be a permanent resident or be physically present in the United States, or on a public vessel owned by the United States at the time of enlistment, re-enlistment, induction, or extension of service. 
  • Must demonstrate good moral character for at least one year prior to filing through the day you naturalize.
  • Must pass the US history and government tests.
  • Must demonstrate “an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law, unless waived.” 

What if you weren’t enlisted, but served the military as a civilian? The Military Accessions Vital to National Interests (MAVNI) program might give you a pathway to citizenship. 

Steps to Attain Citizenship

You’ll need to complete Form N-400 and form N-426. You’ll also need to provide proof of honorable military service, as well as a copy of your fingerprint cards. 

You’ll need to attend an interview with a USCIS officer. You may bring your immigration attorney to the interview.

Finally, you must take an Oath of Allegiance at an oath naturalization ceremony. 

Get Help Today

Don’t assume that military service will make the citizenship process easier. Mistakes may still block you from attaining citizenship, and there might be certain pitfalls that will need to be addressed in your specific case.

Turn to our office to get help. We can help you translate your military service into United States Citizen while ensuring the process goes as smoothly as possible.

See also:

Who Can Appeal an Immigration Decision? 

How Much Money Do You Need to Immigrate to the US? 

3 Immigration Mistakes to Avoid

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