Expedited Citizenship Through Military Service: Policy and Issues [Updated September 30, 2003]   [open pdf - 126KB]

"Since the events of September 11, 2001, and the war against terrorism started with Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Noble Eagle, there has been interest in legislation to expand the citizenship benefits of aliens serving in the military, which has increased considerably since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. The reported deaths in action of noncitizen soldiers have drawn attention to provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that grant posthumous citizenship for those who die as a result of active-duty service during a period of hostilities. The INA also provides for expedited naturalization for noncitizens serving in the United States military. During peacetime, noncitizens in the military may petition to naturalize after 3 years aggregate military service rather than the requisite 5 years of legal permanent residence. During periods of military hostilities, noncitizens serving in the armed forces can naturalize immediately. On July 3, 2002, President George W. Bush designated the period beginning on September 11, 2001, as a 'period of hostilities,' which triggered immediate naturalization eligibility for active-duty U.S. military servicemembers, whereupon the Department of Defense and the former Immigration and Naturalization Service announced that they would work together to ensure that military naturalization applications were processed expeditiously. This has sparked interest in legislation to further expedite the naturalization process for military servicemembers. As of February 2003, there were 37,000 noncitizens serving in active duty in the U.S. armed forces, almost 12,000 foreign nationals serving in the selected reserves, and another 8,000 serving in the inactive national guard and ready reserves."

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CRS Report for Congress, RL31884
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