The sacrifice that military men and women make for the US is considerable. Military servicemen and women dedicate hours of their lives, work hard at peacekeeping missions and in battles, risk danger, and in some cases offer the ultimate sacrifice by dying in the service of the US. To recognize the immense sacrifices that members of the military make, the US government has a special application process that expedites the US citizenship application process for those who serve in the US military.
There are in fact four ways to become a US citizen via military service. The first involves applying for US citizenship during times of armed conflict or war. When the US is in armed conflict, the US military often recruits heavily, and will sometimes recruit qualified immigrants as well as US citizens. For immigrants entering the US military during times of conflict and war, it is possible to apply for naturalization without paying the citizenship application. As well, applicants can apply after only one day in military service. In many cases, those actively serving in the US military have their applications expedited so that naturalization may occur in as little as six months. This applies to both undocumented and documented immigrants. However, immigrants applying for US citizenship through military service must meet the general qualifications for citizenship – including passing literacy tests – and must honorably complete their term of service to avoid losing their citizenship.
In peacetime, it is also possible to apply for US citizenship when serving active duty in the US military. Again, immigrants who apply in this manner have an expedited application process and do not need to pay the usual application fee. To apply for US citizenship through military service in peacetime, you must meet basic eligibility requirements for naturalization. That is, you must show good moral character, pass the civics and literacy tests, and swear allegiance to the US Constitution and the US. However, unlike other naturalization applicants, applicants applying through the military service have no minimum residency requirements. In peacetime, applicants will need to have served in the US military for at least one year and must apply for citizenship while still serving.
In addition to these methods of application, the widow or widower of a US citizen who has died in active military duty and has served honorably may apply for US citizenship. To qualify, the widow or widower must have been married to the US military service member at the time of the person’s death. While the widow or widower will need to fulfill basic eligibility requirements, there is no minimum residency requirement for persons applying for citizenship in this way.
A final way to apply for US citizenship via military service is through posthumous naturalization. In this situation, the beneficiary, representative, or next of kin of an active duty service person in the US military may apply to have the deceased posthumously declared a US citizen. The immigrant who has died must have served honorably and in active duty at a time of war and must have died directly or indirectly as a result of injuries sustained in the war. This form of citizenship is a type of honor for the deceased. It will not help the deceased person’s family in their own applications for a green card or citizenship.