Chapter 3 - Military Service during Hostilities (INA 329)

A. General Eligibility through Military Service during Hostilities

Members of the U.S. armed forces who serve honorably for any period of time during specifically designated periods of hostilities may be eligible to naturalize. [1] 

The applicant must establish that he or she meets all of the following criteria in order to qualify: 

  • The applicant may be of any age.

  • The applicant must have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces during a designated period of hostility.

  • The applicant must either be a lawful permanent resident (LPR) or have been physically present at the time of enlistment, reenlistment, or extension of service or induction into the U.S. armed forces:

  • In the United States or its outlying possessions, including the Canal Zone, American Samoa, or Swains Island, or

  • On board a public vessel owned or operated by the United States for noncommercial service.

  • The applicant must be able to read, write, and speak basic English.

  • The applicant must demonstrate knowledge of U.S. history and government.

  • The applicant must demonstrate good moral character for at least 1 year prior to filing the application until the time of his or her naturalization.

  • The applicant must have 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.

An applicant who files on the basis of military service during hostilities is exempt from the general naturalization requirements of continuous residence and physical presence. [2] 

B. Honorable Service

Qualifying military service is honorable service in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve or active duty service in the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, or Coast Guard. Service in a National Guard Unit may also qualify. [3] 

Honorable service means only service in the U.S. armed forces that is designated as honorable service by the executive department under which the applicant performed that military service.

Both “Honorable” and “General-Under Honorable Conditions” discharge types qualify as honorable service for immigration purposes. Other discharge types, such as “Other Than Honorable,” do not qualify as honorable service.

C. National Guard Service

An applicant filing on the basis of military service during hostilities [4] who has National Guard service may qualify if he or she has honorable service in either the U.S. armed forces or in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve. [5] USCIS does not require proof of federal activation for a National Guard applicant if the applicant served in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve during a designated period of hostility. [6] 

D. Designated Periods of Hostilities

The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and Presidential Executive Orders have designated the following military engagements and ranges of dates as periods of hostilities. [7] 

Designated Periods of Hostilities

World War I [8] 

April 6, 1917

November 11, 1918

World War II [9] 

September 1, 1939

December 31, 1946

Korean Conflict [10] 

June 25, 1950

July 1, 1955

Vietnam Hostilities [11] 

February 28, 1961

October 15, 1978

Persian Gulf Conflict[12] 

August 2, 1990

April 11, 1991

War on Terrorism [13] 

September 11, 2001

Present

On July 3, 2002, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13269, which has designated a period of hostilities and has permitted the expedited naturalization for foreign nationals eligible under INA 329 as of September 11, 2001. The current designated period continues to be a designated period of hostilities for INA 329 purposes until the President issues a new Executive Order terminating the designation. [14] 

E. Eligibility as Permanent Resident or if Present in United States at Induction or Enlistment

In general, an applicant who files on the basis of military service during hostilities [15] is not required to be an LPR if he or she was physically present at the time of induction, enlistment, reenlistment, or extension of service in the U.S. armed forces: 

  • In the United States, the Canal Zone, American Samoa, or Swains Island; or

  • On board a public vessel owned or operated by the United States for noncommercial service.

In addition, an applicant who is lawfully admitted for permanent residence after enlistment or induction is also eligible for naturalization under this provision regardless of the place of enlistment or induction.

F. Conditional Permanent Residence and Naturalization during Hostilities

If the applicant is a conditional permanent resident and is eligible to naturalize on the basis of military service during hostilities [16] without being an LPR based on being in the United States during enlistment or induction, the applicant is not required to file or have an approved Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (Form I-751) before his or her Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) may be approved.

G. Department of Defense Military Accessions Vital to National Interest Program

The general guidance in this section is from information provided by the Department of Defense (DOD) on its Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program. USCIS is providing this general information in the Policy Manual to assist potential service members and their families. [17] 

1. Military Accessions Vital to National Interest Program

In 2009, DOD authorized the MAVNI pilot program as a recruitment tool to enlist certain nonimmigrants and other foreign nationals who have skills that are considered vital to the national interest of the United States. [18] The program applies to certain health care professionals and foreign nationals who are fluent in certain foreign languages. [19] 

A foreign national entering active duty status or service in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve may apply for military naturalization after the applicant’s Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (Form N-426) has been properly authorized, completed, and signed by the appropriate person authorized by DOD. [20] USCIS is unable to adjudicate a naturalization application without a properly submitted N-426.

2. General Eligibility Requirements

Eligible Candidates

To be eligible for the MAVNI program, the DOD requires applicants to be in one of the following immigration categories or authorized stays at the time of enlistment into the U.S. armed forces:

  • Asylee;

  • Refugee;

  • Beneficiary of Temporary Protected Status (TPS);

  • Person granted deferred action by USCIS under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy; or

  • Nonimmigrant in any of the following categories: E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V.

Valid Status for 2 Years

The DOD requires most applicants for MAVNI to have been in a valid status in one of the eligible immigration categories or authorized stays listed above for at least 2 years immediately preceding the date of enlistment. The applicant is not required to be in the same qualifying category or authorized stay listed above for those 2 years on the date of enlistment. 

The DOD may exempt or waive the 2-year requirement for certain applicants. Specifically, the DOD does not require DACA recipients to meet the 2-year requirement. In addition, the DOD will consider waiving the requirement that an applicant to the MAVNI program be in valid immigration status or within a period of authorized stay at the time of enlistment on a case-by-case basis under certain circumstances. [21] 

3. Other Factors to Consider

Nonimmigrants and Absences from United States 

Under DOD guidance, most applicants to the MAVNI program under a qualifying nonimmigrant category at the time of enlistment must not have been absent from the United States for more than 90 days during the 2-year period immediately preceding the date of enlistment. [22] The DOD does not apply this 90-day limitation on absences to DACA recipients.

Foreign Residency Requirement

A nonimmigrant exchange visitor under the J nonimmigrant visa classification may be eligible to apply for the MAVNI program with the DOD. Certain nonimmigrant exchange visitors are subject to a statutory foreign residence requirement. [23] J exchange visitors who enlist in the military through the MAVNI program are not required to comply with the foreign residence requirement in order to naturalize. [24] In addition, the dependent spouse or child of the exchange visitor is not required to comply with the foreign residence requirement. [25] 

Adjustment of Status Applicants

The DOD does not disqualify otherwise eligible applicants to the MAVNI program by virtue of having a pending adjustment of status application with USCIS. [26] 

Footnotes


1. [^] See INA 329

2. [^] See INA 329(b). See 8 CFR 329.2(e).

3. [^] See Section C, National Guard Service [12 USCIS-PM I.3(C)].

4. [^] See INA 329.

5. [^] See 8 CFR 329.1. See 10 U.S.C. 10143 for more information on the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.

6. [^] The National Guard and Reserve service requirements under INA 329 differ from those under INA 328. See Chapter 2, One Year of Military Service during Peacetime (INA 328), Section C, National Guard Service [12 USCIS-PM I.2(C)].

7. [^] See 8 CFR 329.1 and 8 CFR 329.2.

8. [^] See 8 CFR 329.1 and 8 CFR 329.2. Declared by Joint Resolution of Congress of April 6, 1917 (40 Stat. 429, Ch. 1) and Joint Resolution of Congress, December 7, 1917 (40 Stat. 429, Ch. 1). Armistice signed, November 11, 1918.

9. [^] See 8 CFR 329.2. See Proclamation No. 2714, Cessation of Hostilities of World War II, 61 Stat. 1048 (December 31, 1946).

10. [^] See 8 CFR 329.2.

11. [^] See 8 CFR 329.2. See Exec. Order No. 12081, Termination of Expeditious Naturalization Based on Military Service, 43 FR 42237 (September 18, 1978).

12. [^] See 8 CFR 329.2. See Exec. Order No. 12939, Expedited Naturalization of Aliens and Noncitizen Nationals Who Served in an Active-Duty Status During the Persian Gulf Conflict, 59 FR 61231 (November 22, 1994). 

13. [^] See 8 CFR 329.2. See Exec. Order No. 13269, Expedited Naturalization of Aliens and Noncitizen Nationals Serving in an Active-Duty Status During the War on Terrorism, 67 FR 45287 (July 3, 2002).

14. [^] See 8 CFR 329.2. See Exec. Order No. 13269, Expedited Naturalization of Aliens and Noncitizen Nationals Serving in an Active-Duty Status During the War on Terrorism, 67 FR 45287 (July 3, 2002).

15. [^] See INA 329.

16. [^] See INA 329.

17. [^] For further information and details of the DOD program, see the DOD MAVNI Fact Sheet (PDF) or contact the DOD. 

18. [^] The Secretary of Defense authorized the pilot program. See the DOD MAVNI Fact Sheet (PDF).

19. [^] See sections on health care professionals and eligible languages in the DOD MAVNI Fact Sheet (PDF).

20. [^] MAVNI enlistees should speak with their commanding officers for additional information regarding the circumstances under which the military departments will sign and certify the Form N-426.

21. [^] See section on eligibility in the DOD MAVNI Fact Sheet (PDF)

22. [^] See section on eligibility in the DOD MAVNI Fact Sheet (PDF).

23. [^] See INA 212(e).

24. [^] The J exchange visitor is not required to obtain a waiver of the INA 212(e) foreign residence requirement. See INA 329.

25. [^] A J-1 exchange visitor’s dependent spouse or child is issued a J-2 nonimmigrant visa. 

26. [^] See Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. See section on eligibility in the DOD MAVNI Fact Sheet (PDF).

8 CFR 316.5(b)(6) - Residence for certain spouses of military personnel

8 CFR 316.6 - Physical presence for certain spouses of military personnel

8 U.S.C. 1443a - Overseas naturalization for service members and their qualifying spouses and children

INA 101(f) - Definition of good moral character

INA 312, 8 CFR 312 - Educational requirements for naturalization

INA 316, 8 CFR 316 - General requirements for naturalization

INA 329, 8 CFR 329 - Naturalization through military service during hostilities

INA 332, 8 CFR 332 - Naturalization administration, executive functions

Appendices

Legislation Assisting Military Members and their Families Obtain Immigration Benefits

Appendix: Legislation Assisting Military Members and their Families Obtain Immigration Benefits

The table below provides some of the major legislative amendments that have aimed at assisting qualified military personnel and their eligible family members to become U.S. citizens or to acquire other immigration benefits, or both.

Major Legislative Amendments Assisting Military Members and their Eligible Relatives to Become U.S. Citizens or to Acquire Other Immigration Benefits

Act of May 9, 1918 (40 Stat. 512)

  • Accorded World War I servicemen certain exemptions from the then existing naturalization requirements

  • First statute to provide for overseas processing; however, petitions that were filed and not acted upon by the courts were declared invalid before May 25, 1932 [1]

Modifications of 1918 Act [2]

  • Under certain circumstances resident aliens who had departed from the United States and had served honorable in the military or naval forces of an allied country during World War I were granted special naturalization

Second War Powers Act of March 27, 1942 (amending Nationality Act of 1940)

  • Provided for the expeditious naturalization of members of the U.S. armed forces serving in the United States and abroad

  • Provided for the naturalization of non-citizens serving during the war; the law permitted naturalization of those who did not meet requirements

  • Section 702, authorized the actual naturalization of World War II servicemen outside the United States

  • First time the Service had administrative authority to conduct naturalizations

Legislation of December 7, 1942 (amending Nationality Act of 1940)

  • Addition of section 323a

  • Granted special naturalization privileges to World War I veterans

  • Embraced persons who served with the United States military or naval forces at any time after April 20, 1898, and before July 5, 1902 (Spanish-American War), as well as persons who served on the Mexican border between June 1916 and April 1917 as members of the Regular Army or National Guard (expired December 8, 1943)

Act of June 1, 1948; Immigration and Nationality Act

  • Added section 324A to the Act of October 14, 1940 (Nationality Act of 1940)

  • Revised, modified, and made permanent the earlier provisions for the expeditious naturalization of persons who served honorably in the United States armed forces during either World War I or II

Lodge Act, June 30, 1950 (64 Stat. 316)

  • Was periodically extended during the 1950s, finally expiring on July 1, 1959

  • The Act authorized naturalization under INA 329 of an alien who enlisted or reenlisted overseas under the terms of the Act; subsequently entered the United States, American Samoa, Swains Island, or the Canal Zone pursuant to military orders; completed five years of service; and was honorably discharged

Korean Hostilities; Act of June 30, 1953 (Pub. L. 86)

  • Provided for the expeditious judicial naturalization of aliens, upon completion of at least 90 days' active and honorable service in the United States Armed Forces during a specified period (June 25, 1950 - July 1, 1955) extending beyond the termination date of the Korean conflict

  • Under the statute, all petitions had to be filed before January 1, 1956 

Vietnam Hostilities Act of October 24, 1968 (82 Stat. 1343)

  • Including Vietnam Hostilities to add as qualifying, service during a period beginning February 28, 1961, and ending on the termination fixed by the President

  • By Executive Order 12081, September 18, 1978, the President terminated the period of Vietnam hostilities as of October 15, 1978

  • Allowed the designation by executive order such periods when the armed forces of the United States are engaged in armed conflict with a hostile foreign force

Grenada 15 Executive Order 12582 (February 2, 1987) [3]

  • Although President Reagan designated the Grenada campaign as a period of hostilities, a federal court invalidated it entirely because, in contravention of statutory guidelines for such designations, the executive order attempted to limit the expedited naturalization benefit to persons who served in certain geographic areas and the record showed that the President would not have designated the campaign as a period of hostilities without the geographic limitations

Naturalization of Natives of the Philippines (WWII Service), Sec. 405 of Pub. L. 101-649

  • Addressed by Congress in 1990 by amending INA 329 (IMMACT90)

  • Such veterans were exempted from the requirement of having been admitted to lawful permanent residence to the United States or having enlisted or reenlisted in the United States

  • Subsequent amendments enabled naturalization processing to be conducted in the Philippines

  • Only applied to applications filed by February 2, 1995

Hmong Veterans’ Naturalization Act of 2000

  • For Hmong guerilla units that aided the U.S. military during the Vietnam War era

  • Provided an exemption from the English language requirement and special consideration for civics testing for Laotian refugees who supported the U.S. armed forces as members of guerrilla or irregular forces in Laos during the Vietnam War period of hostilities

  • Only applied to naturalization applications filed by a veteran or spouse, within three years after May 26, 2000, or by a veteran’s widow within three years after November 1, 2000

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub. L. 108-136)

  • Pub. L. 108-136 was enacted on November 24, 2003 and amended certain military-related immigration provisions of the INA, to include:

  • Reduced the required period of military service from three years to one year under INA 328 

  • Exempted all fees from naturalization applications filed under INA 328 and 329 by eligible service members and certain veterans 

  • Added provision that citizenship obtained through INA 328 and 329 may be revoked if the person is separated from the U.S. armed forces under other than honorable conditions before the person has served for a period or periods aggregating five years 

  • Added under 8 U.S.C. 1443a that DHS must ensure that any filings, interviews, oath ceremonies, or other proceedings relating to naturalization of service members and certain military family members are available abroad through U.S. embassies, consulates, and U.S. military installations overseas as practical 

  • Extended benefits under INA 329(a) to those who serve or served as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve 

  • Extended certain immigration benefits to surviving spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizen service members (including those granted citizenship posthumously under INA 329(a) [4] 

National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Pub. L. 110-181)

  • Pub. L. 110-181 was enacted on January 28, 2008 and amended certain military-related immigration provisions of the INA focused on qualifying spouses or children of members of the U.S. armed forces, to include:

  • Added INA 284(b) to make clear that the lawful permanent resident status of a service member’s spouse or child is not jeopardized because the spouse or child resided abroad, as authorized by official orders, with the service member. This provision clarifies that USCIS must not treat such absences as abandonment or relinquishment of the spouse or child’s lawful permanent resident (LPR) status [5]

  • Added INA 319(e) to allow the LPR spouse of a service member to count any qualifying time spent abroad on official orders as continuous residence and physical presence in the United States. Also permits the spouse to complete the naturalization process overseas

  • Added INA 322(d) to allow the U.S. citizen parent and service member of a child filing for naturalization to count time abroad under military orders as physical presence in the United States. Also permits the child to complete the naturalization process overseas

Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act (KFCAA) (Pub. L. 110-251)

  • The KFCAA was enacted on June 26, 2008 

  • Requires DHS to use the fingerprints provided by an individual at the time the individual enlisted in the U.S. armed forces (referred to as “OPM” or “enlistment” fingerprints) or fingerprints the applicant previously submitted to USCIS for another application to satisfy the fingerprint requirement

  • If DHS determines that new biometrics would result in more timely and effective adjudication of the individual’s naturalization application, DHS must inform the applicant of this determination and provide the applicant with information on how to submit fingerprints

  • Requires USCIS to adjudicate applications for naturalization filed by active-duty members of the U.S. armed forces serving abroad within 180 days of the receipt of responses to all background checks

Military Personnel Citizenship Processing Act (MPCPA) (Pub. L. 110-382)

  • The MPCPA was enacted on October 9, 2008

  • Requires USCIS to complete applications for naturalization filed by service members (and certain spouses) within six months of receipt or notify the applicant of the delay

  • Six-month notification letters must include the reason for delay and an estimated adjudication date

Footnotes


1. [^] See Application of Campbell, 5 F.2d 247 (E.D. Wash. 1925). See Op. Sol. of Labor, Jan, 1926, CO file 79/9.

2. [^] See Acts of July 19 and November 6, 1919, May 26, 1926, March 4, 1929, May 25, 1932, June 24, 1935, August 23, 1937, June 21, 1939, December 7, 1942.

3. [^] See Executive Order 12582, signed on February 2, 1987 (52 FR 3395, February 4, 1987). In consideration of Matter of Reyes, 910 F. 2d 611 (9th Cir. 1990), Executive Order 12582 was revoked by Executive Order 12913, effective February 2, 1987, (59 FR 23115, May 4, 1994).

4. [^] See Sec. 1703 of PL 108-136.

5. [^] See Sec. 673 of PL 110-181.

Technical Update - Military Accessions Vital to National Interest

March 21, 2018

This technical update clarifies that foreign nationals may apply for military naturalization after the certification of honorable service has been properly processed by the U.S. armed forces.

AFFECTED SECTIONS

 

Technical Update - Clarifying Designated Periods of Hostilities for Naturalization under INA 329

December 13, 2016

This technical update clarifies that, for purposes of naturalization under INA 329, the current period designated by Presidential Executive Order 13269 (July 3, 2002), as a period in which the U.S. armed forces are considered to be engaged in armed conflict with a hostile foreign force, is still in effect. In addition, this update adds information about the USCIS Military Help Line in this part.

AFFECTED SECTIONS

 

Technical Update - Military Accessions Vital to National Interest Program and Time of Filing for Naturalization

October 19, 2016

This technical update clarifies that, in general, Department of Defense (DOD) Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) enlistees may file an application for naturalization during basic training in the U.S. armed forces.

AFFECTED SECTIONS

 

POLICY ALERT - Department of Defense Military Accessions Vital to National Interest Program

August 03, 2016

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is issuing policy guidance to provide information about the existing Department of Defense (DOD) Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) Program.

AFFECTED SECTIONS

 

POLICY ALERT - Comprehensive Citizenship and Naturalization Policy Guidance

January 07, 2013

USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.

AFFECTED SECTIONS

 
Current as of

CHAPTERS

Current as of