Chapter 4 - Permanent Bars to Naturalization
An applicant who requested, applied for, and obtained a discharge or exemption from military service from the U.S. armed forces on the ground that he or she is an alien or foreign national (“alienage discharge”) is permanently ineligible for naturalization unless he or she qualifies for an exception (discussed below). 
An exemption from military service is either a permanent exemption from induction into the U.S. armed services or the release or discharge from military training or service in the U.S. armed forces.  Induction means compulsory entrance into military service of the United States by conscription or by enlistment after being notified of a pending conscription.
Until 1975, applicants were required to register for the military draft. The failure to register for the draft or to comply with an induction notice is relevant to the determination of whether the applicant was liable for military service, especially in cases where an exemption was based on foreign nationality.
Certain persons were granted exemptions from the draft for reasons other than foreign nationality, including medical disability and conscientious objector. An applicant may present a draft registration card with an exempt classification under circumstances that do not relate to foreign nationality.
There are exceptions to the permanent bar to naturalization for obtaining a discharge or exemption from military service on the ground of alienage. 
The permanent bar does not apply to the applicant if he or she establishes by clear and convincing evidence that:
The applicant had no liability for military service (even in the absence of an exemption) at the time he or she requested an exemption from military service;
The applicant did not request or apply for the exemption from military service, but such exemption was automatically granted by the U.S. Government; 
The exemption from military service was based upon a ground other than the applicant's alienage;
The applicant was unable to make an intelligent choice between an exemption from military service and citizenship because he or she was misled by an authority from the U.S. Government or from the government of his or her country of nationality;
The applicant applied for and received an exemption from military service on the basis of alienage, but was subsequently inducted into the U.S. armed forces or the National Security Training Corps; 
Prior to requesting the exemption from military service, the applicant served a minimum of eighteen months in the armed forces of a nation that was a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization at the time of his or her service, or the applicant served a minimum of twelve months and applied for registration with the Selective Service Administration after September 28, 1971; or
The tables below provide lists of countries that currently have (or previously had) effective treaties providing reciprocal exemption from military service. 
Countries with Effective Treaties Providing Reciprocal Exemption from Military Service
Art. X, 10 Stat. 1005, 1009, effective 1853
Art. VI, 47 Stat. 1876, 1880, effective 1928
Art. XIV, 63 Stat. 1299, 1311, effective 1946
Art. IX, 10 Stat. 916, 921, effective 1851
Art. VI, 44 Stat. 2379, 2381, effective 1925
Art. VI, 45 Stat. 2618, 2622, effective 1927
Art. III, 1 US 785, 789, effective 1950
Art. XIII, 63 Stat. 2255, 2272, effective 1948
Art. VI, 45 Stat. 2641, 2643, effective 1928
Art. VI, 54 Stat. 1739, 1742, effective 1938
Art. VI, 47 Stat. 2135, 2139, effective 1928
Art. XI, 12 Stat. 1091, 1096, effective 1859
Art. V, 33 Stat. 2105, 2108, effective 1902
Art. II, 11 Stat. 587, 589, effective 1850
Art. IV, 22 Stat. 963, 964, effective 1881
Countries with Expired Treaties Providing Reciprocal Exemption from Military Service
Art. VI, 46 Stat. 2817, 2821 (effective 1926 to February 8, 1958)
Art. VI, 44 Stat. 2132, 2136 (effective 1923 to June 2, 1954)
Art. VI, 44 Stat, 2441, 2445 (effective 1925 to July 5, 1952)
Art. 1, 53 Stat. 1731, 1732 (effective 1937 to June 8, 1968)
The Application for Naturalization (Form N-400) and Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (Form N-426) contain questions pertaining to discharge due to alienage or foreign nationality. The fact that an applicant is exempted or discharged from service in the U.S. armed forces on the grounds that he or she is a foreign national (alien) may impact the applicant’s eligibility for naturalization.
Selective Service and military department records are conclusive evidence of service and discharge.  Proof of an applicant’s request and approval for an exemption or discharge from military service because the applicant is a foreign national may be grounds for denial of the naturalization application. 
An applicant who is convicted by court martial as a deserter may be permanently barred from naturalization.  A person not ultimately court martialed for being a deserter or for being Absent without Official Leave (AWOL), however, is not permanently barred from naturalization.
An applicant who deserted or was AWOL during the relevant period for good moral character may be ineligible for naturalization under the “unlawful acts” provision. 
2. [^] See 8 CFR 315.1. The Ninth Circuit has found that an exemption from voluntary military service is not a permanent bar under INA 315. SeeGallarde v. I.N.S., 486 F.3d 1136 (9th Cir 2007). INA 329 has similar language about exemptions, and that language has been found to cover discharges based on alienage even in cases of voluntary enlistment. See Sakarapanee v. USCIS, 616 F.3d 595, (6th Cir 2010). Officers should consult with local OCC counsel in handling discharges based on alienage.
4. [^] See In re Watson, 502 F. Supp. 145 (D.C. 1980).
5. [^] However, an applicant who voluntarily enlists in and serves in the U.S. armed forces after applying for and receiving an exemption from military service on the basis of alienage is not exempt from the permanent bar.
6. [^] “Treaty national” means a person who is a national of a country with which the United States has a treaty relating to the reciprocal exemption of aliens from military training or military service.
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 314 - Ineligibility to naturalization of deserters from U.S. armed forces
INA 315 - Citizenship denied alien relieved of service in armed forces because of alienage
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.
Act of May 9, 1918 (40 Stat. 512)
Modifications of 1918 Act 
Second War Powers Act of March 27, 1942 (amending Nationality Act of 1940)
Legislation of December 7, 1942 (amending Nationality Act of 1940)
Act of June 1, 1948; Immigration and Nationality Act
Lodge Act, June 30, 1950 (64 Stat. 316)
Korean Hostilities; Act of June 30, 1953 (Pub. L. 86)
Vietnam Hostilities Act of October 24, 1968 (82 Stat. 1343)
Grenada 15 Executive Order 12582 (February 2, 1987) 
Naturalization of Natives of the Philippines (WWII Service), Sec. 405 of Pub. L. 101-649
Hmong Veterans’ Naturalization Act of 2000
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004 (Pub. L. 108-136)
National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Pub. L. 110-181)
Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act (KFCAA) (Pub. L. 110-251)
Military Personnel Citizenship Processing Act (MPCPA) (Pub. L. 110-382)
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.
POLICY ALERT - Comprehensive Citizenship and Naturalization Policy GuidanceJanuary 07, 2013
USCIS is issuing updated and comprehensive citizenship and naturalization policy guidance in the new USCIS Policy Manual.