Chapter 1 – Purpose and Background
Service members, certain veterans of the U.S. armed forces, and certain military family members may be eligible to become citizens of the United States  The “United States” means the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. See INA 101(a)(38). under special provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), to include expedited and overseas processing.
There are general requirements and qualifications that an applicant for naturalization must meet in order to become a U.S. citizen. These general requirements include:
•Good Moral Character (GMC);
•Residence and physical presence in the U.S.;
•Knowledge of the English language;
•Knowledge of U.S. government and history; and
•Attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution.
The periods of residence and physical presence in the United States normally required for naturalization may not apply to military members and certain military family members. In addition, qualifying children of military members may not need to be present in the United States to acquire citizenship. Finally, qualifying members of the military and their family members may be able to complete the entire process from overseas.
Military members and their families may call the Military Help Line for assistance: 1-877-CIS-4MIL (1-877-247-4645).
Special naturalization provisions for members of the U.S. armed forces date back at least to the Civil War.  See Appendix 1 for a table listing legislation affecting military members and their families. Currently, the special naturalization provisions provide for expedited naturalization through military service during peacetime  See Chapter 2, One Year of Military Service during Peacetime (INA 328) [12 USCIS-PM I.2]. or during designated periods of hostilities.  See Chapter 3, Military Service during Hostilities (INA 329) [12 USCIS-PM I.3]. In addition, some provisions benefit certain relatives of members of the U.S. armed forces.
As of March 6, 1990, citizenship may be granted posthumously to service members who died as a direct result of a combat-related injury or disease.  See INA 329A. See the Posthumous Citizenship for Active-Duty Service Act of 1989, Pub. L. 101-249, 104 Stat. 94. Posthumous citizenship under INA 329A was not initiated until 2004 through subsequent legislation, thereby providing substantive benefits to survivors (the amendments were retroactive to 2001). See the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, Pub. L. 108-136, 117 Stat. 1392. Before this legislation, posthumous citizenship could only be granted through the enactment of private legislation for specific individuals.
Congress and the President have continued to express interest in legislation to expand the citizenship benefits of non-U.S. citizens serving in the military since the events of September 11, 2001. Legislation to benefit service members and their family members has increased considerably since 2003.
1. Executive Order Designating Period since September 11, 2001 as a Period of Hostility
On July 3, 2002, then President, George W. Bush, officially designated by Executive Order the period beginning on September 11, 2001 as a “period of hostilities.” The Executive Order triggered immediate naturalization eligibility for qualifying service members.  See Executive Order 13269 signed on July 3, 2002 (67 FR 45287, July 8, 2002). See INA 329.
At the time of the designation, the Department of Defense (DOD) and legacy INS announced that they would work together to ensure that military naturalization applications would be processed expeditiously. USCIS adjudication procedures for military naturalization applications reflect that commitment.
2. Legislation Affecting Service Period, Overseas Naturalization, and Benefits for Relatives
On November 24, 2003, Congress enacted legislation  See the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, Pub. L. 108-136, 117 Stat. 1392. to:
•Reduce the period of service required for military naturalization based on peacetime service from three years to one year.  See INA 328(a).
•Add service in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve during periods of hostilities as a basis to qualify for naturalization.  See INA 329(a).
•Expand the immigration benefits available to the spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens who die from injuries or illnesses resulting from or aggravated by serving in combat. These benefits extend to such relatives of service members who were granted citizenship posthumously.
•Waive fees for naturalization applications based on military service during peacetime or during periods of hostilities.  See INA 328(b) and INA 329(b) (Fee exemptions).
•Permit naturalization processing overseas in U.S. embassies, consulates, and military bases for members of the U.S. armed forces.  See 8 U.S.C. 1443a (Permitting overseas proceedings).
Efforts since the 2003 legislation have focused on further streamlining procedures or extending immigration benefits to immediate relatives of service members.
3. Legislation Affecting Residence, Physical Presence, and Naturalization while Abroad for Spouses and Children
On January 28, 2008, Congress amended existing statutes to allow residence abroad to qualify as “continuous residence” and “physical presence” in the United States for a spouse or child of a service member who is authorized to accompany the service member by official orders and is residing abroad with the service member.  See the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, Pub. L. 110-181, 122 Stat. 3, which amended INA 284, INA 319, and INA 322.
Under certain conditions, a spouse or child of a service member may count any period of time that he or she is residing (or has resided) abroad with the service member as residence and physical presence in the United States. This legislation also prescribes that such a spouse or child may be eligible to have any or all of their naturalization proceedings conducted abroad. Before this legislation, the law only permitted eligible service members to participate in naturalization proceedings abroad.
•INA 284(b) limits the circumstances under which the lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or child is considered to be seeking admission to the United States. This means that the spouse or child will not be deemed to have abandoned or relinquished his or her LPR status while residing abroad with the service member. The provision ensures reentry into the United States by LPR spouses and children whose presence abroad might otherwise be deemed as abandonment of LPR status.
•INA 319(e) allows certain LPR spouses to count any qualifying time abroad as continuous residence and physical presence in the United States and permits eligible spouses to naturalize overseas.
•INA 322(d) allows the U.S. citizen parent of a child filing for naturalization to count time abroad as physical presence and allows the child to naturalize overseas.
4. Fingerprint Requirement (Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act)
On June 26, 2008, Congress mandated that USCIS use enlistment fingerprints or previously submitted USCIS fingerprints to satisfy the naturalization background check requirements unless a more efficient method is available.  See Chapter 6, Required Background Checks [12 USCIS-PM I.6]. See the Kendell Frederick Citizenship Assistance Act of 2008, Pub. L. 110-251, 122 Stat. 2319.
5. Expedited Application Processing (Military Personnel Citizenship Processing Act)
On October 9, 2008, Congress amended existing statutes to mandate USCIS to process and adjudicate naturalization applications filed under certain military-related provisions within six months of the receipt date or provide the applicant with an explanation for why his or her application is still pending and an estimated adjudication completion date.  This legislation affects naturalization applications under INA 328(a), INA 329(a), INA 329A, INA 329(b), and surviving spouses and children who qualify under INA 319(b), or INA 319(d). See the Military Personnel Citizenship Processing Act of 2008, Pub. L. 110-382, 122 Stat. 4087.
C. Legal Authorities
•8 U.S.C. 1443a – Overseas naturalization for service members and their qualifying spouses and children
The “United States” means the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. See INA 101(a)(38).
See Appendix 1 for a table listing legislation affecting military members and their families.
See INA 329A. See the Posthumous Citizenship for Active-Duty Service Act of 1989, Pub. L. 101-249, 104 Stat. 94. Posthumous citizenship under INA 329A was not initiated until 2004 through subsequent legislation, thereby providing substantive benefits to survivors (the amendments were retroactive to 2001). See the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, Pub. L. 108-136, 117 Stat. 1392.
See the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2004, Pub. L. 108-136, 117 Stat. 1392.
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.
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.
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  See Application of Campbell, 5 F.2d 247 (E.D. Wash. 1925). See Op. Sol. of Labor, Jan, 1926, CO file 79/9.
-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)  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).
-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
-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 329A)  See Sec. 1703 of PL 108-136.
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  See Sec. 673 of PL 110-181.
-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
See Application of Campbell, 5 F.2d 247 (E.D. Wash. 1925). See Op. Sol. of Labor, Jan, 1926, CO file 79/9.
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.
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).
See Sec. 1703 of PL 108-136.
See Sec. 673 of PL 110-181.