The Department of State released two significant policy changes that will impact the ability of lawful permanent residents to naturalize through military service. The two new policies pertain to security screening and honorable service certifications necessary to pursue expedited naturalization. Under the new rules, all lawful permanent residents must complete an extensive background investigation and receive a favorable military security suitability determination (“MSSD”) before entry in the active, reserve, or guard service. Prior to this, green card holders were able to enter into initial military training as long as a background check had been started (and they had cleared all other screening requirements), but not necessarily completed. The second change is perhaps even more consequential, especially with respect to those individuals looking to naturalize through military service under Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, individuals may be eligible to apply for citizenship through military service. The requirements vary depending on whether the United States is involved in a “period of hostility.” Under “peacetime naturalization,” the applicant will generally have to demonstrate one year of qualifying service, in addition to the other statutory requirements. However, under “period of hostility”-which we are still currently in-an applicant was eligible for military naturalization provided he/she:
· served honorably in active-duty status, or as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, for any amount of time, or if separated from the US armed forces, has been separated honorably
· Has been lawfully admitted as a permanent resident at any time after enlistment or induction, or has been physically present in the US or certain territories at the time of enlistment or induction (regardless of whether the applicant was admitted as a permanent resident)
· Is able to read, write, and speak basic English
· Has a knowledge of US history and government
· Has been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods of the law
· Has an attachment to the principles of the US Constitution and is well disposed to the good order and happiness of the US during all relevant periods of the law
What this essentially meant was that an individual was formerly able to apply after only one day of service.
New Rule Requires At Least 6 Months of Consecutive Service
Under the new Department of Defense policy, a foreign national will not receive a certification of honorable service on Form N-426, for purposes of expedited naturalization unless and until he/she has:
· Completed all security and suitability screening requirements and received a favorable MSSD and;
· Completed the initial military training requirements of the service of which they are a member, and;
· Completed at least 180 days consecutive days of active duty service, or at least one year of satisfactory service in the selected reserve.
Accordingly, one day of service will no longer enable an individual who otherwise meets all the other requirements to apply for expedited naturalization. Moreover, because this is a new policy, it is not clear or determinable exactly how long security clearance checks will take. So, at this point, for all practical purposes, all military naturalization applications are currently in a state of suspension pending implementation and completion of the new protocols.
The above is general information only and not to be relied upon as legal advice. It does not create an attorney client relationship nor should it be relied upon as advice in lieu of consultation with an attorney.