NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Achieving U.S. Citizenship Through The Military

August 22, 2002

Thousands of people from foreign countries who are not citizens of the U.S. are serving in this nation's armed forces -- and are using their service as a stepping-stone to citizenship.

  • Some 31,044 non-citizens serve in branches of the armed forces -- 2 percent of the 1.4 million active force.
  • The Navy is home to 15,708 of them -- with significantly lesser numbers spread out in the Marine Corps, Army and Air Force.
  • A Pentagon "information paper" states that each foreign applicant to the services "must first undergo a series of background checks, and the positions in which they can serve are limited."
  • Each must be a permanent legal U.S. resident, holding a green card from the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

The Pentagon plays no role in supporting a person's citizenship and calls the process "an individual responsibility." But military service does speed up the process. Permanent residents must wait five years for a chance at citizenship. But those serving in the military must, in most cases, only wait three years.

Source: Robert Scarborough, "Foreigners Find Military Fast Track to Citizenship," Washington Times, August 22, 2002.


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