New Americans in the U.S. Military

It has long been recognized that immigrants contribute to our nation in a multitude of ways. This is particularly evident when looking at military service, where, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the foreign born composed half of all military recruits by the 1840s and 20 percent of the 1.5 million service members in the Union Army during the Civil War.

Those who enlist provide a great service and sacrifice on their journey to becoming a U.S. citizen. But military enlistment itself can impact this path to citizenship.

USCIS reports that it has naturalized 102,266 United States service members around the world since October 1, 2002, including those serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, South Korea, Germany, Japan, and elsewhere.

Naturalization Through Military Service

USCIS has the ability to expedite the application and naturalization process for current members of the U.S. armed forces and recently discharged members, something Congress approved after the U.S. entered World War II. Today, spouses of military members who are or will be deployed may also be eligible for expedited naturalization. In some cases, certain spouses can even complete the naturalization process abroad.

The Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative, a program developed by the Department of Defense in 2009, allows enlisted service members to complete the naturalization process during basic training. Under this initiative, USCIS conducts all naturalization processing including the capture of biometrics, the naturalization interview and administration of the Oath of Allegiance, on the military base. The program, which initially only applied to the Army, now gives enlistees of all branches of the military an equal opportunity to (in most cases) leave basic training as a U.S. citizen.

Honoring Those Who’ve Served

On this Veteran’s Day, USCIS is recognizing the service members, military spouses, and veterans taking the Oath of Allegiance to become U.S. citizens at naturalization ceremonies across the country. 3,000 new Americans will be naturalized at nearly 40 naturalization ceremonies held from November 7 through 14.

Five new recruits will also become new Americans at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, CA through the Naturalization at Basic Training Initiative.

Posted on November 11, 2014

Our Impact

  • The Campaign has completed over 3,700 naturalization workshops and clinics.
  • Over 250,000 citizenship applications completed since July 2011.

    Saved aspiring citizens and their families over $206million in legal and application fees.
  • Adopted scalable technology. MP3 players, Google Voice, and Virtual Private Network (VPN) services are being used to enhance naturalization service delivery.
  • Expanded New American Workforce (an effort to provide naturalization assistance within corporations) which has partnered with over 100 businesses across the nation, ranging from hotels in Miami to American Apparel in Los Angeles.
  • Deployed Citizenshipworks, an online tool, across the Campaign in multiple settings and languages. A newly redesigned platform guides applicants through through their citizenship application from start to finish and connects applicants to legal help at partnering non-profits.
  • Were instrumental in inspiring the US Citizenship and Immigration Service to support the Citizenship Corners initiative.
  • Created innovative partnerships with public libraries, school districts, universities, social service agencies, and employers, all of which yield not only greater numbers of applicants but also greater awareness of the naturalization process.
  • Deployed a large-scale volunteer recruitment program through an e-learning course.

    Reached diverse communities. Local partners consistently outreach and provide culturally competent and language-appropriate services.
Learn more from our
Impact Report.

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Who We're Helping

People come to America from all over the world with dreams of achieving a better life for themselves and their families and calling this great nation home. Eight million people who live, work, and pay taxes in this country are eligible for citizenship, yet only about eight percent of them naturalize each year. Find out more about these individuals and the barriers they face.Read More