U.S. Citizenship / Naturalization Through Military Service

MAVNI Program

The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) Program allows certain non-citizens who are legally present in the United States to join the U.S. military and apply immediately for U.S. citizenship without first obtaining lawful permanent residence.

The program is limited to legal aliens holding critical skills — physicians, nurses and certain experts in languages with associated cultural backgrounds. The program allows a nonimmigrant to enlist for at least four years of contractual Active duty as a language recruit, or a minimum of three years of Active duty or six years in the U.S. Army Reserve as a health care professional. The Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) positions available to recruits will be selected and will include only those positions that do not require a security clearance, unless and until a MAVNI recruit becomes a U.S. citizen and receives a clearance. Those who enlist are also subject to the standard requirement of eight years of service for all recruits. Persons who enlist under MAVNI will be fingerprinted and screened to ensure legal status in the United States. The nonimmigrant must also have been in valid status for at least two years, immediately prior to the enlistment date, but not necessarily in the same status category as the one held on the date of enlistment. The nonimmigrant must not have had any single absence from the United States of more than 90 days during this two year period.

Applying for U.S. Citizenship During Time of War

Any immigrant who enlists with the United States Armed Forces can apply for expedited naturalization. Because the United States is in a time of war, an immigrant—documented or undocumented—who serves in active-duty status may apply for expedited naturalization through military service. Immigrants who enlist during a time of war can apply for naturalization after only one day of service and have the citizenship application fee waived.

In general, to apply for naturalization through military service, you must meet the other requirements for naturalization, including showing that you have “good moral character,” pass the English literacy and civics test, and swear attachment to the principles of the U.S. constitution by taking the Oath of Allegiance.

Generally, a person who is subject to a final order of removal is not allowed to naturalize. However, this rule does not apply to immigrants who naturalize through military service.

To apply for naturalization through military service in a time of war, you must serve in active-duty status and honorably complete your term of service. If you do not honorably complete your term of service, you will lose your citizenship.

Applying for U.S. Citizenship During Peacetime

Immigrants may also apply for expedited naturalization through military service during peacetime. A service member filing an application for citizenship does not have to pay a fee.

In general, to apply for naturalization through military service, you must meet the other requirements for naturalization, including showing good moral character, swearing your allegiance to the United States and its Constitution, and passing the English and civics examination. However, there is no requirement of a minimum period of residency in the United States.

Generally, a person who is subject to a final order of removal is not allowed to naturalize. However, this rule does not apply to immigrants who naturalize through military service.

To apply for naturalization through military service during peacetime, you must have served for at least one year. You must apply for citizenship while still serving or within six months of leaving the service. If you apply while in the service, you must show current honorable service. If you apply after leaving the service, you must show honorable discharge.

Naturalization of Widow or Widower of a U.S. Citizen

The surviving spouse of a United States citizen who died while serving honorably on active-duty status may apply for naturalization.

The spouse and the United States citizen service member must have been married at the time of the service member’s death.

If you are a surviving spouse, you must meet the other requirements for naturalization, including showing good moral character, swearing your allegiance to the United States and its Constitution, and passing the English and civics examination. However, there is no requirement of a minimum period of residency in the United States.