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DOD increases naturalization requirements for military service

  1. Date Announced

    Oct. 13, 2017

    DOD requires military branches to certify that the non-citizen service member has: (1) passed security screening, (2) completed basic military training, and (3) served for at least 180 days of active duty before they are eligible for honorable service characterization. Service members must receive this honorable service characterization to submit USCIS Form N-426 (Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service), which qualifies them for an expedited path to U.S. citizenship. The memoranda also requires decertification for service members awaiting citizenship who have not met these new requirements.

    [ID #612]

    View Policy Document View Policy Document
  2. Effective Date of Change

    Oct. 13, 2017
  3. Subsequent Action

    March 5, 2018

    Beginning January 2018, DOD and DHS reportedly terminated the Basic Training Naturalization Initiative at all military basic training sites nationwide, making it more difficult for military members to naturalize.

    BuzzFeed News: The US Army Promised Immigrants A Fast Track For Citizenship. That Fast Track Is Gone.
  4. Subsequent Action

    November 16, 2018

    A preliminary injunction was issued against this new policy in *Kirwa et al. v. DOD* for all applicants prior to October 13, 2017. On October 27, 2017, DOD rescinded this guidance and stated that it would certify all applicants who have served at least one day in active service. On Nov. 16, 2018, N.D. Cal. granted a preliminary injunction in *Jiahao Kuang et al. v. DOD*, enjoining DOD from continuing to implement the October 13 Memo and ordering DOD to return to the pre-October 13, 2017 practices for the accession of Lawful Permanent Residents into the military.

    **Litigation is listed for informational purposes and is not comprehensive. For the current status of legal challenges, check other sources.**

    Northern District of California: Order Granting Class Certification, Denying Motion to Dismiss, and Granting Preliminary Injunction
  5. Subsequent Action

    August 25, 2020

    Summary judgment in Samma v. DOD case held DOD's Minimum Service Requirement for certification of N-426's is unlawful.

    Samma v. DOD
  6. Subsequent Action

    A report by the Associated Press noted that the U.S. Army had discharged over 500 immigrant recruits between July 2017-July 2018, who had enlisted under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program.

    Report: Army expelled 500 immigrant recruits in 1 year
Type of Action: Agency Directive
Subject Matter: Citizenship
Agencies Affected: USCIS DOD

Prior Policies

  • Previously, DOD practice had been to certify service members' service requirements for the purposes of USCIS Form N-426 following enlistment and after "as little a few days in boot camp." Past policy allowed service members to naturalize more quickly. In addition, LPRs used to be able to ship to initial miltiary training as long as they had initiated their background security check. Now that check must be completed before they start training.

    DOD News Article: DoD Announces Policies Affecting Foreign Nationals Entering Military

Subsequent Actions

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