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D.C. District Court Vacates Minimum Service Requirements for Expedited Path to Citizenship for Military Service Members

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia vacated the Minimum Service Requirements in DOD’s N-426 policy, which required noncitizens in the military to meet certain durational and type-of-service requirements before obtaining a Form N-426, Certification of Honorable Service.

Non-citizen U.S. troops have filed a class-action lawsuit over the naturalization process.

On April 24, 6 U.S. troops filed a class-action lawsuit after being blocked from an expedited naturalization process. To qualify for the expedited process, servicemen must provide Pentagon certification that they have served honorably. Previously, this certification was available one day after starting their service. In 2017, the Trump administration changed the requirement, making non-citizen troops wait 180 days to receive the certification. According to the lawsuit, the change in policy caused a 72% drop in military naturalization applications.

USCIS Makes Naturalization Application Available Online for Military Personnel and Veterans

USCIS announced that U.S. service members and veterans can now file Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, online.

The Naturalization Process Just Got Harder for Noncitizen Troops Stationed Overseas

Military.com reports on USCIS’s announcement that the number of places overseas where noncitizen service members and their families can be naturalized will be cut from 23 to four due to the agency’s closures of international offices. Noncitizen service members will now have to apply for naturalization at four overseas military bases or “hubs,” and USCIS officers will travel to each hub every quarter to provide naturalization services

Army Reinstates At Least 36 Discharged Immigrants

The Associated Press reports that at least three dozen immigrant recruits who were discharged from the U.S. Army after enlisting with a promised pathway to citizenship are being brought back to serve. Another 149 discharges have been suspended and are under review

Military Naturalization. How to become a U.S. Citizen.

In the Military? See if you qualify to become a U.S. Citizen.

I’m in the Military. Can I naturalize?

Question: I’m in the military and I know somebody who was in the military years ago. Can we become U.S. Citizens?

Answer: Members and certain veterans of the U.S. armed forces may be eligible for naturalization through their military service under a couple of different sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Additionally, the INA provides for posthumous naturalization if that particular person in the military has died.

Question: What branches of the armed services will qualify for military naturalization?

Answer: Qualifying military service is generally in the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and certain components of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve. The general requirements for naturalization may be diminished or waived for qualifying service member.

Question: I am still in the military and have served for two years. What do I qualify for under the INA?

Answer: You may qualify for naturalization through serving at least one year of qualifying service during “Peacetime”. Of course, if you have served during a time of designated hostilities, you may qualify for the other provision of military naturalization which waives even more provisions to allow you to become a U.S. Citizen. However, under the peacetime provisions, a person who has served honorably in the U.S. armed forces at any time may be eligible to apply for naturalization. The military community sometimes refers to this as “peacetime naturalization.”

Question: What are the requirements for ‘peacetime naturalization’ for somebody in the military?

Answer: You must be age 18 or older, have served honorably in the U.S. armed forces for at least 1 year and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably; be a permanent resident at the time of examination on the naturalization application; be able to read, write, and speak basic English; Have a knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics); Have been a person of good moral character during all relevant periods under the law; and have an attachment to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and be well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law.

Question: What about the residency and physical presence requirements? I have been serving outside the U.S for my tour of duty and do not have physical presence requirement.

Answer: If you are filing this naturalization application under the peacetime provisions, and you are still serving or have been honorably discharged no more than 6 months ago, you are not required to meet the residence and physical presence requirements. Otherwise, you are required to meet those provisions.

Question: What about my friend who served years ago, but was serving in a period of hostility?

Answer: Generally, members of the U.S. armed forces who serve honorably for any period of time (even 1 day) during specifically designated periods of hostilities are eligible for naturalization under this provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act.
Question: What are the requirements for naturalization for people who served under a period of hostility?

Answer: In general, an applicant for naturalization under this provision must have served honorably in active-duty status or as a member of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, for any amount of time during a designated period of hostilities and, if separated from the U.S. armed forces, have been separated honorably.

Question: My friend was never a lawful permanent resident. Is that a requirement?

Answer: Generally, the answer is yes. However, your friend would not be required to have been a resident if that person has been physically present in the United States or certain territories at the time of enlistment or induction (regardless of whether that person was admitted as a permanent resident).

Question: Does a person under this section have be a certain age?

Answer: There is no minimum age requirement for an applicant under this section.

Question: What are the designated periods of hostility?

Answer: The designated periods of hostilities are: April 6, 1917 to November 11, 1918; September 1, 1939 to December 31, 1946; June 25, 1950 to July 1, 1955; February 28, 1961 to October 15, 1978
August 2, 1990 to April 11, 1991; September 11, 2001 until the present. Therefore, any military personnel serving anytime from September 11, 2001 until now can apply under this provision of naturalization during hostilities if they qualify.

Question: What about if the person died while serving in the military?

Answer: There is what is known as Posthumous Citizenship for Military Members. Generally, individuals who served honorably in the U.S. armed forces and who died as a result of injury or disease incurred while serving in an active duty status during specified periods of military hostilities, as listed above, may be eligible for posthumous citizenship.

This application must be filed within 2 years of his or her death. If approved, a Certificate of Citizenship will be issued in the name of the deceased veteran establishing posthumously that he or she was a U.S. citizen on the date of his or her death.

Parole in Place for Adjusting Status through someone in the Military

Parole in Place: How to adjust in the United States even if you don’t qualify

Question: I am married to a U.S. Citizen and I want to adjust to that of a Lawful Permanent Resident. What can I do?

Answer: Are you inside the U.S.?

Question: Yes.

Answer: Did you enter illegally?

Question: Yes?

Answer: Did you commit any crimes, any fraud or have you been issued any deportation orders?

Question: No.

Answer: Is your spouse in the military?

Question: Yes.

Answer: There is a possibility for the immediate family members of U.S. military personnel. Family members of U.S. military personnel often run afoul of our nation’s complex and dysfunctional immigration laws, and the particular burdens imposed on military personnel by their service makes resolving those problems even more difficult than solving similar problems for civilian clients. You may want to consider an application for one of the more common discretionary remedies, a form of immigration parole that is commonly called “parole in place”.

Question: What Is Parole in Place?

Answer: Parole in place (PIP) is a process by which USCIS assists family members of U.S. military personnel to become eligible to “adjust status” in the United States and thus become permanent residents of the United States. Under Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) Section 245(a), a person cannot adjust status unless he or she has been “admitted or paroled” into the United States. Usually, a person who has not been “admitted or paroled” into the United States cannot obtain lawful permanent residence unless he or she leave the United States and travels abroad to a U.S. consulate. If a person who has not been admitted or paroled into the United States leaves the United States and attempts to undergo consular processing, however, the person nearly always faces an inadmissibility bar that is triggered by departing the United States. Thus, the person cannot obtain his or her lawful permanent residence status easily through consular processing. PIP attempts to avoid the separation of military families by allowing some family members—in meritorious cases only—to adjust their status inside the United States and thereby avoid a lengthy separation that might harm the military member’s morale, readiness, or ability to complete his or her service. PIP is granted in order “to preserve family unity and address U.S. Department of Defense concerns regarding soldier safety and readiness for duty.” PIP is also a remedy that appeals to the views of Americans that in wartime, the government should provide special support to military families; when the availability of PIP was made public, 18 members of the House of Representatives, including nine Republicans, wrote to DHS to indicate their support for the program.
PIP is only available to persons who are present in the United States; it should not be confused with the “humanitarian parole” that is available to persons who are outside the United States.
Question: Who Should Request PIP?
Answer: Under current immigration law, no one who entered the United States without inspection can adjust status unless he or she falls into a category in which special rules apply (such special rules apply to asylees, Cubans, special immigrant juveniles, Violence Against Women Act petitioners, grandfathered aliens, and some others). A PIP request is often proper for immediate military family members who entered the United States without inspection, do not have an eligible visa petition or labor certification filed on or before April 30, 2001, and do not otherwise fall into a special adjustment category.

Question: What if the person requesting PIP is in Proceedings?

Answer: PIP is possible when a person is in removal proceedings. If a military family member is in removal proceedings and is granted PIP, an immigration judge (IJ) would be prevented from adjudicating a follow-on adjustment application. USCIS, however, does have jurisdiction to adjudicate an adjustment application in this situation. Family members in this situation may file a new adjustment application with USCIS—after the PIP is granted—and then request termination of proceedings without prejudice to allow them to pursue administrative remedies. Counsel may explain that whether or not the IJ terminates, the respondent will still be eligible to adjust status, and if the case is not terminated and the IJ proceeds, the IJ may be facing a future Motion to Reopen.
Question: Who Should NOT Request PIP?
Answer: A grant of PIP will not resolve immigration problems that involve issues other than ineligibility under INA §245(a). A grant of PIP will not, for example, lift a permanent bar for false claim to United States citizenship; work to waive a criminal ground of inadmissibility; relieve an immigrant of the consequences of a prior deportation or removal order; or allow an immigrant to adjust status when the immigrant needs a waiver of some other ground of inadmissibility. PIP only cures the problem that an immigrant cannot adjust status without showing that he or she has been “admitted or paroled.” PIP is not a magic solution to every immigration problem. It has very limited application to a specific set of circumstances when the military family member has not been admitted or paroled in a manner that allows adjustment under INA §245(a).

Requesting PIP may also not be advisable when there is no military-related reason to grant the PIP. For example, USCIS may determine not to grant PIP when the military member is about to be discharged from the military; when the military member is serving as an inactive Reserve member; or when a military member is stationed abroad (there, the family member’s presence in the United States is not necessary for a military-related reason).
A military family member also does not need PIP if the military family member was admitted lawfully but has no documentation of the entry.
Question: How Do I Request PIP?
Answer: The PIP program is new, and as of this writing, no formal regulatory guidance has been issued by DHS or USCIS. Practitioners report a variety of different approaches at different USCIS offices.

In most USCIS field offices, a PIP request consists of a hardship letter signed by the service member and supporting documentation, which should be submitted to the local USCIS office having jurisdiction over the service member’s residence or place of duty. An example of the list of requirements from the Los Angeles USCIS Office is reproduced in the Appendix.

The opening paragraph of the hardship letter should state that this is a request for a parole in place so that the particular military family member can file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (I-485) while in the United States. The body of the letter should describe the circumstances that led the service member to join the armed forces. The letter should then describe the history of the military member’s relationship with the family member seeking PIP; establishing the bona fide nature of the relationship is extremely important, as USCIS is unlikely to grant PIP in any case in which there are indicators of marriage fraud. The family member’s immigration status should be discussed, including the status of any petitions filed for the family member, such as an I-130. The conditions of the family member’s home country at the time he or she came to the United States should be discussed. The current conditions may be mentioned if they are such that a return to the country would pose a danger to the family member’s health or safety. If applicable, the family member’s loss of Commissary and Post Exchange privileges, military housing, access to military family member health care, and assistance from the Family Readiness Group may be mentioned. Finally, the hardship the service member would experience if the family member were deported should be described in detail. If the service member or the service member’s children have special needs that make them especially dependent on the family member for support, these needs should be explained and supporting documentation provided where appropriate. At a minimum, the body of the letter must contain the service member’s name, date of birth, place of birth, rank in military, branch of service, and unit of assignment, as well as the dates and places of birth of the family member and any children. Any upcoming deployments for which the service member is preparing should be mentioned.
Question: What documents should be provided?
Answer: Generally, you want to provide the following: The service member’s birth certificate and proof of U.S. citizenship (if applicable); The family member’s birth certificate; The birth certificates of any children; If the family member is the spouse, the couple’s marriage certificate and evidence of the bona fide nature of the marriage; The family member’s military family member identification card; A copy of Defense Eligibility Enrollment Reporting System enrollment documentation for the family member; Two original passport photos of the family member; A copy of any deployment orders for the service member; and additional documents that substantiate the case of hardship can be enclosed as well.
Question: Will the PIP Request be Granted?

Answer: A Parole in place determinations are made on a case-by-case basis and are purely discretionary. Your client should not assume his or her request is approved until USCIS officially notifies him or her of the approval. Typically, clients are notified to come for an interview with a USCIS officer who is specially trained to handle PIP applications, and that officer will make an initial determination whether to grant the PIP, but the officer’s decision will be reviewed at a higher level before the PIP request is approved.

55 U.S. Military members were naturalized in South Korea

USCIS announcement that 55 noncitizen members of the U.S. military and 17 military spouses were naturalized in South Korea. USCIS has naturalized 196 military members in South Korea, the most since the inception of the overseas naturalization program in 2004.

U.S. Military Naturalization Just Got Faster

Question: I have been serving in the military for some time. I know that I have to serve 3 years to apply for Naturalization. Is there a way I can apply faster?

Answer: Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano today announced the publication of a rule formalizing DHS’ longstanding policy to expedite and streamline the citizenship process for men and women bravely serving in America’s armed forces.  She stated: “The foundation of our national security is the patriotic service and extraordinary sacrifices made by the men and women of
our armed forces,” said Secretary Napolitano. “Expediting the citizenship process for service members reflects our commitment to honoring those who come from all over the world to serve our country and become its newest citizens.”

Question: What then is the new rule for U.S. Military Naturalization?

Answer: The rule amends DHS regulations to conform to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2004, reducing the time requirements for naturalization through military service from three years to one year for applicants who served during peacetime, and extending benefits to members of the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve of the U.S. Armed Forces. Service members who have served honorably in an active-duty status or in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve for any time since Sept. 11, 2001, can file immediately for citizenship.  The rule also eliminates the requirement for members of the military to file biographic information forms (Form G-325B) with their naturalization applications – removing administrative redundancy and increasing efficiency for those who risk their lives
for the nation’s security.

Question: What about the spouses of military personal?

Answer: Spouses of U.S. citizen service members who are (or will be) deployed may be eligible for expedited naturalization in the United States under Section 319(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In general, an applicant for naturalization under section 319(b) of the INA must: Be age 18 or older; Establish that his or her U.S. citizen spouse is deployed abroad as a service member; Be present in the U.S. pursuant to a lawful admission for permanent residence (green card holder) at the time of examination on the naturalization application; Be present in the U.S. at the time of naturalization; Declare in good faith upon naturalization an intent to reside abroad with the U.S. citizen spouse and to reside in the U.S. immediately upon the citizen spouse’s termination of service abroad; Be able to read, write, and speak basic English;Have a basic knowledge of U.S. history and government (civics); and have been, and continue to be, a person of good moral character, attached to the principles of the U.S. Constitution and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the U.S. during all relevant periods under the law.

Thus, both the military personal and their families can have expedited applications.

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