Pentagon Restarts Fast Path to Citizenship

Federal immigration law provides several paths to naturalization, including derivatively (children become U.S. citizens when their parents are naturalized), acquired (when a child is born in the U.S.), or through the green card/LPR process. Recently, some immigrants have been able to obtain naturalization by enlisting in the military.

According to a report from The New York Times, “[l]ate last month, the Pentagon reopened a program to recruit legal immigrants with special language and medical skills, which was active for a year in 2009 but was suspended in January 2010.” Thousands of immigrants are eagerly attempting to enlist in the American military despite a high likelihood of being sent into some of the more dangerous combat zones. Most of these immigrant-enrollees will be placed in the U.S. Army.

Interestingly, the Pentagon has commented on the pool of applicants as being an “unusually well-educated and skilled cohort.” Out of the thousands that apply for this selective opportunity, only about 1,500 are admitted to the military. The military is selecting more educated immigrants with special skills.

According to Pentagon spokeswoman, Eileen Lainez, the program has been waiting to fill critical needs created by the wars. “This time around, the Army is looking for dentists and surgeons, and for psychology professionals to help with the severe emotional strains soldiers have undergone in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Because of all the language barriers slowing progress on various military missions, the military has a strong demand for native speakers of 44 languages ranging from Persian Dari to Cambodian-Khmer.

Enlisting and being accepted into the military comes with many benefits for immigrants. The program allows immigrants with temporary visas to be eligible to enlist in the program. Most importantly, after 10 weeks of basic training, the immigrants may be eligible for a “fast-track” naturalization process. Those who travel to the U.S. through more conventional means would usually have to wait years before they were able to become citizens. With the option of enlisting, the process becomes fast and much less complicated.

Despite some criticism of the program from officials after the 2009 shooting in Fort Hood, TX, the program has been renewed with a new layer of screenings being implemented. The new diagnostics that were applied have shown “On average, immigrants who enlisted in the Army language program scored 17 points higher (on a scale of 99) than other applicants on an entrance test, said Capt. Carol Stahl, who manages the program for the Army. One-third of the first class of recruits had master’s degrees or higher.” The immigrants that are accepted are some of the most highly educated officials in the military and have the opportunity to rise within the ranks of the military.

If you have questions regarding naturalization or how this new procedure might help expedite your case, please call 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page.