Can non-citizens join the military?
A common misconception that many Americans have today is that you must be a United States citizen in order to join the United States Military.
But is this actually true?
Nope! In fact, there are several ways in which non-citizens of the United States can join. In one of the most recent polls, it found that between 1999 and 2010, there were in fact 80,000 non-citizens who were active in the United States military! In fact, it is claimed that up to 3% of all United States military veterans are non-citizens. The most common countries that they hail from are Germany, Mexico, the Philippines, Haiti, India, and Canada. How cool is that, to know that so many foreign citizens love America so much that they are willing to give their all for this country. They too will proudly wear the military patches that so many other United States service members proudly wear.
But many of you might be wondering how this is actually even possible, if, for example, only citizens are allowed to vote in the United States elections?
To join the United States military, non-citizens must meet the following standards:
- They must be permanent legal residents of the United States of America.
- They must have already had permission to work legally in the United States of America.
- They must already have their I-551, otherwise known as a Permanent Residence Card.
- They must have at least a high school diploma, or equivalent thereof.
- They must be able to speak fluent English.
The United States military really cares for those non-citizens who love America enough to commit their lives and unwavering service to the country. It takes quite an extraordinary person to sacrifice their entire lives to a whole bunch of strangers! In return for these non-citizen’s services, the United States military has created a route for these individuals to become naturalized! To do this, they must meet the following criteria:
- Have showcased a good moral character which witnesses can testify to.
- Have a good sound knowledge of the English language, in which they are practically fluent in it.
- Knowledge of the United States government and history—which every citizen of the United States is required to know.
- Have a deep love and attachment for the United States and are willing to pledge their allegiance to the star-spangled flag and the Constitution.
- Have served honorably in the military for at least one year and have filed for naturalization within six months of beginning their military service.
- And, for those non-citizen military members who have fought honorably in wartime, they are given an immediate route to naturalization if they wish.
However, being a non-citizen in the United States military does not come without some problems and frustrations. Mainly, this is because non-citizens are not able to receive higher security clearances and are therefore not able to have as progressive of a military career as United States citizens can have. This means that if a non-citizen is wanting a job in the intelligence or nuclear divisions, their opportunities will be limited until they are naturalized. This also means that Special Ops teams like the Navy SEAL and EOD are reserved for citizens only, as they deal with some of the most classified information out there!
There has also been a lot of progress made over recent years with making it easier for non-citizens who serve in the United States military to become naturalized. This started with President George W. Bush signing an executive order in the 1990s to eliminate the need for a residency requirement. It was then followed up by his son in 2002 to expedite citizenship for any non-citizen who served honorably after the September 11 terrorist attacks.