In July 2002, President George W. Bush issued an Executive Order invoking Section 329 of the Immigration & Nationality Act, which allows persons in the United States military to earn their US citizenship on an expedited basis if they serve honorably in wartime.  President Bush’s order, which is still in effect, was retroactive to September 11, 2001.  Under the Executive Order and its corresponding statute, there is no minimum period of lawful permanent residence required before a military member may apply for American citizenship, if the person has served after September 11, 2001.  If the person obtains US citizenship through military service and fails to serve honorably for five years, however, the Department of Homeland Security can try to revoke the person’s US citizenship.

As a result of the Executive Order and the ongoing conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, and in cooperation with the Department of Defense, United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) began its Basic Training Initiative.  Under this initiative, qualified military recruits are naturalized as American citizens when they graduate from military basic training.  The USCIS initiative began with the Army in 2009, and was then extended to the Navy and (most recently) the Air Force; the Marine Corps is not yet participating.  All active duty military members, as well as National Guard and Reserve members undergoing basic training, are eligible to participate.

Basic training naturalizations were common in prior wars, including World War II and the Vietnam War, and it makes sense that USCIS would make them possible in today’s conflict as well.  Basic training naturalizations save the government money, reduce potential legal problems for military personnel, and ensure compliance with the Military Citizenship Processing Act, a 2008 law that mandates the quick processing of military naturalization applications.