Guaranteed US citizenship for non-US citizens after serving in the US military?

Recently, I’ve come across two instances where non-US citizens enlisted in the US military with what sounds like an absolute guarantee of being automatically granted US citizenship once they had done their time (on re-reading, I realize that sounds awfully similar to serving a prison sentence, but I’m sure you know what I mean).

Both of these instances were in the pretty remote past (Tibor Rubin in the early 50’s, and Dieter Dengler in the mid-60’s, both of whom, by the way, wound up being highly decorated).

Does such a policy still exist today?

I don’t have any personal experience but I have heard that it just helps these days but doesn’t guarantee anything. I was led to believe that it is just really good evidence that one should become a U.S. citizen but other negative factors could mitigate that.

It’s not quite as straightforward as an absolute guarantee of citizenship, but yes, under certain circumstances, U.S. military service leads to streamlined eligibility for naturalization.

Big emphasis on streamlined, noting that it is NOT a guarantee. As a former recuruiter, one of the things I had to do was explain the difference between “streamlined” and “guarantee” to people whom really wanted to find a sure thing. despite that it’s not guaranteed, there are still a sizable number of foriegn nationals serving. In the Navy, the big demographics were Filipinos and Latinos, but I’ve known Canadians, Danes, French, Irish, Scots and assorted other UK, and even a Russian (during the Cold War, no less!).

Service guarantees citizenship
Would you like to know more?

[sup]um…I know it’s not accurate, but I couldn’t resist…please don’t call me ignorant[/sup]

Thanks to all! Eva Luna’s link was especially helpful and really answered all my questions.

Jeez, I wish I were thirty years younger . . . and fit . . .


That movie rankled soooo badly. Unbelievable how far they got it wrong, from the book.

Citizenship isn’t a lottery. If you’re eligible, and you apply, and you fulfill all the requirements, you get it. Being in the military just changes two requirements a) there’s no application fee b) you need to have been a permanent resident for 3 years instead of 5.

OK, asked and answered, I know. But your post reminds me of a “commercial” (we are on AFN-Armed Forces Network here) I just saw last night with the enlisted guy going to apply for US citizenship, and the nice lady telling him about the no fee part of your post.


I hate that damn commercial. Hell, I hate all AFN commercials.
That is all.

Well fees are going up this week and it’s pushing $700 if I remember correctly.

When I was working at the County Veterans Service Office, I got a call from the spouse of a resident alien (non-citizen) who had received a letter from the INS stating that his application for citizenship was being denied, because he had failed to show up at a scheduled hearing. His wife explained that he had failed to show up because he was on active duty serving in the armed forces in Iraq. And that she had notified the INS that he would be unable to attend the hearing for that reason. She was very concerned about the denial, since he had been working for several years to get his citizenship.

I was rather upset about this whole thing, but the more experience people in the office told me not to worry about it. Just forward all the info to our Congressman’s office, and they will deal with it. (He happened to sit on the Armed Services Committee.) They said it happens not too infrequently, and the Congressman’s office will be able to straighten it all out.

I also understand that the US has been posthumously granting citizenship to service members killed in the line of duty.

If requested, yes. Also, their survivors get preferential treatment IRT citizenship.

Unless you serve on active duty in wartime (see p. 3 of .pdf):

“Section 329 of the Immigration & Nationality Act…gives the President the authority to proclaim that, when the nation is engaged in armed conflict, immigrants who are in the military can obtain their U.S. citizenship regardless of their length of residency or immigration status. Presidents have long invoked this statute to bestow citizenship benefits on immigrants in the military and President Bush did so on July 3, 2002, proclaiming that all immigrants who have served honorably on active duty in the armed forces after September 11, 2001, shall be elgible to apply for expedited U.S. citizenship. His order – which effectively meant that one day’s service on active duty would make an immigrant eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship – included undocumented immigrants. After the order was issued, many undocumented immigrants who had ended up in the military by accident or through the use of false documentation were able to naturalize, despite their lack of LPR [lawful permanent resident, i.e. green card holder] status.”

Never a dull moment in immigration law, let me tell you.

[bolding mine]

Which is, IMO, just as it should be. You risk your life and limb for the country, the country owes you.

Of course, they could still be prosecuted for violation of UCMJ Article 83, “Fraudulent Enlistment.”

Not the US Military, but if you serve in the French Foreign Legion for 3 years you can apply for French Citizenship. Similarly, if you’re in the FFL and wounded in combat, you’re also eligible for French Citizenship.

On another note, I didn’t realise non-citizens could serve in another country’s military (with the exception of the French and Spanish Foreign Legions); I always thought they’d be considered mercenaries.

They’re still airing that commercial? Ugh… (I’ve been out for a year and a half). Shouldn’t surprise me, though…there were still a handful of AFN commercials that I saw when I first got to Germany in 2002 that were still airing every once in a while when I left last May.

It used to be, that un-citizens could serve in the military but, (Army at least) could not be deployed overseas, and there were certain issues related to obtaining various levels of security clearance. I also noticed anecdotally that Canadians had a difficult/impossible time of gaining citizenship this way. (They are, after all, Canadians) Hm.

Not so long as they serve in a military belonging to a national government. Mercenaries are soldiers for hire, while foreign nationals serving in a nation’s armed forces are no more ‘for hire’ than citizens serving that force.