You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to join the U.S. military. However, you must immigrate first, under legal immigration procedures, before applying at any military recruiting office. And there are certain job and rank limitations for non-citizens in the military.
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Can You Join the Military as a Non-U.S. Citizen?

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You may not have grown up in a military lifestyle or even in the United States. In fact, you do not have to be a U.S. citizen to join the U.S. military. However, you must immigrate first, under legal immigration procedures, before applying at any military recruiting office. And there are certain job and rank limitations for non-citizens in the military.

JOIN THE MILITARY AS A NON-CITIZEN

Non-citizens must be permanently and legally living in the U.S. in order to enlist in the military. You must be a "legal permanent immigrant," with permission to work in the U.S. Tourist and Student Visas aren't acceptable for enlistment in the U.S. military. A prospective service member must have a valid I-551 (Permanent Residence Card).

PRIOR TO MILITARY APPLICATION

An applicant with expired Permanent Residence Card may still begin the enlistment process, after applying for renewal of their I-551 card. Proving that you're engaged in the renewal process involves obtaining an original receipt from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) proving payment for the renewal application - the I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident).

PRIOR TO MILITARY TRAINING

Non-citizen military applicants must have a valid I-551 card prior to the start of military training. Any I-551 card with an expiration date within 6 months of joining must be renewed and be valid for at least 6 months after the applicant's enlistment date.

LIMITS ON NON-CITIZEN RANKING AND JOBS

According to Federal Law, all U.S. military officers be must be U.S. citizens. Non-U.S. citizens may join the military as enlisted service members only, and will not have access to Officer or Warrant Officer ranking positions.

Some military jobs are also limited for non-citizens. For example, federal law prohibits granting security clearance to non-citizens, which excludes non-citizens from military assignments that require such security clearance. Non-citizens will initially be barred from these positions until obtaining U.S. citizenship.

ACCELERATED CITIZENSHIP

The civilian requirement for citizenship includes permanent immigrant status in the U.S. for at least five years. However, the military has an accelerated citizenship program which takes only about 10 months to complete.

Most applicants for accelerated citizenship apply after arrival at their first permanent duty station. Much of the process for accelerated citizenship requires you to be present on-site, which is more difficult during basic training or military job training.



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