Trump Department of Defense Slows the Path to Citizenship for Military Members

ImmigrationBeginning Friday, October 13, 2017, expedited naturalization through Military service in the US Armed Forces is no longer available for certain foreign-born recruits.

In order to apply for expedited naturalization, a U.S. lawful permanent resident (green card holder) must obtain a “certification of honorable service.” Previously, green card holders were allowed to enlist and enter basic training while background checks were pending. The certification was then given after just one day of service in the Military.

The new policy change increases security vetting for all foreign-born recruits. The security clearance process will take over a year to complete and the Department of Defense estimates that approximately 30% of those enlisted in the military will fail the new, increased background checks. What’s more is the enlistee may not attend basic training until the background clearance is complete. Also, the new policy states that no certification of honorable service will be issued until he foreign-born recruit completes basic training plus 180 consecutive days of service in the Military or one year of service in the reserves.

For lawful permanent residents who enlisted in the Military prior to this change and received a certification of honorable service, but whose background checks are still pending, their certification will be revoked. This causes uncertainty about the future of their current military assignments.

The increased vetting of foreign-born recruits will result in two to three year delays in the naturalization of recruits based on military service.

On October 27, 2017, a U.S. federal judge heard arguments for a group of about 500 foreign-born reservists seeking an injunction of this new policy that revokes their previously-obtained military service certifications.

All of this is despite the fact that it has been shown that lawful permanent residents recruited into the military stay in the military longer than U.S.-born recruits, which is why the Military specifically began to recruit this demographic in the first place. Now, their status hangs in limbo.

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