US citizenship out of reach for some immigrant service members

There are many active duty men and women assigned to one of several military bases in Louisiana. But contrary to what some might believe about the United States Armed Forces, not all of the people serving are U.S. citizens. Immigrants can not only serve in the military, but their service can also set them on a path toward citizenship. Unfortunately, some service members say that the Department of Defense is restricting — and even blocking — that path.

According to U.S. law, noncitizens who serve in the military during times of armed conflict can become naturalized citizens soon after entering service. In the past, noncitizen service members simply had to submit the N-426 form to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service. The N-426 form certifies someone’s honorable service in the military.

According to a class action lawsuit, the DOD has effectively blocked that path toward citizenship by implementing a much more difficult process in 2017. A noncitizen serving in the military today must go through a lengthy background check for possible ties to terrorist organizations, pass the military service suitability determination process and serve for a longer period of time before he or she can get the N-426 certification. That is 180 days for someone who is active duty, and a year for those in the Reserves.

The lawsuit also claims that service members who have been blocked from getting citizenship end up in a place of professional and personal uncertainty.  Uncertainty is unfortunately the current situation for a lot of immigrants in Louisiana. Although it might feel demoralizing to be in this position, speaking with a knowledgeable attorney may help someone better understand his or her options for U.S. citizenship.