The path to U.S. citizenship has become much easier for Vermont immigrants currently serving in the United States Army and Navy thanks to recent changes in longstanding policies governing basic training.
Specifically, both military branches have now granted recruits access to federal immigration officers during boot camp, meaning they can potentially complete the rather rigorous citizenship process – fingerprints, photos, interviews, tests and application examinations – while they are stationed here in the U.S. as opposed to being stationed abroad.
Previously, neither the Army nor the Navy allowed visitors of any kind during basic training.
This change in policy is significant because while on deployment, soldiers or sailors are often located far from U.S. embassies and forced to manage complex bureaucratic issues (excessive paperwork, lost files, etc.) on their own.
“We had soldiers serving in the war, and they were trying to deal with a lengthy citizenship process, and deal with that while we were deploying,” said Lt. Col. Brian Hernandez, who witnessed problems among some of the soldiers serving under his command in Iraq.
The Army officially began allowing immigration officers onto its basic training sites (Fort Leonard (MO); Fort Sill (OK); Fort Benning (GA); and Fort Knox (KY)) towards the end of 2009, while the Navy started allowing them onto its lone training facility (Naval Station Great Lakes) in 2010.
Last year, roughly 1,000 sailors and soldiers completed the citizenship process at these basic training facilities, while nearly 660 have done so this year.
In order to qualify for citizenship via military service, recruits must be legal immigrants and meet all of the standard qualifications. In fact, they are given no extra time to study for their citizenship exams during basic training – a daunting task considering the 12 to 16 hours days of training, exercise and class time.
(If a recruit does pass their citizenship test, they must then complete five years of honorable service.)
Despite these rigorous requirements, military recruits are eager to become U.S. citizens
“The moment the Soviet Union broke up, I decided America was the place for me to be,” said Spec. Rima Rusnac, a native of Moldova who recently took her oath of citizenship and is now going to Fort Sam Houston for training as a combat medic. “In America, I can exercise my full potential and be free.”
Due to the continued complexity of immigration laws with respect to naturalization and the exposure to facing a denial of this petition, it is critical to speak with a legal professional who has extensive specialized knowledge and experience in immigration law in Vermont.
Stay tuned for further updates from our Los Angeles County immigration law blog …
This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.