As an immigrant and military spouse I recognize how hard and complex it can be to navigate the US immigration system. Sometimes it is hard to discern and make sense of it all – and I have a law degree, have studied constitutional law and have been a student of US immigration law and process by necessity over the last eight years. This article was first written in 2017, and has been updated a number of times (including in January 2021).
In January 2016, I shared a relatively hastily written post on our public facebook page on Saturday morning, which was shared over 180 times and seen by well over 25,000 people. My own immigration experience is something I have periodically documented here over the last seven years – when I first wrote this article I was a legal permanent resident, and the spouse of an active duty service member. Now I am a US citizen and the spouse of an active duty service member.
I believe there will be will be immigration reform under the Biden Administration, but what that looks like remains to be seen. Let me be crystal clear, I am 100% in support of the safety and security of the USA, and have a personal vested interest in the safety of US service members, but the system is unnecessarily convoluted at present.
Things are continuing to change rapidly and so i encourage you to seek out reputable sources and double check everything. Bearing in mind what I can do right now and that this is about seeking to be constructive: here is a summary of some resources for military families seeking advice, assistance, and information about immigration matters.
While we are on the topic, Esposas Miltares Hispanas USA Armed Forces – is an amazing organization, founded by Janet Sanchez who provide support to many military connected immigrants, especially spanish speakers. So too, the Foreign Military Spouse Association is a place to connect with others going through similar experiences.
USCIS: United States Citizenship & Immigration Services
These are the pages specific to the USCIS website that deal with military connected immigration and immigrants. You will also find all forms for free on the website. Do not pay anyone for a copy of these forms.
USCIS has established a toll-free military help line, 1-877-CIS-4MIL (1-877-247-4645), exclusively for members of the military and their families. USCIS customer service specialists are available to answer calls Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. (CST), excluding federal holidays. More information can be found here: https://www.uscis.gov/military/military-help-line
Note that while they can answer questions about:
Tracking their Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.
Notifying USCIS of a new mailing address or duty station.
Checking the status of any other application or petition.
Bringing a spouse, fiancé, or adopted child to the United States.
Obtaining posthumous citizenship for a deceased member of the U.S. Armed Forces.
Submitting an application for expedited processing.
They cannot help with I-751 Removal of Conditions. You have to call the main USCIS line for any questions to do with removal of conditions petitions.
Military Families and US Immigration
One of the best military resources is the US Navy Immigration and Naturalization page. It explains the process of applying for naturalization as a service member, and the process of legally bringing a non-us born spouse into the US as an active duty service member.
- Check List for Application for Naturalization based upon Military Service
- PSD Checklist
- Cover Letter for Facilitated Military Application for Naturalization, Form N400
- Fingerprint Scheduling NATZ letter
- Immigration and Naturalization 8 USCS 1101-1537
- NAVADMIN 113/08
- U.S. Navy Guide to Naturalization Applications Based upon Qualifying Military Service (8 U.S.C. 1439 and 1440)
This article from Migration Policy details some striking statistics about the numbers of foreign born and naturalized Americans serving in the US Armed Forces: as at February 2008, this number was upwards of 65,000.
Be mindful that you update your contact information when you PCS, and know that where you are stationed will determine where you have your citizenship oath. For example, while my interviews for removal of conditions and citizenship were done at the El Paso, Tx field office, my citizenship ceremony was in Las Cruces, NM because my spouse had orders to a NM base.
Marriage in overseas commands has its own guidance. USAF AFI 36-2609 provides guidance for USAF service members seeking to marry outside of the USA.
US Service members and Dependents are able to participate in naturalization ceremonies that take place on military bases. For the United States Navy, the Regional Legal Service Office organizes and liaises with USCIS for those service members and dependents who wish to participate in an on base ceremony. For those near San Diego, For further information on attending a military naturalization oath ceremony or applying for naturalization, please call (619) 556-6322. Approximately 8% of active duty Navy service members are foreign-born or naturalized US citizens.
Non-military organizations that may provide support and assistance
American Families United – a general 501(c)(4) non profit that advocates for those who have had their families separated as a consequence of rulings by USCIS.
CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations) – https://www.cair.com/ – An advocacy organization who can assist those seeking immigration advocacy, support, and information
AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association) – The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) is the national association of more than 14,000 attorneys and law professors who practice and teach immigration law. AILA member attorneys represent U.S. families seeking permanent residence for close family members, as well as U.S. businesses seeking talent from the global marketplace. AILA members also represent foreign students, entertainers, athletes, and asylum seekers, often on a pro bono basis. Founded in 1946, AILA is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that provides continuing legal education, information, professional services, and expertise through its 39 chapters and over 50 national committees.
Please feel free to comment with additional immigration related resources for military families and service members!
For more resources see: Directory Guide to Resources for Military Families and Military Veterans
Anna Blanch Rabe & Associates LLC is not a law firm and the general information on this page should not be taken as legal advice. Seek independent legal advice for your circumstances.