can an immigrant join the army

Can An Immigrant Join The Army In The United States? [2023 Updated]

Can an immigrant join the Army? You do not have to be a U.S. citizen to enlist in the Army but you need to meet some requirements. Read this post to know more.

March 5, 2022

Can an immigrant join the Army? You do not have to be a US citizen to join the Army, but you must meet certain requirements. More information can be found in this post.

Since 2001, over 120,000 immigrant military personnel have become citizens of the United States. Immigrants who serve in the military in the United States have deep historical roots. Non-citizens have served in and alongside the United States Armed Forces since the Revolutionary War.

According to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service, thousands of non-citizens join the military each year (USCIS). Naturalization through military service is a legal way to increase recruitment while also granting citizenship to immigrants.

If you want to join the US Army, you don’t have to be a citizen of the US, but you must live in the country. You cannot join the military if you are not a permanent resident of the United States, also known as a green-card holder. Enlisting with a green card used to be a quick way to full citizenship, but the requirements have changed as of February 2018.

Can an immigrant join the Army?

Military service is voluntary for both citizens and documented immigrants. Each branch of the military has its own set of recruitment criteria, however, there are several that apply to all branches.

One of these requirements is that only U.S. citizens can become commissioned officers or serve in occupations in the US military that require special security clearances.

Note: Non-citizens with proper documentation may enroll in the military. Once they have gained citizenship, they can also become commissioned officers.

Citizens of Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the United States Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Marshall Islands are all eligible to join the military (as long as they are citizens of those territories, republics, or states).

To be eligible to join the military, a non-citizen must complete specified qualifications. They must have an I-551 green card or a valid foreign passport with the words “processed for I-551” printed on it.

For joining the military, an immigrant must first complete the USCIS (formerly known as the INS, or Immigration and Naturalization Services) immigration process before beginning the enlisting process.

The individual wishing to join the military must have a valid green card and/or visa for the duration of their enrollment.

A USCIS representative is present in most military facilities to explain and assist with the administrative process of applying for citizenship.

Non-citizens from nations with a history of hostility against the United States may be required to get a waiver. The federal government cannot file a petition on behalf of an unauthorized immigrant seeking legal status and military service.

Single Term Enlistments (Until Naturalized)

Non-citizens who enroll in the military are only allowed to serve for one year. Non-citizens serving in the military can reenlist if they become citizens of the United States.

Once an immigrant has joined the United States military and is on active service, the process of becoming a citizen can be accelerated. In peacetime, non-citizens must serve for a period of 12 months before applying for citizenship.

Can foreigners join the US military?

can an immigrant join the army

The green card

Foreigners who desire to live in the United States have a variety of alternatives under American immigration law. The Permanent Resident Card (Green Card), as the name indicates, allows you to live and work in the United States indefinitely. You can apply at a U.S. consulate while you are abroad or after you are in the United States. To win your card, you must fall into one of the following categories:

  • You are a U.S. citizen’s relative
  • You’re a hard worker with exceptional skills. Unskilled laborers are welcome to apply, but they will be given a lower priority
  • You’re a political asylum seeker
  • You’ve been a victim of human abuse or trafficking.

All of the alternatives are available on the US Citizenship and Immigration Service’s website. A sponsor is usually required to file a petition for permanent residence status. More forms, an interview, photographs, and fingerprints are all part of the application procedure.

Can you join the military without a Green Card?

A green card by itself does not entitle you to serve in the United States Army. You must reside in the United States and be fluent in English (speaking, reading, and writing). You must also satisfy the following prerequisites, which apply to all Army recruits:

  • You must be at least 17 years old and no more than 35 years old. This is valid for the regular Army, reserves, and National Guard
  • Your health must be in good condition
  • You have a high school diploma, however, you may join the military with a GED
  • You must pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam. You can prepare for your ASVAB test by using our free ASVAB practice tests on this website.
  • If you desire to be an officer, you must have completed your education.

You can ask the Army to waive a disqualifying condition, such as health issues or a criminal record. There is no assurance that you will be granted a waiver, but there is no charge for requesting one.

Limitations on Non-citizens

can an immigrant join the army

Enlisting in the US Army as a noncitizen can expedite your path to full citizenship. Until you become a citizen, your military career is restricted. You won’t be able to re-enlist, acquire a security clearance, or be considered for overseas missions if you aren’t a citizen. Military service waives some of the requirements for citizenship in the United States: If you are stationed overseas, for example, you do not need to be physically present in the United States.

Since 9/11, more than 100,000 foreigners have become citizens after serving in the military. Military regulation, as of February 2018, has put a halt to the process, requiring more thorough background checks and longer clearance timeframes. A background check, which may take up to a year or more, is required before recruits can begin basic training. Enrollment may become more difficult than it was a few years ago unless the policy changes.


Can I join the army with asylum?

To be qualified for the MAVNI program, applicants must be among the following immigration statuses or have approved stays in the United States at the time of recruitment in the United States armed forces: Asylee; Refugee; Temporary Protected Status (TPS) Recipient.

Can an illegal immigrant join the U.S. Army?

As mentioned above, the short answer is No.

How to join US military without a green card?

A foreign citizen wishing to join the military needs to be legal resident of the United States and be able to submit a passport, I-94 card, I-797 form, job permission document, or any other government-issued documents demonstrating legal presence.

So, can an immigrant join the Army? YES, but those who wish to join must first meet certain requirements and obtain a Green Card in order to become a permanent residents of the United States. Between 2013 and 2018, over 44,000 non-citizens joined the US Armed Forces. The military benefits greatly from the service of its foreign-born personnel. Non-citizen recruiters are more diverse than citizen recruits in terms of race, ethnicity, linguistics, and culture. Given the military’s expanding global mission, this variety is especially important.

    Author Details
    image author
    Marvin Shaw - ASVAB-Prep Writer

    Marvin Shaw is a homeschooling high school teacher and an ASVAB tutor. He's one of the creators of our ASVAB question collection. With his broad knowledge and a big love for the U.S. military, he's mentored hundreds of students to successfully enter the military.

    check-iconFact Checked

    Fighting the spread of false information on the Internet is a top priority to me. All of my content is edited by a professional and fact checked by an external fact-checking service.

    Fact-checking is a procedure that verifies information in order to ensure the accuracy and authenticity of reporting. Fact-checking can be undertaken before or after the publication. Internal fact-checking is performed in-house by the publisher; external fact-checking is performed by a third party.