Non-citizens serving the U.S. Armed Forces can be traced far back into America's history. Half of all the recruits in the 1840s were immigrants, says the Migration Information Source, and over a million made up the Union Army during the Civil War. A great number still serve this country today. The guidelines and allowances for recruitment of non-citizens differ from branch to branch. However, when it comes to the matter of security clearance, the rules are the same for every branch.
Non-citizens don't need security clearance in order to join the military – not because it isn't required, but because non-citizens don't qualify for security clearance positions, says Slate. A Federal law prohibits permanent residents from gaining security clearance because of the difficulty of conducting thorough background checks. This law is lifted, however, once the non-citizen becomes naturalized into the U.S., and one big advantage of joining the military is the expedited naturalization process.
Qualifying for citizenship while a member of the military falls into two categories: during peacetime and during times of hostility, according to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. During peacetime, the guidelines include: being 18 or older, having honorably served at least one year in the Armed Forces or having received an honorable discharge, understanding written and spoken English, having a working knowledge of U.S. history and politics, and having an admiration for the contents of the U.S. Constitution. The five-year residency term is waived if you apply while still serving in the military. During periods of hostility, non-citizens only have to serve honorably for one day to qualify for citizenship. The above guidelines also apply with the exception that there is no minimum age limit.
Security Clearance Eligibility
Once you've been naturalized, you may consider applying for positions that require security clearance. The application process involves a thorough investigation of your background, your character and your political affiliations, says Military.com. Your ties with your home country and whether you have sympathies for a foreign government will be examined. Expressing a preference for your home country will also raise questions. These concerns can be mitigated, however, if you still have family members in another country and are willing to renounce dual citizenship, unless it's based entirely on your parents' birth on foreign soil.
How to Apply
You must first be offered a position requiring security clearance before you can apply for it, says Military.com. The fill out the security questionnaire, usually a Standard Form 86. After you've turned in the forms, criminal and background checks are run, and you'll be interviewed by an investigator. The examination is quite thorough. Your friends, relatives, neighbors and former employers will be contacted. Even law enforcement officials in the towns you've lived in will be contacted. Once all the findings are weighed, the decision to grant or deny your clearance will be made. The entire process takes about 90 days.
- Migration Information Source: Immigrants in the U.S. Armed Forces
- U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services: Citizenship for Military Members
- Navy CyberSpace: Citizenship Requirements for Enlistment
- Military.com: Eligibility Guidelines for Gaining Security Clearance
- Military.com: Simple Steps to Gaining Security Clearance
- Slate: Can Non-Citizens Join the Military?
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images