Can Non-Citizens Join the Military?

Answers to your questions about the news.
July 7 2000 12:26 PM

Can Non-Citizens Join the Military?

During the July 4 Op Sail ceremonies in New York Harbor, President Clinton was introduced by a recently naturalized Honduran who serves in the U.S. Navy. How do non-citizens join the U.S. armed forces, and how many have?

Advertisement

Permanent residents are required to register with the Selective Service System and could be drafted were the draft reinstated. They may enlist in any of the military branches if they meet the requirements (i.e., age, height, health, moral character). The Marine Corps and the Navy can enlist non-citizens who don't have permanent-resident status, but they currently don't as a matter of policy. An obscure law allows the Navy to enlist 400 Filipinos a year.

Last year 8,465 non-citizens enlisted in the U.S. armed forces (4.6 percent of total enlistments). Currently, 28,591 non-citizens are on active duty (2.5 percent of active duty forces).

The rules for re-enlistment of permanent residents vary from military branch to military branch. The Air Force allows non-citizens to enlist for one term only; they must become citizens to re-enlist. The Army allows non-citizens to re-enlist and serve for a total of eight years. The Marine Corps and the Navy permit non-citizens to re-enlist indefinitely. However, non-citizens are limited to military occupations that do not require security clearance because of the difficulty of conducting background checks on them.

There is a long history of non-citizens' serving in the armed forces. Immigrants made up one quarter of the Union Army during the Civil War.

By enlisting in the armed forces, non-citizens can speed up the citizenship process. It usually takes five years for a permanent resident to become a citizen, but military personnel can become naturalized in only three years, or even less if they serve during wartime.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

An Iranian Woman Was Sentenced to Death for Killing Her Alleged Rapist. Can Activists Save Her?

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Women’s Sports Show

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now, at Least.

Behold
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 AM An Up-Close Look at the U.S.–Mexico Border
  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 1 2014 12:20 PM Don’t Expect Hong Kong’s Protests to Spread to the Mainland
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
  Life
The Eye
Oct. 1 2014 1:04 PM An Architectural Crusade Against the Tyranny of Straight Lines
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 2:08 PM We Need to Talk: Terrible Name, Good Show
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Oct. 1 2014 1:53 PM Slate Superfest East How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 2:24 PM The New Interstellar Trailer Is the Most Exciting Yet
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 2:26 PM The Apple Graveyard Leave a flower for a dead Apple product.
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 2:36 PM Climate Science Is Settled Enough The Wall Street Journal’s fresh face of climate inaction.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.