Immigrants in the Military
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The United States military is composed entirely of volunteers. While individuals are paid for their service, the decision join the military is entirely voluntary. The branches of the United States military include the Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and the Marines. In general each branch has different requirements for enlistment, but there are some standard requirements for all the branches. Only individuals who are U.S. citizens can become commissioned officers in the United States military. Those who are considered US citizens also include citizens of Puerto Rico, the Northern Marianas Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands. Non-citizens are eligible to enlist in the military but can not be commissioned. A non-citizen that is eligible to join the military must meet certain requirements: (1) Have an Alien Registration Receipt Card (stamped I-94 or I-551 Green card/INS Form 1-551), (2) Have a bona fide residence established, and (3) Have established a record of the U.S. as their home. Some non-citizens from countries with a reputation of hostility towards the U.S. may also require a waiver. The federal government cannot petition on behalf of an illegal immigrant so that they can obtain legal status and be able to enlist in the military. In order for an immigrant to join the United States military, they must first go through the
immigration process of the USCIS (previously known as the INS) and then and then begin the enlisting process. Another requirement is that the
Green Card and/or visa if the immigrant desiring to join the military must be valid for the entire period of their enlistment.
Being a U.S. citizen or legal immigrant of the United States is only one of the basic requirements to join the U.S. military. Applicants must also pass a physical exam. The military will take only those in relatively good health, but in certain cases the military may make some exceptions for some conditions and issue a waiver. In order to be considered for the military, applicants must obtain a minimum score on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test. Those entering any military branch must be a minimum of 17 years of age. However, at 17 the recruit is still considered a minor, so authorization of the recruit's parents or guardian must be obtained. The maximum age limit varies depending on the specific branch so it is recommended to check with the recruiters. The number of dependents a potential military recruit has is also another factor that is considered by all military branches. As a general rule, the Department of Defense does not allow an applicant that has more than two dependents to enlist in any branch. The U.S. military considers dependents to be: spouses, unmarried children under 18, unmarried adopted children under 18, stepchildren under 18 who reside at their home, and a parent or other individual who obtains more than half of their income from the applicant. At times, the military branches can override this requirement and issue a waiver but it is something that is not done often. The military applicant must be able to show that they can meet their financial obligations for the waiver to be granted. For the most part, single parents are not allowed to join the military. The only exception is made by the Army National Guard and the State Adjutant General must grant the waiver.
Applicants, including immigrants who wish to become part of the U.S. military, must meet minimal education requirements. The military branches usually require a high school diploma, but some exceptions are made. Each branch is only allowed to take a certain percentage of applicants without high school diplomas. However, this percentage is relatively small. In addition, those applicants without a high school diploma are required to score a minimum ASVAB score. Individuals who enlist in the military and are non-citizens, are limited to one service term. If non-citizens become U.S. citizens then they are permitted to reenlist. For an immigrant who joined the US. military, once they are in active duty status in the military, the process of going from a non-citizen to U.S. citizen can be expedited. It is important to note is that non-citizens, or immigrants, who enlist in the military will also have limited job choices. The Department of Defense (DOD) does not currently allow non-citizens in the military to take on job choices that require a security clearance. All branches of the U.S. military have slightly different requirements so check with the recruiters. With these considerations in mind, immigrants seeking to join the military are encouraged to speak with their local recruiter.