The Coast Guard has updated its naturalization-through-service policy to align with federal legislation. The updated policy sets clear guidance for members of the Coast Guard who have a Permanent Resident Card (Green Card) and have served or are serving in the war on terrorism and wish to obtain U.S. citizenship.
Coast Guard members holding Green Cards may seek naturalization under U.S. law for serving during the war on terrorism, Sept. 11, 2001, to present. A member who previously served may qualify if they served honorably for at least one year during a designated period of conflict, and if separated, were separated for honorable reasons. After service, they must have been legally admitted as a permanent resident of the United States, or during their service, they must have been physically present in the United States or a qualifying area.
If a member has been separated for over six months before applying for naturalization, they must also meet certain residence requirements in the United States.
For Lt. Nicholas Sach of the Coast Guard Recruiting Command Incident Management Team (CGRC-IMT), this policy change has personal meaning. While serving in the U.S. Air Force in 2007, Sach used the Air Force’s process to obtain citizenship.
The military naturalization policy made all the difference, Sach reflected. It streamlined the process of acquiring citizenship, reducing processing time from years to seven or eight months. “It was a very seamless experience,” he noted. “I hope this helps many more people in the Coast Guard experience the excitement of becoming a citizen.”
This change will open new doors to members who want to hold enforcement and cyber positions, or earn a commission, as Green Card holders cannot obtain the necessary security clearance to serve in such roles. It will also allow Green Card-holding members of the service to re-enlist. And this path to citizenship will allow the Coast Guard to harness members’ cultural, technical, and language skills.
Sach urges any Green Card holders in the Coast Guard to take advantage of this policy change and “immediately apply for citizenship.” All fees are waived for naturalization for military members, he added.
The authority to certify honorable service of non-U.S. citizen members of the service sits with Capt. Jonathan Carter, Enlisted Personnel Management (EPM) division chief, for active duty members or Capt. Mike Batchelder, Reserve Personnel Management (RPM) division chief, for reservists.
How to apply
Non-U.S. citizen Coast Guard members need to be certified by EPM or RPM division chiefs. To start the process for themselves and their families, individual members should complete U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Forms N-400 and N-426. Both can be submitted through the chain of command to either EPM or RPM based on the applicant’s status.
Reservists who have limited or no access to standard Coast Guard workstations should mail applications to:
COMMANDER PERSONNEL SERVICE CENTER
ATTN: PSC-BOPS-C, US COAST GUARD
2703 MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AVE SE
WASHINGTON, DC 20593-7200
Members who are mailing applications are encouraged to send them by certified or tracked mail to avoid processing issues. CG PSC-EPM and CG PSC-RPM are authorized to certify honorable service on Form N-426. If honorable service is certified, CG PSC-EPM or CG PSC-RPM should forward the completed N-400 and N-426 Forms to PSC-BOPS-MR for final administrative review; that office should then forward the forms to USCIS. You may access the USCIS application forms here. For more information, please visit the USCIS website.
If you have any questions, please contact the Office of Military Personnel Policy (CG-133).