When members of the Hotel Company, 2nd Recruit Training Battalion, participated in their boot camp graduation ceremony last month, ten of these recruits had something else to smile about: they were being sworn in as U.S. citizens as well.
It's a little known fact to many immigrants in New York and beyond, but those serving in the armed forces may immediately file for citizenship. This was made possible by the law passed by former President George W. Bush who authorized this new pathway to citizenship after the tragedies on September 11, 2001. In 2009, the Army established a program that would allow immigrants the ability to become citizens when they graduated from basic training. And much like the Marines had been doing, in 2010, the Navy followed suit.
It's important to point out that these are not the only branches of the military that allow for expedited citizenship. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Air Force, Coast Guard, certain parts of the National Guard and the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserves can also qualify.
As many immigrants in New York will tell you, the path to naturalization can be long and cumbersome, filled with copious amounts of paperwork and months of waiting. And because of increasing violence and poverty in other countries, this may be months of time many immigrants don't have. As many of the recruits from the Hotel Company explained, coming to America was a chance at a better life. By serving in the armed forces, they not only had a chance to gain citizenship but help protect a country that will hopefully give them so much more in return.
Source: USA Today, "Marines become U.S. citizens at boot camp," Gina Harkins, Feb. 5, 2013