Many immigrants to the U.S. join the military to serve their adopted country before they even become citizens. Many leave the military without even beginning the path to citizenship.
The Biden administration is working to do something about that. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is beginning the job of locating and contacting well over 100,000 vets to help them become naturalized citizens. This includes people who were not citizens at the time they left the military over the past two decades.
Regular outreach will be made to those who recently left the military
An official with the VA who’s leading this effort is himself a vet and a naturalized U.S. citizen. He says, “I want my brother and sister veterans to have the same opportunities that I had when I deployed.” He was a legal resident.
Further, the administration wants to “make sure our veterans who are transitioning have information to enable them to have all the benefits they will gain to become a U.S. citizen by naturalizing.” The VA plans to contact noncitizens who leave the military at designated intervals starting at 90 days and going up to a year after their separation.
Previously, members of the military used to be able to go through the process of becoming naturalized citizens while they were completing their basic training. Some military posts even had immigration offices on site. However, that ended during the previous administration.
Some deported vets are also being contacted
The VA is also contacting a number of vets who were deported after they got in trouble with the law. Many of the offenses occurred over a decade ago. Often, this involved drugs. The agency is offering to facilitate their application to return to the U.S., if they choose, and to restore their military benefits.
If you or a loved one is a military service member or veteran, it’s important to know that opportunities like this aren’t guaranteed because they aren’t codified into law. That means they could disappear again if a future administration decides to end them. Seeking legal guidance can help you navigate the process.