On April 28, 2020, the ACLU filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of non-citizen military members whose applications for naturalization are being wrongfully denied. The suit arose from a Department of Defense change in policy that now requires that military servicemen and women satisfy additional criteria including:
1. additional background screening;
2. pass a “military service suitability determination,” (which supposedly screens members to ensure they are not a security risk to the military); and
3. serve for a minimum of 180 days for active duty service members and one year for service members in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve,
before they may obtain the N-426, which is necessary to file for naturalization under the expedited process for members of the military.
Finally, the new process requires certification of the N-426 by the Secretary of the applicable service, or a commissioned officer of at least a particular pay grade designated by the Secretary to certify the N-426.
This burdensome process has resulted in a significantly prolonged process, increased denials and essentially takes away the expedited citizenship process that Congress intended for members of the military. Thousands of non-citizens are serving in the United States Armed Forces and denying them this significant benefit in exchange for their service is not only morally wrong, but also illegal.
The lawsuit is still in the beginning stages and the court has not yet ruled on whether the case will become a class action. This change in policy is illegal and contravenes Congress’s intent to provide military members an expedited means to become United States citizens. If you are or know an active duty member of the military who wishes to apply for naturalization, it is essential that you have competent legal representation who is fully aware of the ever-changing policies of this administration.
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