Exploring Military Enlistment Opportunities for Green Card Holders

aipassportphoto.com / 2023-09-05

The United States government has established certain criteria for non-citizens who wish to join the armed forces. These criteria are applicable only if the individual's home country has a special agreement with the United States. 

If you are a non-citizen with a strong desire to serve in the US military, your first step is to obtain a Green Card. Once you have obtained this legal status, you can proceed with the application process to join one of the branches of the military. 

It is important to note, however, that non-citizens do not enjoy the same privileges as US citizens when it comes to military service. Non-citizens are ineligible for security clearance and cannot hold higher-ranking positions within the military. 

For many individuals, obtaining permanent resident status and joining the military is a significant step towards achieving US citizenship. However, it is crucial to understand that both military service and US citizenship require a deep sense of responsibility and unwavering commitment to the United States. 

According to the US Nationality Act, serving honorably in the armed forces can potentially qualify non-citizens for citizenship. Active duty military members who hold permanent resident status receive priority in the citizenship application process compared to civilian applicants. They are eligible to begin their naturalization process after just one year of service, while others may have to wait up to five years.

Who is eligible to join the military as a permanent resident?

While legal non-citizens have the opportunity to enlist in the military, not everyone qualifies. Individuals from countries that are deemed hostile to US interests may face challenges and require a waiver.

The list of countries considered hostile includes well-known nations such as China, North Korea, Russia, and Iran. However, it is essential to conduct thorough research to determine if your country is included.

Being a Green Card holder does not automatically grant you the ability to join the US armed forces. 

Certain requirements must be met, including:

  • 1. Residency in the US.
  • 2. Proficiency in English, including reading, writing, and speaking fluently.
  • 3. Age between 17 and 35 (applies to regular Army, army reserves, and the National Guard).
  • 4. Good overall health.
  • 5. Possession of a high school diploma (a GED may be acceptable in some cases).
  • 6. Successful completion of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
  • 7. If aspiring to become an officer, a college degree is necessary.
  • 8. A clean criminal record.

In cases where disqualification is based on health or criminal record, minor issues may be eligible for a waiver. However, there is no guarantee that a waiver will be granted, and requesting one does not incur additional costs.

Additional Requirements for Permanent Residents Enlisting in the Armed Forces

Ensuring the validity of your permanent resident card is crucial when considering joining the armed forces. It is imperative to be aware of its expiration date, as well as take immediate action if it is lost or damaged. In such cases, it is mandatory to submit an application for a new card prior to enlisting.

When initiating the process of renewing your Green Card, patience is necessary. After applying, you will need to await the original receipt from the USCIS, serving as proof of payment for Form I-90, which is the application for replacing your permanent resident status. To be eligible for military enlistment, your Green Card must remain valid for at least six months beyond your enlistment date.

It is important to note that joining the US military is only possible after immigrating to the United States. Therefore, completing the immigration process is a prerequisite before applying to serve in the armed forces.

How to Obtain Permanent Residency in the United States?

If you're considering living and working in the United States, there are various pathways to acquiring a Green Card, or lawful permanent residency. Whether it's through employment, a family member, marriage to a US citizen, or as a refugee, there are several categories that may make you eligible for permanent residency. For a comprehensive list of qualifications, you can visit the USCIS website.

Required Documentation for Permanent Residency Application

While each category may require different USCIS forms for adjusting status, there are certain documents that are commonly requested for all permanent residency applications. These include a birth certificate, marriage certificate, proof of your sponsor's US citizenship or permanent residence, financial documents, current or expired US visa, a medical exam document, and two Green Card photos.

Limitations for Military Green Card Holders

If you hold a Green Card in the military, there are certain limitations to be aware of. You are not allowed to re-enlist, and you are ineligible for security clearance or overseas assignments. Additionally, non-citizens cannot pursue advanced training to become Intelligence Specialists or members of special operations until their US citizenship application is processed and approved.

Naturalization for Military Members under the US Nationality Act

Under the US Nationality Act of 1940, legal non-citizen immigrants have the opportunity to gain citizenship through naturalization. Military or naval service members, including those in the Air Force, Space Force, Marine Corps, Navy, Coast Guard, or Army, can become US citizens as part of their military service. The eligibility depends on whether they served during a time of peace or hostility.

If you served honorably in the US armed forces for at least a year during peacetime, you may qualify for naturalization based on US citizenship under the INA 328. Similarly, if you served honorably during a designated period of armed conflict (INA 329), you may also be eligible for naturalized US citizenship.

Applying for Permanent Residency and Citizenship in the Military

If you plan to pursue a military career in the US, it is necessary to apply for permanent resident status first. If you are already a permanent resident and an active duty military service member, you may consider applying for citizenship in the near future. In either case, passport photos will be required for your application.

Nowadays, taking passport photos has become easier with the help of online tools like AiPassportPhoto. This app features an AI system to ensure that your photo meets the requirements of the official government organization. With numerous positive reviews, AiPassportPhoto offers 100% refund guarantee if your photo is not accepted.

You can take your passport photos conveniently from home using the AiPassportPhoto app, available for download on Google Play or the App Store. 

Conclusion: Joining the Military as a Permanent Resident

Contrary to popular belief, US citizenship is not a requirement for serving in the US armed forces. Lawful permanent residents are also eligible to become service members, although their opportunities may be limited until their citizenship application process is complete. If you are determined to pursue a career in the military, you may find it to be a rewarding path with numerous immigration benefits as a permanent resident service member.


1. Can you obtain a Green Card through the military?

No, you cannot obtain a Green Card through the military. You must acquire one before enlisting in the US armed forces. However, non-citizen service members may be eligible to apply for naturalized citizenship.

2. Can non-citizens join the military?

Yes, non-citizens can join the US armed forces, but they must be permanent residents.

Make US Green Card Photo
Make US Green Card Photo