Can Military Members and Veterans Face Deportation?

Contrary to what many people believe, members of the U.S. armed forces can face deportation, even after they return from an overseas deployment. Though joining the military can sometimes present ways to hasten the citizenship process, those who serve as non-citizens may find themselves subject to complex, inconsistent and even unclear immigration laws.


U.S. engagement in the Middle East led many immigrants to sign up to serve in the armed forces. For some veterans, returning home from an overseas conflict meant facing intricate citizenship issues, including deportation. Unlike earlier years, immigration laws have changed so that naturalization is no longer a component of the military’s basic training. This means that U.S. immigrants from a variety of countries enlisted and served overseas with only a green card.

Further, in recent years, the government has become increasingly stringent with deporting active duty, veteran and civilian immigrants, especially those individuals who are deemed to be involved in illegal activities. In fact, there are small communities of veterans in Mexico who have found themselves expelled from the U.S.


It is increasingly important for active duty and veteran members of the armed forces to understand their rights when it comes to deportation as well as becoming a citizen of the United States. If you are or were a member of the military, there are opportunities to become a citizen that may be at your disposal. First, U.S. immigration laws allow soldiers who hold a green card and served in any branch of the military for one year to apply for citizenship. This is true even if the soldier was not deployed or if the year of military experience was served in months that were not consecutive.

Additionally, soldiers who have enlisted on U.S. soil and honorably served overseas in conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf War or Operation Enduring Freedom are allowed to apply for citizenship. Soldiers who meet this criteria can file their application for citizenship even if they do not possess a green card and are considered undocumented immigrants by U.S. legal standards. If you served in an overseas conflict and do have a green card, it may be possible for you to accelerate the citizenship process.

While there are opportunities for active duty and veteran soldiers to become U.S. citizens, immigration laws pertaining to members of the armed forces can be complex, and are always subject to government changes. Similarly, many veterans are not made aware of their rights or the potential for deportation.

If you are facing potential removal from the United States, it is important to contact a skilled immigration lawyer.

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