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U.S. citizenship available to immigrants through military program

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There are a variety of paths to becoming a U.S. citizen, but for some immigrants, the process can take many years, even as much as a decade. Certain programs offer a fast track to U.S. citizenship, and immigrants in the Maryland and Virginia area may be interested to hear that the Pentagon has recently reinstituted such a program that has lain dormant for over two years.

The details of the measure provide that immigrants can become naturalized in a matter of months by joining the military. There are a number of caveats and restrictions, however. Most importantly, illegal immigrants are precluded from entering the program. In addition, applicants must be high school graduates, must pass an entrance exam and must have been residing in the U.S. for two years or more.

Although a high school diploma is the minimal educational requirement, the military is looking for immigrant doctors specializing in surgery, dentistry and psychology. But medical professionals are not the only ones encouraged to apply. Native speakers of in-demand languages, such as Tamil, Persian Dari and Portuguese, among others, are being sought for the program.

Once immigrants complete the approximately 10-week-long basic military training course, most can become naturalized citizens. But the program requires that immigrants serve in the military for specified lengths of time; if they fail to do so they can have their citizenship revoked. Immigrants accepted because of their language abilities must serve on active duty for at least four years. Immigrants who work in health care must serve on active duty for three years or on reserve duty for six.

It is important to note that the program's time window is narrow and the number of immigrants who can be accepted is small. The Pentagon has slated the program to run for two years, and up to 1,500 immigrants can be accepted each year. But for those who meet the criteria and desire to serve in the military, this program can provide a path to naturalized citizenship that many immigrants desire.

Source: The New York Times, "Pentagon Reopens Program Allowing Immigrants With Special Skills to Enlist," Julia Preston, Oct. 27, 2012

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