Military Discharge- Interpretation Being Expanded to Benefit Those
Applying for Citizenship!
Dev B. Viswanath, Esq.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced that the agency is publishing an update to its Policy Manual to clarify that a current or former service member who received an uncharacterized discharge may be eligible for naturalization under sections 328 and 329 of the Immigration and Naturalization Act (INA).
This is a huge boon for so many people who are foreign born but who joined the military to serve the United States, but for a variety of reasons, were unable to complete their service or were not granted Honorable Discharge. This doesn’t mean that everyone will benefit, but certainly thousands of people who were previously thought to be ineligible for citizenship.
Previously, USCIS had interpreted the requirement for a separation “under honorable conditions” in INA 328 and INA 329 to require a separation characterized as either Honorable or General-Under Honorable Conditions. This policy guidance changes the USCIS interpretation of “under honorable conditions” to encompass Uncharacterized discharges as well as Honorable and General-Under Honorable Conditions discharges.
Military service is a noble and dedicated way to serve the United States. However, because of rules, regulations, and the strict regiment of how the culture of the military is, many people find it impossible to complete the minimum time required in service. Sometimes they must leave service on their own accord without official permission, which is a requirement of the military. You cannot just quit.
This interpretation aligns with a Department of Defense instruction on the interpretation of discharges and with a recent district court decision. This guidance will be effective upon publication of the Policy Manual update and will apply to all pending and future applications. The USCIS has stated that applicants whom USCIS previously denied can submit a new application without fee. However, please be advised that USCIS processing is very much like an assembly line and if the workers that intake applications do not see a fee attached, the case may be rejected for lack of fee. So people should keep that in mind when making their decision.
If you or a loved one are foreign born and have applied or want to apply for US citizenship, please do research the matter and speak to a qualified US immigration attorney for the best advice and approach.