Some countries have an option of obtaining citizenship when you enlist as a foreign mercenary or soldier. For some countries you will need to be a permanent resident first (like the United states armed forces), for others you can sign up for enlistment or military service from abroad without being physically present.
Below we will list some of the most well known cases of naturalization after military service:
United States armed forces
The United States offers naturalization through military service. You may be eligible to apply for naturalization if you served honorably in the United States armed forces for at least one year at any time.
While some general naturalization criteria are applicable under INA 328, others may be waived or lowered. To establish eligibility under INA 328 and apply to become a U.S. citizen, you must do the following:
Conditions to become a u.s citizen:
- Be at least 18 years old;
- You must have served honorably in the United States armed forces for a period or periods totaling at least one year;
- At the time of filing your N-400, you must have submitted a completed Form N-426, Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service (PDF, 418.02 KB).
- Show that if you were separated from service, you were never separated except under honorable circumstances;
- At the time of your naturalization interview, you must be a lawful permanent resident.
- Meet certain requirements for residence and physical presence;
- Unless qualified for a waiver or exception, demonstrate the ability to read, write, and speak English; demonstrate understanding of US history and government, unless excluded;
- Demonstrate good moral character for at least five years prior to filing your N-400 until the day you naturalize; and
- Unless waived, you must demonstrate an attachment to the ideals of the United States Constitution and be well inclined to the good order and happiness of the United States during all relevant periods under the law.
Many military bases have a USCIS or citizenship and immigration services liaison who can assist you with the U.S. military naturalization application process. These liaisons are usually attached to a specific office (such as your installation’s community service center, DOS family liaison office, or Judge Advocate General’s office).
On the Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service form, you have to request your chain of command to confirm your honorable military service so you can apply to become a U.S. citizen.
If you have previously separated from the United States Armed Forces or military police, you must still submit a completed Form N-426, although it may be uncertified. For all periods of service, you must additionally submit a photocopy of your DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, NGB Form 22, National Guard Report of Separation and Record of Service, or other official discharge document.
France legionnaire forces – the French Foreign Legion
According to the official website of the French Foreign Legion:
A foreign legionnaire can apply for French nationality after three years of service. If he serves well, he will be entitled to a residence permit at first, the nationality will be given to him conditionally. This is generally granted, subject to having a good way of serving and having proven its willingness to integrate into the French Nation.
Step 1: Complete the requirements
You just completed your third year in the French Foreign Legion. Good. You have the right to apply for French citizenship, but you must also meet certain requirements, such as:
- You are serving under your true name.
- Having to pay taxes (3 years at least)
- You must have at least 18 months left on your contract at the time you apply.
Step 2: After your third year of duty in the French Foreign Legion, applying for citizenship
After three years of service, you have the right to petition for French citizenship. The first step in the procedure is to submit an official request to your unit commander.
It usually takes between 1 and 4 weeks for him to receive you. It depends on the curriculum of the unit, therefore don’t ask for a report before going for a two-month field deployment. He’ll run out of time. Try to make your request when you know your unit will be staying in the regiment for a few weeks.
Normally, if you have a clean penalty sheet, the captain will give you the go-ahead to begin the process. Following your request, the company’s secretariat (bureau major) will provide you with a list of documents based on your family situation.
Step 3: The checklist
The less convoluted your family situation, the fewer paperwork you’ll need, and the simpler the process.
For example, a single person with no children will have to present fewer documents than someone who has three children from two separate women and has been divorced twice.
It’s even easier for men from the European Union because birth certificates are usually given in French as well. It saves time while others look for an official translator.
If you predict your need with ideal timing, the procedure can become much faster. When I went on vacation, I gathered everything they requested and began the process as soon as I returned home.
Step 4: the decision of the General
Once you have everything, a secretariat employee verifies your paperwork and accepts your files if everything is in order.
They summarize your years in the French Foreign Legion on a page so that you can gain French citizenship after having served honorably. This brief statement will describe how well you served your country throughout the years, so it’s an excellent starting place if you’ve previously completed at least one overseas assignment.
The last piece of documentation you’ll require right now will be from the general, commandant of the French Foreign Legion. If he agrees to your request, you’re on your road to becoming a French citizen.
Unfortunately, the most difficult phase comes when your dossier is finished and you have no choice but to wait. Your paperwork can be delayed, etc.
Step 5: travel from Aubagne to Nantes.
In most cases, once your documents arrive in Aubagne, they merely check that everything is in order before sending a large box of folders to Nantes. You will have to wait a few months until your name appears in the Journal Officiel and you become a French citizen by bloodshed.
How long does French citizenship take for a Legionnaire?
Applying after three years of service is doable, but difficult. Several circumstances can cause your application to be delayed by months:
- When you finish your third year in the Legion, you may or may not be assigned to a regiment.
- The unit commander fails to meet you on time.
- You are unable to give your documents quickly enough.
- The secretariat does not instantly send your data to Aubagne.
If all of these things take too long, you won’t have 18 months left on your initial contract and you won’t be able to meet the requirements. Your demand will be immediately denied.
If you join the French Foreign Legion solely to obtain a French passport, you will most likely be required to stay for more than 5 years. The FFL’s goal is to keep legionnaires in its ranks for at least 7 years, as this is how the system stays lucrative. The commanders are not dumb, and they understand how much becoming French means to some people.
If you did not obtain French citizenship during your first five years and do not wish to remain in France, you may still apply through the civilian naturalization route. It usually takes twice as long as if you started the procedure in the Legion, but it is still an option.
For people who want to reside in France, having French papers might make life much easier (or even elsewhere in Europe). This is why the process is obscure, yet it is still simpler than applying as a civilian.
Russian Citizenship after enlistment
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a regulation making it simpler for foreigners to get Russian citizenship if they join the army and sign up for military service in Russia.
According to the bill:
“foreign citizens who signed a contract on service in the Russian Armed Forces, army or military formations for at least a year will be able to obtain citizenship of Russia under a simplified procedure without obtaining a residence permit”.
Military service for at least 1 year
The expedited application procedure will be available to “foreign citizens or stateless persons who sign a contract to serve in the Russian Armed Forces in active duty… for at least one year and participate in military service for at least six months,” according to the regulation.
According to the existing legislation, foreign citizens should serve in the army under contract for at least three years.
Applicants can sign up for military or naval service in Russia and after active duty and honorable service, they would be eligible for Russian citizenship.
Foreign service members who are injured in action and are unable to return to the battlefield will also be eligible, according to immigration services.
The decree comes more than a week after Putin declared the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers to boost Moscow’s army in Ukraine, which has recently experienced defeats, notably in the country’s east.
Do you have to be a lawful permanent resident first?
As far as the new nationality act goes, it does not specify is permanent residency in Russia is needed first. However, the regulation seems to be aimed at thousands of people of ex-Soviet Central Asian countries who live and work in Russia and earn higher wages than their underdeveloped home countries.
Any lawful permanent resident from those countries would be granted citizenship after serving in the armed forces and completing their military service.
Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan are four of the five countries that have recently asked their nationals not to join foreign forces as military members, but technically any nationality could apply to become a service member (with the exception of Ukrainians, most likely).
Fast track naturalization process
According to the latest directives, wives, children, and parents of foreigners who sign a contract with the army as military members will also be able to profit from easier access to Russian nationality, and other immigration benefits.
Close relatives of foreigners who die while serving in the ranks of the Russian military forces can also apply for and gain Russian citizenship through a simplified procedure.
Foreigners who sign contracts for active duty status and military service in the Russian armed forces for at least one year and then spend at least six months in military operations in armed conflict zones during which they are seriously wounded will be eligible to obtain Russian citizenship in a simplified and expedited manner, according to the decree to simplify the naturalization process.
According to the order, the naturalization process necessitates the registration of fingerprints, and applications for citizenship must be processed within three months.