I have a DREAM of enlisting in the U.S. military and becoming a U.S. citizen.
I came to the U.S when I was 3yrs old. I am now 18. I am undocumented and was wondering if I can join the military? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. However I’ve met a couple of people who where in the same situation as me once and they are now residents. What can I do?
The Immigration Answer Man:
Currently it is the policy of the U.S. military to only allow U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents to enlist in the military. There are a limited number of exceptions made where the foreign national has a rare skill so that it would be in the national interest to allow the person to enlist. However, officially these exceptions do not apply to undocumented foreign nationals.
Unofficially, some recruiters do allow undocumented foreign nationals to enlist either because the recruiter ignored the fact that they were undocumented or because the foreign national used fraudulent documents to enlist.
The immigration laws do allow for expedited naturalization for a foreign national that serves during a time of war, even if the foreign national is not a U.S. permanent resident. However the military often takes the stance that foreign national who lie to enlist should be dishonorably discharged and therefore are not eligible to naturalize. This results in mixed results with some foreign nationals receiving citizenship while others get deported, sometimes with other family members.
However there is some hope on the horizon. Congress is currently debating the DREAM Act, which has been added to the Defense Authorization Bill. If passed, the DREAM Act will allow for many young foreign nationals in your situation to qualify for a path toward legalization and U.S. citizenship, through service in the military or college graduation.
Even if the DREAM Act does not pass in this bill, there are many of us in the immigration community that are hopeful that eventually the DREAM Act will become a reality.