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Since September 2001 and the first part of the 2011 fiscal year, some 68,974 members of all military service branches have been sworn in as United States citizens. The citizenship process usually followed several tours of duty and took up to five years to achieve. Not any more. The army and navy have added citizenship classes to their boot camps.
Fighting multiple wars and active in other countries, the military is desperate for people with language skills other than English. It means a change in a no-visitors policy during boot camp, to allow federal immigration officers access to the recruits. But military officials say it’s a well-deserved break for volunteers who otherwise would have to slog through the bureaucratic ordeal during deployments around the world, often far from U.S. embassies.
The military route is not a short-cut for foreigners abroad to get into the U.S. Only legal immigrants can apply, officials stress, and they must complete five years of honorable service or chance having their citizenship revoked.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, helped speed up citizenship for military recruits. President George W. Bush signed an executive order allowing a more compressed time frame because the nation was in a “period of hostilities.” Before the change, military members had to serve one year of honorable service to even begin the sometimes-lengthy process of applying.
At the height of Roman power, 2,000 years ago, the Roman military recruited personnel from the countries they were occupying. The soldiers were rewarded with citizenship after their service to Rome.
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