How to Join the US Military as a Non-Citizen
General Military Questions

How to Join the US Military as a Non-Citizen

You may be wondering if it is possible to join the US Military as a non-citizen.

The answer to that question is yes!

You can join the US Military as a non-citizen, but there are some extra requirements that you may have to complete.

There also may be some restrictions as a non-citizen.

The basic requirements for enlisting if you are a non-citizen include having a current and valid permanent resident card (green card), currently living in the United States and having the ability to speak, read and write English fluently.

Why Would You Want to Join the Military as a Non-Citizen?

Joining the Military allows you to take part in something bigger than yourself.

In every branch of the Military, you will complete basic physical training and technical training that helps you become mentally and physically stronger.

The different branches of the Military provide technical training that directly relates to almost any civilian career position.

When you join the Military you will be provided with pay, insurance, paid sick-time, retirement, paid vacation and education tuition assistance.

The overall benefits that the Military offers are not available in most civilian positions.

As a non-citizen you will learn valuable tools to help you be successful in life.

 Related Article:  20 Reasons to Join the Military (and 7 reasons not to)

How to Join the Military

Each specific branch has different requirements.  See the details for each branch below:

US Army

US Military Foreigner
Enlisted Army Ptv. becomes US Citizen. Image: army.mil

General Requirements

To join the US Army you must be at least 17 with parental consent and 18 without.

You cannot be older than 34 years old.

Individuals must have a High School Diploma or GED.

In all branches of the Military having a GED requires you to test higher on the ASVAB and there are limited spaces available for GED holders.

To increase your chances of joining the Army or any other branch with a GED, take some college credits.

ASVAB

Individuals must meet the minimum score on the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test.

The ASVAB test measures knowledge in 10 different areas and can help the Army assess which jobs you would be suitable for.

For the Army, you must get at least a 31 on the ASVAB test with a High School Diploma.

Physical and Medical Requirements

To join the Army individuals must meet physical and medical requirements.

The medical examination will include height and weight measurements, hearing and vision examination, urine test, drug test, alcohol test, basic physical examination and other possible specialized tests.

The Army requires men to be between 5’0″ and 6’8″.

Women are required to be between 4’10” and 6’8″.

You must be in good physical condition.

Restrictions

OMK reached out to the US Army recruiting office in Olympia, Washington to see if there were any specific restrictions for non-US citizens.

Here’s what they had to say:

An individual who joins the US Army as a non-citizen cannot hold a position as a police officer or any position that requires them to hold intelligence that is not public knowledge. That is the only restriction besides what is already mentioned in the article.

How to Join

To join the Army you will first take the ASVAB test.

You then have to pass an Army physical and meet with a career counselor to discuss/accept your job.

After taking the Oath of Enlistment, you will go to Basic Combat Training.

You can visit the Army website here to find ASVAB testing locations, how to reach out to a recruiter and more about the requirements.

US Navy

General Requirements

To serve as an enlisted sailor you must be at least 17 with parental consent and 39 or younger.

Individuals must have a High School Diploma or GED.

As a non-citizen, you must have entered the country on a permanent visa or have an Alien Registration Green Card.

As a non-citizen you must have established a bona-fide residence and established a home of record in the United States.

You cannot serve as a Navy Officer if you are not a U.S. Citizen.

The Navy will allow you to join if you are a single parent but will generally not allow you to enlist or join if you have more than two dependents under 18.

Depending on the Navy job, you may have to pass a credit check as well.

 Related Article: Navy Enlisted And Officer Ranks And Pay 

ASVAB

While each specific job varies on the required ASVAB score, the minimum requirement to join the Navy is 35 with a High School Diploma.

Physical and Medical Requirements

Under the physical and medical requirements is the zero tolerance drug/alcohol policy.

Individuals will be required to take a urine test and answer questions regarding prior use.

The Navy will complete a medical and physical check.

They will also complete a legal check that will look at traffic history, criminal history and citizen status.

The Navy has a minimum service commitment that changes based on position, but is generally 4 years.

Restrictions

OMK got in touch with the US Navy recruiting office to see if there were any restrictions for foreigners, here’s what they had to say:

The only restriction is not being able to have a top secret clearance or officer positions.

How to Join the Navy

The Navy lists the first step to joining as meeting with a recruiter.

After you have discussed your options with a recruiter, they list discussing your decision with friends and family.

You will then work with your recruiter to fill out an application.

Going to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) will be the next step.

During this time individuals will take a vocational aptitude test, medical exam, background, career counseling, job selection and their enlistment or commissioning oath.

Once all test are passed you will begin your training.

You can find more information on how to join the navy, where to contact a local recruiter and the requirements on the Navy website here.

US Marine Corps

General Requirements

You must be at least 17 years old at the time of enlistment and less than 29 by the start of training.

Individuals must be able to provide proof of legal residency (Green Card).

You must have a High School Diploma. 

Similar to other Military Branches, non-citizens can enlist into the Marines but cannot be in an officer position.

ASVAB

To enlist in the Marine Corps you must get a minimum score of 35 on the ASVAB test with a High School Diploma.

Physical and Medical Requirements

Marines are required to complete a series of physical tests.

Men and women have different requirements when it comes to completing the exams.

Physical tests include:

  • Physical Fitness Test-Push up or Pull-ups, crunches and a timed run. 
  • Combat Fitness Test-Movement to Contact (sprint test), Ammunition Lift, and Maneuver Under Fire (course with different elements).

Enlisted Marines have 3 contract options that include set amounts for the number of active and inactive years.

 Related Article:  Marine Corps Height And Weight Standards

Restrictions

Just like with the other branches of the US Military, OMK got in touch with a Marine Corps recruiter regarding any specific restrictions for non citizens.

The only restriction they noted was that they cannot hold a position that requires a top-secret clearance.

How to Join the Marines

First you must meet the requirements and pass the ASVAB test.

After talking with a recruiter, you will be required to pass the Military Entrance Processing Station medical exam.

When you have completed all medical exams you will be required to meet the physical requirements.

You can find more information and ways to contact a recruiter on the Marines website here

US Air Force

Military Non-Citizen
US Air Force Trainee takes Oath of Citizenship. Image: jbsa.mil

General Requirements

For general enlistment, you must be between 17 and 39 years old.

You must have a High School Diploma or GED.

The Air Force has strict height and weight requirements (found here).

The Air Force also has strict vision requirements.

You cannot have vision worse than + or – 8.0 and this may be more strict for specific positions.

The Air Force allows individuals who are non-citizens to join as long as they have a Green Card or Visa. 

They do have a limited number of these spots and require more than 2 years of eligibility remaining prior to Green Card or Visa expiration.

You must be able to speak, read and write English fluently.

Air Force does not allow non-citizens to hold an Officer position.

ASVAB

To join the Air Force you must get at least a 31 on the ASVAB test with a High School Diploma.

Physical and Medical Requirements

You will be required to complete both physical and medical exams when you make an appointment at a Military Entrance Processing Station.

The physical and moral standards of the Air Force will also be tested.

Restrictions

The only restrictions that were mentioned by the Air Force recruiter were that non US citizens joining the Air Force cannot be an officer.

How to Join the Air Force

The first step to joining the Air Force is to contact a recruiter or apply on the website.

A recruiter will get you set up with taking the ASVAB test.

After passing the ASVAB test you will be taken for MEPS processing.

During this time your skills will be evaluated and your job will be chosen.

After completing all entry processing, you will go into the Delayed Entry Program before leaving for Basic Military Training.

Air Force requirements can be found here.

Coast Guard

General Requirements

You must be a U.S. citizen or Resident Alien in order to join the Coast Guard.

The age range is 17-31, (17 with parental consent).

You must have a High School Diploma.

GEDs are only accepted in special circumstances.

The Coast Guard is a small branch and does not accept all applicants.

However, the rule for non-citizens is the same for Coast Guard as it is for other branches.

You must have a Green Card and be able to speak, read and write English fluently.

ASVAB

The ASVAB testing requirements are higher for Coast Guard and change depending on the position you choose.

Physical and Medical Requirements

Physical testing requirements vary between men and women, but include timed push-ups, sit-ups, 1.5 mile run and swim circuit.

The medical entry exam is the basic military entrance medical exam.

You will have to complete a physical exam as well.

 Related Article:  Coast Guard Height And Weight Requirements

Restrictions

OMK got in touch with the Coast Guard recruiting office in Vancouver, WA about any potential restrictions.

Here’s what they had to say:

Restrictions on certain ability to get certain ranks because you will not be able to get the security clearance. The green card has to be good for the duration of the entire 4 year enlistment. You cannot renew it in the middle. Also, you must work towards your citizenship within that 4 years or you cannot re-enlist. You can only join for the 4 year enlistment as a non-citizen.

How to Join the Coast Guard

To join the Coast Guard you can call a recruiter office or fill out their application form on their website.

After speaking with a recruiter, you will be asked to take the ASVAB test.

Based on your score, you will be placed into a job and asked to complete all of the medical and physical examinations.

You will then head to training.

Visit the Coast Guard FAQ page here to find more information on how to join and requirements,

General FAQ

Can I join the military if I’m an illegal immigrant?

At this time, under no circumstances can you join any branch of the US military if you’re an illegal immigrant (aka undocumented immigrants).

With that said, there is currently a bill in the US House of Representatives addressing just that.

Called the ‘Enlist Act’, the bill proposes the authorization of illegal immigrants to enlist in the US military under certain conditions.

Those conditions include:

  • Persons who have been unlawfully and continuously present in the US since December 31, 2012
  • Were younger than 15 years old when they initially entered the US
  • Are otherwise eligible for original enlistment in a regular component of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard

We’ll update this article continuously on whether or not the bill passes legislation.

Can DACA join the military?

Under the current rules now, it’s not possible.

This is related to the question above, as DACA recipients who want to join the military are having a hard time doing so.

As previously mentioned, the ‘Enlist Act’ aims to change all of that.

Conclusion

Can Non-Citizens Join Military
US Military Academy graduates toss hats during ceremonies. Image: flickr

Meeting the requirements and successfully completing training for the US Military is something to be proud of and something to celebrate.

Being a non-citizen will not stop you from joining and hopefully participating in that celebration some day.

There are restrictions on the number of non-citizen recruits taken and positions that non-citizen recruits can hold.

In order to join as a non-citizen you must establish a residence and have a valid United States and Immigration Services Alien Registration Card USCIS Form I-151/551 (Green Card).

At all points of registering and testing you must be honest about your immigration status.

Outside of providing documentation that supports your immigration status, signing up for the different branches of the Military for a non-citizen is the same as a citizen.

References

Usa.gov 

Army Requirements

Navy Requirements

Marine Corps Requirements

Air Force Requirements

Coast Guard Requirements

Rob V.
Rob V.
Rob V. is the founder of OperationMilitaryKids.org. While he never actually served in the US Military, he has a passion for writing about military related topics. Born and raised in Woodbridge, NJ, he graduated from the New Jersey Institute Of Technology with an MBA in eCommerce. His hobbies include beach volleyball, target shooting, and lifting. Rob is also a commercially rated pilot with over 1,500 hours of flight time.

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