Written by Thomas Goering, NCCM USN(RET)
Published: February 2, 2011
Updated: July 11, 2018
Only U.S. citizens, U.S. non-citizen nationals, Canadian-born North American Indians, and aliens lawfully admitted for permanent residence are considered “citizenship eligible” for enlistment in the U.S. Navy or Navy Reserve.
Proof of citizenship is one of the Basic Enlistment Eligibility Requirements (BEERs). Exceptions exist for citizens from the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau. This post lists the various status’ and documents required for enlistment based on a consolidation of current Navy instructions and publications.
A described, some legally documented non-U.S. citizens and immigrant aliens can join the military, they may not be enlisted into any job or program that will require a security clearance, but will afforded all the same military pay, allowances and benefits of U.S. citizen serving in the same billet (rank, location, assignment, etc.). If you claim dual citizenship (U.S. citizenship and citizenship in any other country), you are eligible for enlistment, but you will not be classified into any rating/program requiring a security clearance. You may be considered for entry into ratings/programs requiring a security clearance only upon official renouncement of your non-US citizenship.
Employers can sponsor immigrants that allow them to obtain a visa to lawfully enter and work in the United States, but the U.S. Navy cannot provide such sponsorship. To be clear, Recruiters may not offer to sponsor any alien seeking admission as a lawful permanent resident by citing the Navy as the prospective employer.
The United States Navy Recruiting Station that was once located in the Philippines was closed on December 31, 1992 — it was at the same time that the military base agreement with the Philippines ended. Since that time, Filipinos who were not United States citizens has had to meet the same citizenship requirements as any other foreign national.
Note: Effective, October 13, 2017, all Non United States Citizen (Green Card holders, etc.) MUST have their initial background investigation completed before leaving for boot-camp. Those already in the delayed entry program whose investigation is not yet completed may be rolled out to a new date to allow enough time for its completion.
Verification of Citizenship
You must demonstrate citizenship eligibility for enlistment by providing recruiters official citizenship documents. Your Recruiter must sight the original citizenship verification documents which will be photocopied, and certified as copies of the original document. The certified copies will be placed in your service record and MEPS residual file. Your original documents should be immediately returned to you.
Citizens of the United States include citizens of Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Northern Marianas Islands. For persons born in the geographical United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, or the Northern Marianas Islands a valid birth certificate issued by a civil authority establishes U.S. citizenship.
A birth certificate must meet all of the following criteria to be considered valid:
- Full Name – First, Last, and Middle Name(s). Birth records must have your complete first and last names. Birth records without a middle name or where the middle name is represented by an initial are acceptable.
- Birth Date. All birth certificates must include the date of birth.
- Birthplace. State, County and/or City. Some birth records do not list the birthplace city or town. These records are adequate so long as they list the county, province or State of birth.
- Birth Record Validation. A birth record must bear appropriate validation markings for use as primary verification evidence. The government agency or hospital may accomplish authentication or certification with original or machine-produced signatures or raised, impressed, embossed, or multicolored seals or stamps, or a combination of these. Any one combination of these official validation methods is acceptable.
Note 1: Hospital birth certificates signed by a hospital administrator or physician and short form birth verification cards issued by vital statistics offices, with or without raised, impressed, embossed, or multicolored seals or stamps are acceptable for enlistment.
Note 2: A birth certificate where the middle name is omitted, represented by the abbreviation “NMN” or other notation to signify that no middle name exists, or is represented by initials, is acceptable for enlistment.
Note 3: Birth certificate issued with “Baby Boy” or “Baby Girl” instead of a given name is not valid for enlistment purposes.
Report of Birth Abroad of a US Citizen (FS 240) or Certification of Report of Birth Abroad (DS 1350).
If you were born of U.S. parent(s) outside the geographical United States, a valid FS 240 or DS 1350 issued by the Department of State establishes your U.S. citizenship.
Certification of Birth Abroad (FS 545).
If you were born of U.S. parent(s) outside the geographical United States, a valid FS 545 issued by a U.S. foreign service post establishes your U.S. citizenship.
A current (unexpired) U.S. Passport issued by the Secretary of State would establish your U.S. citizenship; however, if you were born abroad of U.S. parents you will be required to provide additional birth verification documents to verify status as a U.S. citizen at your birth.
Naturalization Certificate (USCIS N-550/N-551/N-570) or Certificate of Citizenship (USCIS N-560/N-561).
A valid Naturalization Certificate or Certificate of Citizenship issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) establishes your enlistment eligibility as a naturalized citizen of the United States.
A current (unexpired) U.S. Passport issued by the Secretary of State can be used to establish your eligibility as a naturalized citizen.
U.S. Non-Citizen National.
Non-citizen nationals of the United States are the inhabitants of Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, and Swains Island, which are outlying possessions of the United States. If you are a person who, though not a citizen of the United States, owe permanent allegiance to the United States. Although lacking certain privileges of U.S. citizenship such as voting and holding office in the U. S., you are in other respects entitled to enjoy U.S. diplomatic protection abroad and free entry into the United States under the same conditions as U.S. citizens.
Valid Birth Certificate Issued by a Civil Authority.
If you were born in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, or Swains Island, a valid birth certificate (with raised seal) issued by the government of Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa or Swains Island would establish your eligibility as a United States Non-Citizen National.
A current (unexpired) passport issued by the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. Department of State issues U.S. passports to natives of the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa and Swains Island. The passport would establish your identity as a U.S. non-citizen national.
Canadian Born Native American Indian.
A Canadian-born North American Indian with a minimum of 50% quantum of Indian blood.
Long Form Canadian Birth Certificate with Tribal Letter Card
Tribal letter or card must be issued by a valid band, tribe or nation and must indicate a minimum of 50% quantum North American Indian blood.
Unexpired USCIS Form I-551.
A properly documented USCIS Form I-551 could be used to document your status as a Canadian Born Native American Indian.
Note: Canadian born North American Indians are not required to have a current address or home of record in the United States.
Non U.S. Citizen (Permanent Resident Alien)
Whereas a legal permanent resident alien non-citizen is eligible to join the military, you would be restricted from jobs and programs that require security clearance.
Permanent Resident Card (USCIS I-551).
Possession of an unexpired, properly documented USCIS I-551 card, issued on or after your 14th birthday would deem you citizenship eligible for enlistment. You must be accessed onto active duty (go to boot camp) or be reported as a Reserve Component gain prior to the expiration date of your USCIS I-551.
WARNING: Permanent resident aliens must be accessed onto active duty or reported as a Reserve Component gain prior to the expiration date on their USCIS I-551. Shipping or gaining a permanent resident alien without a valid unexpired USCIS I-551 card in his or her possession is prohibited.
Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement (SAVE) Program. The SAVE program is used by NAVCRUITCOM (N35) to verify an alien’s immigration status based upon USCIS documents and information provided by applicants/recruiters. The SAVE program is used only for applicants who have lost their Permanent Resident Card (USCIS I-551) and require a replacement card. A SAVE program printout obtained from NAVCRUITCOM (N35) can be used to process the applicant for DEP enlistment only. A new USCIS I-551 must be obtained prior to shipping any Future Sailor DEPped with a SAVE printout.
Conditional Resident Aliens
Conditional resident aliens are identified by possessing USCIS I-551 cards that expire two years from the date of issuance. If you are in a “conditional” permanent resident alien status based upon your marriage to a United States citizen, you are eligible to DEP and leave for boot camp provided your marital status does not change prior to leaving for boot camp. If before leaving for boot camp, you become legally separated, divorced, or you are unable to locate your spouse, you would no longer enlistment eligible because you would be subject to the potential loss of legal residency status that could lead to deportation. In such cases, you may become enlistment eligible upon USCIS issuance of a standard USCIS I-551 card with an expiration date ten years from the date of issuance.
The United States government established a Compact of Free Association with the government of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau, which in part, gives their citizens the right to freely enter into the United States for work and to establish residency. Citizens of the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, or the Republic of Palau are eligible to enlist. All other aliens admitted temporarily into the United States for specific purposes or periods of time as nonimmigrant aliens are ineligible for enlistment.
Valid Birth Certificate
If you have a valid birth certificate, with a raised seal, issued by a civil authority of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or Republic of Palau, you would be citizenship eligible to enlist.
A current (unexpired) passport issued by the government of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or Republic of Palau establishes non-immigrant alien eligibility.
Information current with Change 1 of COMNAVCRUITCOMINST 1130.8K released July 1, 2016.