I just want to share my experience with anyone who might have any questions regarding becoming Naturalized through the military. Be advised though, I am sharing this experience based on Army National Guard process, not sure if other branches are similar.
tl/dr: I was able to become a US Citizen through military service before I even went to bootcamp for my initial training.
Quick summary about me: I came to the US as an 8-year old child with a Tourist Visa. We ultimately overstayed, and I grew up undocumented and didn't have any sort of work permit until DACA came about. I was on DACA from its inception until October of 2018 when I adjusted status through marriage with a US citizen. We got married in December 2017, I applied for AOS in March 2018, and got approved for my conditional residence card in October 2018.
Right after receiving my green card, I began looking into joining the military. My first choice was the Air Force National Guard, but then I found out that Air Force does not allow conditional green card holders to enlist, so that was off the table.
My second choice was the Navy Reserves. I was working with a recruiter who ultimately transferred offices, so I was getting bounced around to different recruiters. I then found out that the Navy wasn't too interested in working with me because I was going to need a medical waiver for a fractured bone surgery I had. Thus, since it was going to take a lot of paperwork, no recruiters wanted to take my file.
After a few months of not seeing any movement, I begin the process of enlisting into the Army National Guard. My recruiter was great and she worked endlessly with me through the process and submitted the appropriate paperwork required. She was the one who told me the reason why the Navy kept switching me to different recruiters. Overall, because of the medical waiver I needed it took me a little more than a year to enlist. I started the process in July of 2019 and enlisted and got sworn in on October 2020.
Now, one of the differences between NG and other branches is that in the NG your contract starts the day you enlist because you automatically enlist into the Army NG. You do not get put into a Delayed Entrance Program (DEP), nor do you have to sign an additional contract the day you actually ship to bootcamp. Your service date is the day you sing the contract. This is important to getting your citizenship.
Prior to me enlisting in October, I had submitted my I-751 in July of 2020, so ultimately the day I enlisted I had an expired green card. But, as long as you have the extension letter, the Army still allows you to enlist.
So in order to apply for Naturalization through military service, you are required to submit USCIS Form N-426 (Request for Certification of Military or Naval Service). This form needs to be certified by an officer of your branch with the rank of O-6 or higher. Prior to the Trump administration (not getting political here, just stating information, so please let's not get political), military members were able to get their N-426 certified while in bootcamp, and will ultimately gain citizenship once graduated from bootcamp. In October 2017, a memo was released that put new restrictions on N-426 certification requests. The memo now stated that in order for a military member to get their N-426 certified, they had to have completed 6 months of active duty service or 1 year of reserve service. This memo was ultimately struck down in court and the time in service requirements were removed.
When I enlisted, the court had just struck down the time in service requirements. In addition, the National Guard Bureau sent out a memo stating that National Guard soldiers were able to request N-426 certification while in Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP). As I mentioned earlier, the National Guard does not put you in DEP prior to shipping. Your service starts the day you enlist because you are required to attend RSP drills prior to shipping to bootcamp. This constitutes military service and thus why the National Guard allows certification of N-426 even before completing bootcamp.
Upon finding out about this memo, I got with my recruiter and asked her to send up the N-426 to an O-6 (Colonel in the Army). At first, she did not want to help me send it up and was adamant that I could not apply for citizenship until after I had completed BCT and AIT. I respectfully pushed her to send up the form and she ultimately decided on sending it. I made the second request to her in early December. In January, she gave me the news and emailed me the N-426 certified and signed by an O-6. The same day I received the certification, I submitted my N-400.
Application was submitted on January 12, 2021 and I received the receipt notice that same day. The next day after, I took a trip to my local ASC to submit fingerprints. USCIS allows military personnel to submit biometrics without an appointment. Hence, you are able to walk in with your military card, and your case number and you are supposed to be allowed to take the fingerprints. Now, this is easier said than done. My local office would not allow me to go inside because I did not have an appointment. I kept telling the security guard that the USCIS allows and even tried to show him the source, but he was adamant that I couldn't. In the end, I left, took a trip to my other nearest ASC and was able to get my biometrics there, no issues whatsoever.
On February 19, I was scheduled an interview for March 30th. Being that I still had a pending I-751, I received an interview noticed for both my N-400 and my I-751 for the same day and time. The letter did say to bring my spouse.
March 30th came about, and the process was smooth and easy. The officer called me in and my wife was going to come along. The officer told my wife to wait outside and that she couldn't come in. I then respectfully told him that the interview notice said my wife must come. He said this was not needed as he was doing an interview for my N-400 only. Since I applied based on military service, my I-751 was not required to be approved and thus there was no need to continue that application.
So then I went in, took my reading test, then writing test, and then the civics test. Once I passed all that, we went over my N-400 application, made a few changes to it, he asked if I wanted a name change to which I said yes to, and I was asked the yes/no questions. He did ask me to define certain terms of the N-400 application to make sure I understood what I was putting yes or no to.
Once the yes/no questions were done, he gave me my approval notice and told me to go downstairs to take my oath. After the oath, I was given my certificate of naturalization with my new name, as well as the certification of name change stapled to the certificate.
Now I am in the process of getting my new social security card with my new name so that I can go get my DL with my new name. I will be leaving to bootcamp in May of this year. Good luck to all!