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< Back to current issue of Immigration Daily < Back to current issue of Immigrant's Weekly

The ABCs of Immigration - Military Service
by Greg Siskind and Amy Ballentine

Since the tragic terrorist attacks on September 11, it has become clear that the US will engage in some form of military retaliation. Tens of thousands of military reservists have been called up, and the number of people seeking to enlist is higher than it has been in years. This makes it an appropriate time to discuss immigrants and military service.

Since World War I, immigrants to the US have been required to be available for military service. Nonimmigrants, those people who are in the US for a temporary period of time, do not have this obligation, but permanent residents, refugees, parolees and even undocumented immigrants do. During times of peace, however, only citizens and permanent residents may volunteer for military service. As with all male citizens born after 1959, permanent residents must register with Selective Services. Failure to properly register could lead to criminal punishment, and can also lead to denial of future immigration or naturalization benefits.

Leaving the US to avoid military service, or desertion from the military, will make a person permanently ineligible for citizenship. In addition to this, being ineligible for citizenship is a basis upon which to deny a person admission to the US. Immigrants can obtain an exemption from the military service requirement on the ground that they are not citizens, but doing so will render them permanently ineligible for citizenship, unless the exemption was obtained under a treaty, and before seeking the exemption the immigrant had served in the military of their home country.

Just as failure to abide by the Selective Service laws can result in a denial of future benefits, performing military service can produce benefits. People who have served for a total of three years in the US military and who, if no longer in the military, were honorably discharged, are exempted from standard residency requirements if the naturalization application is filed while still in the military or within six months of discharge.

Immigrants who served on active duty during World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and other military conflicts are also exempt from the residency requirements, and may be naturalized regardless of their age. Permanent residents who died while serving in the US military are eligible for posthumous naturalization if the application is filed no more than two years after their death. Immigrants on active duty are not deportable under a special agreement between the INS and the Department of Defense. Moreover, in many of these cases, the immigrant is given the opportunity to seek naturalization before the INS initiates deportation proceedings.

Finally, at many times in the past, ceremonies have been held to naturalize permanent resident military personnel before they were sent overseas.


About The Author

Gregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

After graduating magna cum laude from Vanderbilt University, Gregory Siskind went on to receive his law degree from the University of Chicago. For the past several years, he has been an active member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association and he currently serves as a member of the organization's Technology Committee. He is the current committee chair for the Nashville Bar Association's International Section. Greg is a member of the American Bar Association where he serves on the LPM PublishGregory Siskind has experience handling all aspects of immigration and nationality law and has represented numerous clients throughout the world. Mr. Siskind provides consultations to corporations and individuals on immigration law issues and handles cases before the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Department of State, the Department of Labor and other government agencies. Gregory Siskind is also committed to community service. He regularly provides free legal services to indigent immigration clients and speaks at community forums to offer information on immigration issues.

Greg regularly writes on the subject of immigration law. He has written several hundred articles on the subject and is also the author of the new book The J Visa Guidebook, published by Matthew Bender and Company, one of the nation's leading legal publishers. He is working on another book for Matthew Bender on entertainment and sports immigration.

Greg is also, in many ways, a pioneer in the use of the Internet in the legal profession. He was one of the first lawyers in the country (and the very first immigration lawyer) to set up a web site for his practice. And he was the first attorney in the world to distribute a firm newsletter via e-mail listserv. Mr. Siskind is the author of the American Bar Association's best selling book, The Lawyer's Guide to Marketing on the Internet. He has been interviewed and profiled in a number of leading publications and media including USA Today, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Lawyers Weekly, the ABA Journal, the National Law Journal, American Lawyer, Law Practice Management Magazine, National Public Radio's All Things Considered and the Washington Post. As one of the leading experts in the country on the use of the Internet in a legal practice, Greg speaks regularly at forums across the United States, Canada and Europe.

In his personal life, Greg is the husband of Audrey Siskind and the proud father of Eden Shoshana and Lily Jordana. He also enjoys collecting rare newspapers and running in marathons and triathlons. He can be reached by email at GSiskind@visalaw.com

Amy Ballentine is an associate in Siskind, Susser & Haas's Memphis, Tennessee office. She graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Rhodes College in 1994. While in law school at the University of Memphis she was a member of the law review staff as well as a published author. She also worked with the local public defenderís office in death penalty cases. In May 1999, she graduated Cum Laude from the University of Memphis Law School. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. She can be reached by email at aballentine@visalaw.com



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