Can a Canadian join the US army?

The US army is one of the most prestigious in the world and one of the fastest paths to becoming an American citizen. Every year, many join the army with this dream. So, can a Canadian join the US army?

Yes, a Canadian can join the US army. But the person has to be a permanent resident in the US that meets the enlistment requirements. There are limitations on non-citizens in terms of reenlistment, security clearance, promotion, and assignments. Naturalization is necessary to enjoy full benefits.

However, a Canadian can still be part of the US army through an exchange program. In that case, they have to be in the Canadian army. Here, we discuss whether a Canadian can join the US army and all the necessary things to know.

How to join a US Army as a Canadian

For a Canadian to become a member of the US army, here are the steps to take:

1.   Get a Green Card

Foreigners who want to live in the US have several options, and a permanent resident Card is one of them. This card is now known as the green card and entitles the holder to live and work permanently in the US. You can apply at a US consulate office in your country when overseas. In addition, you can visit the US Citizenship and Immigration Service office if you’re in the US.

Generally, you need a sponsor who’ll file a petition for your permanent resident status. The process is usually complicated, with lots of paperwork, photographs, interviews, and fingerprinting to be done. There are various categories you can belong to get the card. These include but are not limited to:

  • Relative of a US citizen
  • Workers with exceptional or in-demand skills, unskilled people can also apply, but the chances are limited.
  • Victim of abuse or human trafficking
  • Political refugees

2.   Enlist with the Green card

Having a green card isn’t enough to join the US army. You must actually live in the US and speak, write, and read English enough to understand what you’ll learn in the army. Therefore, English language proficiency is crucial.

3.   Meet the Requirements

You also need to meet requirements before you can become an army recruit. They include:

You also need to meet all the requirements for joining the US army. The requirements are:

  • Be at least 17 years old and not above 35
  • Be in good health and pass the physical fitness tests
  • Meet the weight and height standards
  • Possess a high school diploma; you may also use GED
  • Pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
  • Be a college graduate if you want to become an officer.
  • You should also not have any disqualifying health or criminal record. You can ask the army to waive it if you do, but a waiver is discretionary.

Once you meet the requirements, you might attend the Army boot camp. After the boot camp, there’s still additional specialized training in certain skills.

Limitations on Non-citizens

Joining the American army as a Canadian means that your progress within the army is limited. Non-citizens who join the army face the following limitations:

1.   Reenlistment

Only citizens of the US can reenlist in the army after the first enlistment ends. Enlistment usually lasts for six years, four on active duty and two on reserves. The amount of your time on active duty or reserves varies based on job and service. The fact that non-citizens can’t reenlist also means they won’t be entitled to the reenlistment bonuses.

2.   Assignments

Only citizens qualify for overseas missions. So even if you have a green card, you still can’t go for an overseas assignment or any assignment requiring security clearance.

3.   No Security Clearance

Non-citizens can’t get security clearance. The lack of security clearance means you can get roles in intelligence, special ops, or nuclear. The only non-citizens who have access are the linguists who serve as translators. However, once a non-citizen becomes a citizen, they’ll have the same security clearance as a US-born military member.

4.   Promotion

Non-citizens can’t become commission or warrant officers. So, a Canadian who enlists in the US army will have to also apply for US citizenship to rise through the ranks.

Military Service as Accelerated Pathway to Citizenship

In recent history, the US has allowed non-citizens who join the armed forces to fast-track their citizenship process. But this depends on the Homeland Security Department. Even though the military doesn’t concern itself or assist with immigration, military members have enjoyed accelerated citizenship on multiple occasions.

In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed an executive order waiving the residency requirement for any military member (National Guard, Reserves, and Active Duty). This meant the five years of living in the US before applying for citizenship doesn’t apply to those in the military.

In 2002, President Bush also signed an executive order in line with the special provisions in Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This order authorized non-citizens who honourably served in the US army or after September 11, 2001, to file for citizenship. It also applies to veterans of some conflicts and wars. The authorization remains effective as there hasn’t been an executive order on the issue since.

Just as the military members can enjoy an expedited naturalization process, their spouses might also be eligible. In addition, other provisions make it possible for the spouses to complete their naturalization process even though they’re not in the US.

Policy Changes

Even though non-citizens can still join the US army, policy changes since February 2018 make it more complex. Now, the background checks are more comprehensive, which means the approval takes more time. In addition, recruits have to wait until after the background check is complete to start basic training. This can take up to a year or even more.

In Conclusion

Canadians can join the US army. But they have to be residents in the United States. Also, to have the full benefits of being in the army, they’ll have to become naturalized Americans.

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