To join the U.S. military, you must either be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. In the past, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients could join the military through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program, which ended in 2016. Most immigration applications you submit will ask that you provide any military service records if you were a member of the U.S. military or any foreign military service at any point in time. You will need to attach your military service records to your application forms when you're submitting them to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This article explains what military service information you need to provide for your application and how to get a copy of your records.
What military service information do I need for my immigration application?
If you are already in the United States, you do not need to show any military records. You only need to do so if you are applying for a green card from abroad.
You will send your records to the National Visa Center (NVC) after submitting your green card application. You will also need to bring these documents to your green card interview.
For your immigration application, your military documents must show the following information:
- Country or region where you serve or previously served
- Branch of service
- Rank or position
- Military specialty
- Dates of service
- Your conduct while serving
- Crime convictions, if applicable
- Discharge certificate, if you were discharged, retired, or resigned
If you are an adult male from certain countries, you may have to submit military records to the National Visa Center (NVC) even if you didn't serve. You should check to see if this applies to your country of origin.
How do I get my military records?
The process of getting your military records depends on whether you served in the U.S. Armed Forces or a foreign army.
If I served in the U.S. Armed Forces
If you served in the U.S. Armed Forces, you could request your military records from the National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR). There are two different ways you can get your documents from the NPRC-MPR. First, you can submit a request through their online records request system, eVetRecs. eVetRecs allows you or your next of kin to request your DD Form 214 or separation documents, Official Military Personnel File (OMPF), replacement medals, and your medical records or health records.
The other option is to complete the standard form Form SF-180 and mail or fax it to the correct location. There are different archival records locations for the air force, coast guard, marine corps, etc. It also depends on whether you are on active duty, a retiree, or otherwise.
To get your records, as a service member, you will need to provide basic information like your name, social security number, service number, and dates of your service.
You can also check the national archives official website to see where your records are located, depending on your branch of service.
If I served in a foreign army
If you served in a foreign army, you have to get your military records from the appropriate government agency in that country. You can find this information on the U.S. Department of State's website. In the left corner, you can click the country's first letter, then scroll down to find its name on the left panel. Once you click the name of the country, scroll down to "military records." The website will show you the name of the agency with your records ("Issuing Authority"), fees, and process to obtain your records ("Procedure for Obtaining"). If you search the U.S. Department of State's website for your country of service and it says "Unavailable" under "Military Records," then you don't have to submit military records.
What should I do if I don't have access to my military service records?
If you can't find your military service records, there are still other options. You can provide a statement explaining to the U.S. government why you cannot access your documents and get the statement notarized. This document is called a "notarized personal affidavit."
A document is notarized when an authorized person verifies your identity and witnesses you signing the document. They may also require you to swear the document is accurate. You can usually get a document notarized for free at banks, law offices, local clerk of court’s offices, or even public libraries or doctor’s offices.
Finding your military records for your immigration application can be complicated, but working with a good immigration attorney can make it easier. If you can't afford the attorney fees for your immigration application, we may be able to help. If you are eligible, our free web app will walk you through the process and help you prepare and file your application with the U.S. government. Click "Get Started" to see how we can help make your American dream come true!