Naturalization through Military service

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Brenden Beezley
  • 22nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

McConnell’s own Airman Lissbeth Cardenas Idrovo, 22nd Contracting Squadron contracting specialist, became a U.S. citizen on Jan. 20, 2023, during the first Kansas naturalization ceremony of the year.

During the ceremony, Cardenas and 162 other individuals from 46 countries, including Albania, Cameroon, Ecuador, India, Ukraine and Vietnam, became naturalized U.S. citizens.

Cardenas grew up in Azogues, Ecuador, with her mother and two younger sisters. She lived there for 18 years before deciding she would move to the U.S. to live with her father who was living already in New York City.

The path to citizenship can look different from person to person. The two most common paths are being a lawful permanent resident for five years and being married to a U.S. citizen for 3 years while living in the U.S. for 18 months.

For Cardenas, her path was different from those two standard routes. Instead, her path to citizenship included military service. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, if you serve in the U.S. Military for one year and are a lawful permanent resident, you are eligible for citizenship.

While Cardenas became a citizen through her military service, that was not why she chose to join; she was inspired to join the military after hearing about her friend’s experiences in the Navy.

“Even before coming here [to the U.S.], when I was just looking into what it was all about, I knew someone who was in the Navy,” said Cardenas. “So after talking with them about the military and the Navy, and at that point I thought to myself, maybe I will join the military.”

Initially, Cardenas applied to the Navy while she was still living in Ecuador. Her friend’s stories had motivated her to enlist in the Navy, but the Navy would not give her a contract unless she entered as an open contract, which she did not want to do.

As time went by, Cardenas moved to live with her father and still maintained aspirations of joining the military. After speaking with an Air Force recruiter, Cardenas was offered multiple jobs within the Air Force and decided to move forward with her plans to enlist. She was in the Delayed Entry Program for 10 months before receiving her job in Contracting.

“The Air Force means a lot to me, I am the first one in my family to join, but maybe later it will be my sister or kids,” said Cardenas. “Joining is a thank you for letting me be here in the United States, and thank you for letting me have the life I wanted, the life I was dreaming of.”