LOS ANGELES (CN) – After suing the federal government over a nearly two-year delay in her naturalization process, a South Korean-born U.S Army veteran received notice Friday that she was granted citizenship.
Yea Ji Sea, who was brought to the United States by her parents in 1998, enlisted in the Army in 2013 under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, which allows non-citizens with critical skills such as health care and language expertise to serve in the military and eventually become U.S. citizens.
Her citizenship application was previously denied after presenting officials with documents fraudulently created by a U.S Customs and Border Patrol agent.
Sea filed for citizenship again in July 2016 after showing “good moral character” as required by government officials.
After being honorably discharged in July, which stripped away her temporary documented status, Sea was vulnerable to arrest and deportation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Sea said in a statement Friday that she is delighted she can stay in the country.
“I love this country and was honored to serve it in the U.S. Army,” Sea said in a statement upon receiving the notice of her citizenship ceremony. “I had felt like I was like I was an American since I was a child, growing up here. I had hoped for a long career in the Army, but I am so happy now that I will be a citizen.”
At a hearing Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles, U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald ordered the government to explain why it could not rule on Sea’s citizenship within three weeks.
“While it shouldn’t have taken our lawsuit for this decorated veteran to get her U.S. citizenship, we are glad the government has made good on its promise under its enlistment program,” said Sea’s attorney, Sameer Ahmed of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU said the MAVNI program was “ready-made” for Sea since she speaks Korean and is qualified as a healthcare specialist.
Sea had a variety of postings during her time in the Army. While stationed in South Korea, she served as an ambulance aid driver and was the only pharmacy technician for the entire Camp Casey Combined Troop Station that served more than 1,800 soldiers.
In her off-hours, she served as a translator for doctors and helped care for injured soldiers.
Sea earned two Army Achievement Medals “for exceptionally meritorious service” and was promoted to specialist in 2015. She had been stationed most recently at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.
Sea is wrapping up a bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University with an eye toward a master’s program in medicine in 2019.
Sea’s swearing-in ceremony as a citizen is scheduled for Aug. 24 in Los Angeles.