Fast Citizenship – The Army’s New Non-Citizen Recruiting Program

On November 25, 2008, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates signed a memorandum authorizing the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force to implement a new non-citizen recruiting pilot program for the United States Armed Forces. Titled “Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest” (MAVNI), the new pilot program allows certain non-citizens who are legally present in the United States to join the military and apply immediately for US citizenship without first obtaining lawful permanent residence.

The US Army MAVNI recruiting program, which seeks to recruit health care professionals and persons who speak certain strategic languages, began on Monday, February 23, 2009.

Under the MAVNI program, the Army is not sponsoring anyone for a visa or green card or authorizing anyone to enter the United States for the purpose of enlistment. This program is not available to persons who are overseas. Instead, MAVNI allows certain aliens who are already legally present in the United States to enlist. Under the Army’s rules, all MAVNI recruits must pass an English test and score 50 or higher on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).

Here is an example from an article by Margaret Stock: A J-1 doctor who has been in the United States legally for two years and who is licensed to practice medicine in the United States may enlist in the Army Reserve under the MAVNI program. Upon enlistment, the doctor may apply for US citizenship, even if the doctor has not yet met the 2-year home residency requirement or obtained lawful permanent residence. Notwithstanding the lack of a “green card,” the doctor may receive US citizenship in six months or less. The doctor and her civilian employer will thereby save time and the thousands of dollars in costs associated with the processing of the complex paperwork normally required to move from J-1 to lawful permanent resident. In return, the United States Army Reserve will gain a new military doctor.

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