Amidst all of the controversy and political backlashes, immigrants are able to join the U.S. Armed Forces, just like they have been able to do over the past 150 years. Currently, there is approximately 25,000 immigrants serving in the U.S. military. Under the “Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest” program, or MAVNI, a limited number of immigrants are able to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. The annual limit projected for 2016 is 5000, which is composed of the following three categories:
- Non-immigrant categories: E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, V
- Asylee, Refugee, Temporary Protected Status
- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
In addition to the above categories, applying immigrants must reside in the United States for 2 years prior to applying to MAVNI, not have left the U.S. for more than 90 days in the past 2 years, have a high school degree, have medical training or a critical language skill (see MAVNI list for possible languages) and successfully pass the Armed Forces’ Qualification Test.
A benefit of MAVNI, apart from providing employment, is the ability for an immigrant to Naturalize as a U.S. Citizen without the need of a Green Card. Such an immigrant may apply for Naturalization after one day of service during periods of conflict or after one year of service during periods of peacetime. The Naturalization processing time within the MAVNI program can be as short as the 12 weeks of bootcamp, or about 4 months. However, the immigrant must honorably serve 5 years in the armed forces in order to retain U.S. Citizenship.
Contrary to all that is stated above, the MAVNI program also has some great pitfalls. Numerous immigrants who achieve service through MAVNI, are denied the right to Naturalize due to a decision made by USCIS (the agency that processes most immigration matters). Some immigrants are denied based on Poor Moral Character, which is a broad category that would include lying, committing a crime, or even having a previous Immigration matter denied (e.g. marriage fraud). Other immigrants are denied because they had unknowingly received U.S. Citizenship from their parents or by being born in the United States, or they failed to complete the Naturalization forms.
If an immigrant would like more information on applying under the MAVNI program, they should speak with a recruiting officer.
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