The U.S. Department of Defense unveiled a new policy on Sept. 25, 2014, that will give a small number of undocumented immigrants an opportunity to join the military. The new rules will expand an existing program allowing recruiters to target foreign nationals with high demand skills such as foreign language expertise or specialized health care training. The program is known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI.
For the first time, MAVNI will be open to immigrants without a proper visa if they arrived in the United States before the age of 16. To be more specific, the immigrant must be approved under the 2012 Obama Administration policy known as Deferred Action for Child Arrivals, or DACA. The program has been capped at 1,500 recruits per year.
Also eligible for military service under MAVNI are immigrants with legal, nonpermanent visas, such as students or tourists. Officials say it is still too early determine how many of the 1,500 recruits will be DACA recipients. Immigrants targeted by recruiters for the MAVNI program will likely have language skills critical to national security, such as Arabic, Chinese, Pashto or Persian.
The MAVNI program began in 2008 and continues to be a pilot program. The Pentagon notified Congress that the program, which was due to expire at the end of this year, will be extended for another two-year period.
The military typically recruits about 5,000 noncitizens each year. Most of these recruits are permanent residents, or “green card holders.” The military began accepting some foreigners with nonpermanent visas (such as students or tourists) in 2006, so long as they possessed highly valued special skills.
Once a foreign national has entered military service, they are also eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship. Since 2001, more than 92,000 foreign-born service members have become citizens while serving in uniform.
For more information on USCIS services reserved for members of our military, please schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!