Understanding the Pilot MAVNI Program (Part 1)

May 26, 2017 4:20 pm
by David Jakeman

Thousands of young immigrants in this country yearn to serve in the United States military. However, immigrants must generally have a green card (lawful permanent resident status) before they can join any branch of the Armed Forces. A recently-reinstated program called Military Accession Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) offers a promising exception to this rule. Under MAVNI, “[t]he Secretary of Defense authorized the military services to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered to be vital to the national interest. Those holding critical skills – physicians, nurses, and certain experts in language with associated cultural backgrounds – would be eligible.” The program allows these immigrants, who are here on a temporary visa, to enlist in the United States military. In return, they will qualify for an expedited path to U.S. citizenship—something that might otherwise take years to obtain. As mentioned above, the program is starting on a limited basis. It will recruit up to 1,500 people per year and will continue through May 15, 2014. This post will explain some of the background behind the MAVNI program and provide additional information. Part 2 of this blog series will outline the specific eligibility requirements.

Why have such a program?

The United States military has relied on non-citizens since the revolutionary war. Since then, various changes in legislation and national policy have further opened up military service to immigrants. For example, the Lodge Act of 1950 permitted Eastern European immigrants to enlist in the military between 1950 and 1959. When the United States military signed the Military Bases Agreement of 1947, which permitted the installment of U.S. bases in the Philippines, military officials began recruiting Filipino nationals into the Navy. Over 35,000 Filipinos took advantage of the program and enlisted in the Navy between1952 and 1991.

Currently, there are about 24,000 immigrants serving on active duty in the United States military. Additionally, about 5,000 green card holders enlist every year for active duty. It is only fair that the sacrifice of these immigrants for the United States in its time of national need is recognized. Granting them an expedited path to citizenship is the perfect way to honor their patriotic contribution. Ever since a July 3, 2002 executive order signed by President George W. Bush, immigrants with a green card serving in the military have been eligible for expedited citizenship. Specifically, the order reads, “Those persons serving honorably in active-duty status in the Armed Forces of the United States, during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and terminating on the date to be so designated, are eligible for naturalization in accordance with the statutory exception to the naturalization requirements.”

The MAVNI program simply extends these opportunities to immigrants who, though here on a temporary legal status, strongly desire to serve in the United States military. Because the program seeks to enlist immigrants with specialized skills, the military will likely see a surge in highly-educated, talented recruits. The MAVNI program is fair, practical, patriotic, and needed.

If you would like to learn more about the MAVNI program, please contact the Seattle-based comprehensive immigration law firm of Beacon Immigration. Their experienced immigration attorneys can assist you today.