Thousands of immigrants successfully petitioned the U.S. government to reopen a special program that allows individuals in non-immigrant status to serve in the military if they possess designated specialized skills. Ordinarily, only lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens can enlist in the armed forces. The program, entitled Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI), seeks legal immigrants with medical or certain language skills to serve in the U.S. military in exchange for an expedited path to citizenship. The program is relatively small, allowing a maximum of 1500 recruits for each two-year period, the majority of whom will serve in the army. Pentagon spokesperson Eileen Lainez stated the program is intended to fill “some of our most critical readinessneeds.” The MAVNI program focuses on securing medical professionals such as dentists and surgeons, as well as psychology professionals who help manage the severe emotional strain many soldiers experience while serving in combat areas in Afghanistan and Iraq. Additionally, officials are seeking native speakers of 44 different languages. The reopening of this program is based on the exemplary members produced by the MAVNI program in the past,many of whom distinguished themselves as exceptional soldiers. A powerful incentive of the program is that it allows enlistees to naturalize as U.S. citizens at the end of basic training, which only lasts about ten weeks.
The temporary non-immigrant categories eligible for enlistment include: asylees, refugees, individuals in temporary protected status, or individuals in the following nonimmigrant categories, E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V. To qualify for the program, the applicant must have been present in the U.S. in one of the listed visas for at least two years immediately prior to enlisting. Additionally, applicants must not have been outside the U.S. for more than a 90-day period during the two years, must be high school graduates, and must pass an entrance exam.Other technical requirements must also be met in order to enroll.