Although it isn’t a military secret per se, MAVNI is a small and very exclusive program that benefits immigrants and the U.S. military. Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) is a special recruiting program that has been available to certain immigrants interested in joining the U.S. military. Generally, immigrants must be permanent residents to join the military (see Military Enlistment Requirements); once enlisted these green card soldiers can take advantage of expedited citizenship. However, MAVNI allows certain non-citizens in the United States to join the military and thereby gain eligibility for U.S. citizenship without first having to go through the lengthy process of obtaining a green card.
How to Qualify for MAVNI
Generally, MAVNI program applicants must be in a legal immigration status. Legal status means that applicants must be asylees, refugees, recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or hold any of the following non-immigrant visas: E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U or V.
MAVNI Open to DACA Recipients
Individuals who have been granted deferred action by the Department of Homeland Security pursuant to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) process are eligible for consideration. Generally the MAVNI requirements stipulate a legal immigration status. However, the military service may on a case by case basis waive the requirement that the foreign national be in a status described above.
The applicant must have been in valid status in one of the above categories for at least two years immediately prior to the enlistment date. However, it does not have to be the same category as the one held on the date of enlistment. Plus, the applicant must not have had any single absence from the United States of more than 90 days during the two year period immediately preceding the date of enlistment.
What’s more, the MAVNI program is restricted to healthcare professionals or experts in certain key languages with associated cultural backgrounds.
Applicants in the healthcare professional recruit category must:
- Fill medical specialties where the service has a shortfall
- Meet all qualification criteria required for their medical specialty, and the criteria for foreign-trained DoD medical personnel recruited under other authorities
- Demonstrate proficiency in English
- Commit to at least 3 years of active duty, or six years in the Selected Reserve
Applicants in the language recruit category must:
- Possess specific language and culture capabilities in a language critical to DoD (full list of languages here)
- Demonstrate a language proficiency
- Meet all existing enlistment eligibility criteria
- Enlist for at least 4 years of active duty
MAVNI Program Status 2018
The MAVNI program began in 2008 as a pilot program and has had an uncertain future ever since. Although over 10,000 troops who have signed up to serve through MAVNI since 2008, it has been at the center of political haggling.
The program was suspended 2017, and in October the Pentagon announced new, more strenuous security clearance standards. For now, the military is focused on catching up on the current group of recruits that has been stuck in limbo. The recruits under the MANVI program are unable to enter basic training until the security clearance review is complete and approved.
For now, the program is unavailable for new recruits. Some top brass, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, have gone on record to support the program. According to an anonymous military official, the Pentagon will review the MAVNI program once all of the existing recruits are through the system.
How to Apply for MAVNI
At this time, the U.S. military has stopped accepting applications for the MAVNI program.
When the MAVNI program was accepting applications, you would have to share your passport, I-94 card, I-797 Notice of Action, your employment authorization document, or other government issued documents proving your legal presence in the United States. Applicants would have to go through background checks, security screenings, and meet all the other general requirements of becoming a U.S. citizen. If you are interested, contact your local U.S. military recruiting office. They may have information when the program becomes available once again.
For immigrants with an interest in military service and U.S. citizenship, the MAVNI program may provide a path to citizenship that many non-permanent residents would not normally be afforded. What’s more, they fill a necessary gap in military recruitment and provide services that otherwise would be difficult and costly to train.
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