Joining the U.S. Army for a Fast Path to Citizenship

Until recently, only citizens and green-card holders were allowed to join the U.S. military. In February the U.S. Government started a new program that allows asylees, refugees, and immigrants with “Temporary Protected Status” join the Army. More importantly, immigrants who have been in the U.S. legally for more than two years in student status, H-1B status, or other visa categories, may join the U.S. Army to gain citizenship. While asylees are generally able to apply for green cards anyway, many immigrants in student status and other categories (E, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V) are not always eligible to apply for green cards. This program gives many immigrants a guaranteed path to permanent legal status that would normally have no way of remaining in the U.S. other than marrying a citizen. This new program is called Military Access to Vital National Interest (MAVNI) and immigrants eligible for the program must demonstrate proficiency in English, and must have certain skills in a medical specialty or any foreign language listed in the MAVNA law. While not every language qualifies, Chinese is one of the languages on the Government’s list. A complete list of languages can be found at: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/mavni-fact-sheet.pdf Immigrants qualifying under the foreign language program must agree to work for the Army for 4 years. While many people are afraid that they will immediately be placed into combat upon joining the Army, there are many Army positions that do not involve actual combat. The Government has stated that 43,000 immigrants have received citizenship through their military service since September 11, 2001. The new MAVNA program could be an excellent choice for many young immigrants that want a sure path to citizenship.

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