The U.S. military branches of the Army, Navy, and Air Force allow certain non-citizens who are legally present in the United States to join the U.S. military and apply immediately for U.S. citizenship  without first obtaining lawful permanent residence under the Department of Defense’s Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program or MAVNI.  At this time the program is only available to legal aliens holding critical skills including physicians, nurses and experts in certain languages with associated cultural backgrounds. However, President Obama is expected to expand the program through executive action before the end of this year for those under DACA.

To be eligible for the program, an applicant must be in one of the following categories at the time of their enlistment: (1) Non-immigrant categories E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U OR V, (2) Asylee, refugee, or Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Also, an applicant  must be legally present in the U.S. for a minimum of 2 years without a single extended absence over 90 days. Lastly, an applicant  must meet certain other criteria for the branch of the military to which he or she is applying.

MANVI  is a pilot program, meaning it’s being tested and it is not permanent as of right now. Each year the government decides whether or not to renew the program. Fortunately, it was renewed through May of 2015. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) section 329 (8 U.S.C. § 1440), or the wartime military naturalization statute, makes the MAVNI program possible. This statute allows individuals who served or are serving in the U.S. armed forces during a time of war or hostilities to naturalize on an expedited basis using a significantly simpler set of qualifications. Specifically, it allows individuals who served in the U.S. military, air or naval forces during World Wars I and II, the Korean and Vietnam hostilities, and other periods of hostilities as designated by executive order, to naturalize on an expedited and simplified basis.

On July 3, 2002, President George W. Bush issued an executive order allowing expedited naturalization pursuant to INA § 329 for non-citizens serving on active duty in the U.S. armed forces from Sept. 11, 2001 to a date to be determined by further executive order. Wartime naturalization applicants must serve honorably, and if separated from the service, separated under honorable conditions. Additionally, applicants must be either physically present in the United States or onboard a U.S. naval vessel on the day of their enlistment or re-enlistment, or are subsequently admitted to the United States as a permanent resident.

Today, about 24,000 non-citizens serve on active duty, and about 5,000 non-citizens enlist on active duty each year. U.S. law ensures that the sacrifice of non-citizens during a time of national need is met with an opportunity for early citizenship, to recognize their contribution and sacrifice. Since Sept. 11, 2001, over 78,000 (as of April 2012) members of the Armed Forces have attained their citizenship while serving this nation.

Subhan Law Office, LLC, recently had the opportunity and privilege to meet two Medal of Honor recipients, Staff Sargent Ryan Pitts, and Specialist Four Gary Wetzel. We are honored to have had the opportunity and privilege to have met these brave, honorable, and dedicated men. Subhan Law Office, LLC, supports all our men and women in military service. We are grateful for your dedication, self-sacrifice, and your service in defending the Constitutional principles of the United States of America. Thank you.