Guide to the MAVNI Program

Posted by in Immigrants | Updated on November 23, 2022
At a Glance: MAVNI, short for Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, is a recruitment program for immigrants and non-immigrants interested in joining the U.S. military. Legal immigrants can apply for MAVNI without having to get lawful permanent residence first.

Did you ever think about joining the U.S. military, yet you refrained from doing it because you’re an immigrant? Being an immigrant is indeed challenging for individuals who would like to serve in the military since they are not U.S. citizens. However, there is one thing that might help people who are going through this, and that is the MAVNI Program. But what is the MAVNI program, who is eligible, and how does it work? Let’s find out!

What Is the MAVNI Program?

MAVNI, short for Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, is a recruitment program meant for immigrants and non-immigrants who are interested in joining the U.S. military. The program was made by the U.S. Department of Defense, and it allows legal immigrants or nonimmigrants to get recruited into the country’s military services.

The program allows these people to also apply for U.S. citizenship immediately through Form N-400, “Application for Naturalization”. This becomes possible without having to get lawful permanent residence first. Among individuals who can apply for MAVNI are also F and M students as long as they meet the requirements.

The MAVNI Program is only accessible for legal aliens who have the right skills that make them suitable for being in the military. This could include language experts or health care professionals, for instance.

Why Was the MAVNI Program Created?

Immigration attorney Margaret Stock was the one who made it possible for the program to start under the George W. Bush administration back in 2008. Usually, immigrants cannot join the military, not unless they are already permanent residents. The MAVNI program is pretty small, but it’s very useful for people who don’t have permanent residency yet want to join the U.S. military forces.

The program was created as a way to allow foreign nationals to join the military and earn citizenship if they had skills that were in demand. So, it was created to make sure individuals who were fluent in a language or had skills that were necessary for the national interest earn citizenship and start serving the country. Not only that, but it also prevented certain residents from being possibly deported.

President George W. Bush approved of this program because he didn’t think the nation’s identity was determined by blood. “Our identity as a nation — unlike many other nations — is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. Being an American involves the embrace of high ideals and civic responsibility,” he said.

But despite being created to help certain immigrants as well as the U.S., the program went through several struggles. Between 2009 and 2012, following the Fort Hood military base shooting, the program was halted temporarily, despite the shooter not being related to MAVNI in any way. Later, though, the program was extended, allowing over 10,000 people to take part in it.

Unfortunately, things have not been the same after the Trump administration gained power. They froze the program, despite the 2,400 MAVNI recruits who had signed contracts and were working in reserve units, while 1,600 were still waiting for background checks to be cleared.

Even worse, a lot of people fell out of legal status waiting for an update, even though they were told that they will be admitted with no issues. As a result, this put many people at risk and made their life hard. They were unable to work legally, which made it difficult to support themselves.

Apart from that, they were also at risk of being deported. Now, it all depends on President Biden and his administration to handle the MAVNI Program, and they are the only ones who could possibly restore it.

Who Is Eligible for the MAVNI Program?

Usually, in order for someone to qualify for the MAVNI Program, they must have legal immigration status, so they have to be either refugees, asylees, or TPS recipients. They might also have a non-immigrant visa, such as an E, F H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V category visa.

In order to be eligible for the program, the person applying must have had a valid status for one of the categories listed earlier for at least two years before the enlistment date. Also, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the same one that the applicant held at the enlistment date. To increase the chances of eligibility, the applicant must not have been absent from the U.S. for over 90 days during those two years.  

People who are interested in the program should also be aware that the program only considers experts in certain languages and healthcare professionals.

Language recruits need to meet these requirements:

  • They need to prove their language skills
  • They should have certain culture and language capabilities that are critical to DoD
  • They should enlist for at least 4 years of active duty
  • They must meet the enlistment eligibility criteria

Meanwhile, healthcare recruits have their own requirements they should meet in order to be approved. They should:

  • Meet the qualification criteria that the medical specialty requires, as well as the foreign-trained DoD medical personnel that is recruited under different authorities criteria
  • Prove that they can speak English fluently
  • Fill the medical specialties with a shortfall of service
  • Accept to serve at least three years of active duty or six years in the Selected Reserve

How to Apply for the MAVNI Program

Even if you truly wish to apply for the MAVNI program, things are too uncertain now to say for sure whether you can apply or not. The U.S. military doesn’t accept any applications for the program at the moment.

However, it’s still good to know how things used to go in the past, just in case they might change in the future and applications will be accepted. Back then, you had to provide documents like your I-94 card, passport, I-797 Notice of Action, an employment authorization document, or any document that was evidence of your U.S. legal presence. Then, the applicant would deal with security screenings, background checks, and meet different requirements that would allow one to become a citizen of the United States.

If you are eager to join the program, you should consider reaching out to the U.S. military recruiting office in your area. They should be aware of whether the program is or will be available again and give you more details.

Immigrants who want to serve in the military and become citizens would win a lot by joining the MAVNI program. This is because a lot of non-permanent residents would not be able to obtain citizenship as easily.

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Joining MAVNI would be amazing for a lot of non-residents who want to obtain permanent residency and serve in the military. Sadly, the program was stopped by the Trump Administration in 2017, and it’s hard to know when and if it will go back to how it used to be. The Biden administration is now responsible for this decision, so all eyes are on them for the following period. If they decide to restore the program, then a lot of non-residents will not be at risk of deportation anymore and will be able to serve the U.S.

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