US announces major changes to citizenship process for immigrants joining army on MAVNI program


The Trump administration on Friday announced that immigrants seeking US citizenship under the military recruitment program must undergo new security screenings and complete longer enlistments.

The announcement came as the program-Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) pilot program has recently come under scrutiny. The program provided a way for legal noncitizens to join the military in exchange for expedited citizenship.

“While the Department recognizes the value of expedited U.S. citizenship achieved through military service, it is in the national interest to ensure all current and prospective service members complete security and suitability screening prior to naturalization,” the Department of Defense officials said in a statement.

Pentagon officials earlier this year considered halting MAVNI, which was started in 2009 to recruit immigrants with urgently needed medical and language skills.

In early September, contracts for an unknown number of foreign nationals who had signed up for MAVNI, were rescinded without notice.

The recent changes state that a foreign born recruit “must complete a background investigation and receive a favorable military security suitability determination (MSSD) prior to entry in the active, reserve, or guard service.”

Recruits were previously allowed to head to initial military training as long as their background investigation had been initiated and pending and they had cleared all other entry screening requirements.

In addition, the foreign-born troops will not receive expedited citizenship until they have completed 180 consecutive days of active duty service or “one year of satisfactory service in the selected reserve.”

Previously troops would as early as after one day of service receive a certification of honorable service in order to start expedited naturalization.

Troops that are currently serving and already have the certification also face a longer process to citizenship. The Pentagon is revoking their certification until “completion of all security and suitability screening requirements.”

The changes, which begin immediately, will affect about 10,000 immigrants in the program, mostly in the Army.