MAVNI Program:

Direct US Citizenship Without Green Card


The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program, a program which authorizes certain branches of the military to recruit certain legal aliens with specialized skills, was announced on February 23, 2009. While the MAVNI program was not announced until February of this year, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates authorized the Army, Navy, and Air Force to implement MAVNI on November 25, 2008. Those branches of the military are authorized to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered to be vital to the national interest. Those holding critical skills – physicians, nurses, and certain experts in language with associated cultural backgrounds – would be eligible.

Check My Eligibility

Direct US Citizenship Without Permanent Resident Status

The one-year MAVNI pilot program allows the military to recruit up to 1,000 non-citizens who do not have permanent resident status, but who have been in US legally for at least two years. These individuals must have medical skills or foreign language skills together with cultural expertise that the military is seeking.

The MAVNI program will allow foreign nationals that join the military to apply for naturalization without first having to obtain permanent resident status. Citizenship is not guaranteed – a nonimmigrant who applies under the MAVNI pilot program must undergo the same background checks, security screening and meet all of the general qualifications to become a citizen of the US, as do all other members of the US armed forces who apply for citizenship.

MAVNI Requirements

A foreign national seeking to join the military must be legally present in the US and able to provide a passport, I-94 card, I-797 form, employment authorization document or other government issued documents proving legal presence in the United States.

Specifically, a foreign national must meet the following eligibility requirements:

1. The applicant must be an Asylee or refugee, in Temporary Protected Status (TPS), or in one of the enumerated nonimmigrant categories (including E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V) at the time of enlistment;

2. The foreign national must have been in valid status in one of the above listed categories for at least two years immediately prior to the enlistment date. However, the two years of presence does not have to be the same category as the one held on the date of enlistment; and

3. A foreign national who may be eligible on the basis of a nonimmigrant category at time of enlistment must not have had any single absence from the United States of more than 90 days during the two year eligibility period.

4. Health Care Professionals:

Foreign nationals seeking appointment as a health care professional must:

a. fill medical specialties where the military has a shortfall of qualified doctors or nurses;

b. meet all qualification criteria required for their medical specialty and the criteria for foreign-trained DoD medical personnel recruited under other authorities;

c. demonstrate proficiency in English: and

d. commit to at least 3 years of active duty, or six years in the Selected Reserve

Foreign nationals with Special Language Skills and Cultural Backgrounds must:

a. possess specific language and cultural capabilities in a language critical to DoD;

b. demonstrate proficiency in a critical language;

c. meet all existing enlistment eligibility criteria; and

d. enlist for at least 4 years of active duty

NOTE: The different branches of the military may add additional requirements.

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My Case Scenario

Olex, a native of the Ukraine, came to the US for advanced medical studies after graduating from medical school in the Ukraine. After completing a 2 year residency and working for an additional year in a hospital in San Diego, he saw a notice that the Navy was seeking doctors with his specialty, and that by joining he could get US citizenship. After talking with a Navy recruiter he decided this was a way for him to give back to the US for the medical education he received and get US citizenship to boot. Olex has been commissioned as a Medical Corp Officer and is now serving as a doctor in the Navy. He can now pursue his US citizenship.

Higher Recruitment Standards

Under the rules as currently written, MAVNI program foreign nationals will be held to higher standard than other recruits. They must have a high school diploma, score 50 or higher on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, and cannot require an enlistment waiver for any kind of previous misconduct. That’s in addition to meeting all criteria required by their specialties (medical or other occupations).

Language Fluencies Required

With the MAVNI program, the military look for foreign nationals who can speak languages such as Bengali, Hungarian, Lao, Nepalese, Somali, Urdu or Yoruba. In fact, the following are the 35different languages the US Army generally look for:

Albanian Igbo Pushtu (aka Pashto)
Amharic Indonesian Russian
Arabic Korean Sindhi
Azerbaijani Kurdish Sinhalese
Bengali Lao Somali
Burmese Malay Swahili
Cambodian-Khmer Malayalam Tamil
Chinese Moro Turkish
Czech Nepalese Turkmen
Hausa Persian [Dari & Farsi] Urdu
Hindi Polish Yoruba
Hungarian Punjabi

MAVNI Success/Naturalization Ceremonies

The MAVNI program has been met with enthusiasm in the foreign national community. In July USCIS naturalized one of the first nonimmigrants to enlist in the military under MAVNI pilot recruiting program, a doctor who joined the Army in April. The USCIS also naturalized three soldiers at a ceremony at Pentagon that were recruited through the MAVNI pilot program.

As on December 23, 2009, the program recruited 700 critical foreign language speakers and 115 health care professionals.

Deadline For Participation In MAVNI Program

The MAVNI program was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2009. The Defense Department however, extended the program by 60 days up to February 28, 2010. The program’s results and the needs of the different branches of the military will determine whether it continues or is expanded.

The MAVNI program is currently on hold, however the US Army is taking information from individuals that are interested so that they can continue the recruitment process as soon as they are given the go ahead.


The one-year MAVNI pilot program gives a direct route to US Citizenship regardless of the permanent resident status of the foreign national.It allows up to 1,000 non-citizens, who do not have US permanent resident status, but who have been in US legally for at least two years, to join the Army, Navy or Air Force if they have the medical or foreign language and cultural expertise the military is seeking. Although the program has been extended by 60 days to be valid up to February 28, 2010 and the Defense Department considers extending the program two years, the program’s results and the military’s needs will determine whether it continues further or is expanded.

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