Can immigrants serve in the US military?
Often, intending immigrants ask whether they can serve in the US military, hoping to receive a green card or citizenship. The laws regarding this has changed, so it is important to understand whether that is possible or not.
Can I get a green card if I serve in the US military?This is a question I have seen posed many times. While I appreciate the intentions of anyone who wishes to serve in our armed forces, the answer is no. To serve in the US military a person must be a US citizen, or, depending on the service, a lawful permanent resident. Only a US citizen may receive a commission as an officer. A lawful permanent resident, or green card holder, used to be able to enlist in any branch of the military. However, at this time, the Army Reserve, National Guard and Marines, will NOT accept green card holders as enlistees. Other branches are still accepting green card holders, but that may change. There is no path to a green card via service in the US military.
But what about MAVNI?There used to be an active program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI). This is confusing, because there is still a lot of information about MAVNI available on line, so it appears to still be in operation. However, the MAVNI program has been suspended. It was established to recruit immigrants with language and other skills, like medical training, deemed vital to military operations and which were lacking in sufficient numbers among US-born military members. There have been significant delays in the processing of recruits who signed up for MAVNI before the suspension of the program due to additional security vetting.
Will MAVNI be reinstated?It is possible, as some senior Pentagon officials have suggested they would like to reinstate the program. But for now, the only way one can become a member of the US military is if they are qualified in all respects and depending on the service branch to which they are applying, possess a green card. Just to be clear, at this time, the Army Reserves, National Guard and Marines will only accept enlistees who are US citizens.
How long does it take for Green Card holders to begin military service?A Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card holder) used to be shipped out to basic training as soon as a background check was begun on the enlistee. However, now they cannot ship to basic training until after the background check has been completed. Because of a backlog processing background checks, they often take a year or even more to complete. This can significantly delay when an enlistee begins training. It is important to clarify this with a military recruiter.