This guide covers what the MAVNI program is and recent changes in the program. The guide further helps enlistees determine if they are eligible for deferred action, and what steps to follow if they are.
What is the MAVNI Program?
For nonimmigrants that possess particular language skills or practice certain health care specialties, the MAVNI (Military Accessions to the Vital Interest) Program can open a door to citizenship that would otherwise take a much longer time to open, if it were to open at all. For nonimmigrants that meet the requirements set forth by the Department of Defense(DoD), that process, at one time, allowed non-citizens to attain citizenship within a month of applying. For the foreseeable future, that process has been put on hold.
The idea behind the program is simple: if you are a legal, non-citizen, meet the physical, administrative, and skill requirements, then enlist in the US military during a time of conflict, you will be granted citizenship upon completion of basic training. The program began in 2008 when the Secretary of Defense authorized the pilot program hoping to bring desperately needed individuals into the military by granting an easier passage to citizenship. MAVNI is built off INA section 329 which allows for naturalization through active duty.
Changes and New Problems
In September of 2016, the DoD released a memorandum which extended MAVNI through September 30, 2017: however, it also put several new rules in place.
The changes to the MAVNI program have created problems for those already accepted to the program. According to a video recently released by AILA, there is currently a two-year processing time before those accepted to MAVNI can ship to basic training. That delay is causing MAVNIs to lose status, which they are required to maintain to be eligible to ship to basic training.
Deferred Action: A Potential, Temporary Solution
What can an individual accepted to the MAVNI program but unable to ship to basic training do? One option is to apply for deferred action(DA). MAVNIs in the Delayed Entry Program(DEP) are eligible for DA to help prevent them from falling out of status while waiting to ship. MAVNIs in DEP that are enlisted in the Reserves and participating in Reserve duty drills but have not yet attended basic training, either from a delay in the clearing background check or because they are low priority to attend, and MAVNIS in valid Non-Immigrant Status are not eligible for DA.
To file a DA request there are several steps to follow. First is to file the petition. A petition for DA requires: 1) A letter stating the basis for your DA request; 2) Evidence supporting favorable exercise of discretion, which can include enlistment contract, related services documents on delayed entry or cancellation; 3) Documentation of identity and nationality, which can include a birth certificate, passport, identification card, driver's license, or something similar; 4) Documentation showing lawful admission to the US which can include an I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, passport with visa stamp, or something similar; 5) Form G-325, Biographical Information ; 6) 2 Passport style photos; 7) Evidence of any discretionary factors petitioner may want USCIS to consider, and; 7) If you have a legal representative, Form G-28.
Once completed, the petition should be submitted to the director of the USCIS office with jurisdiction over the requestor's place of residence. Once submitted, the wait for either for approval or denial begins. If denied, the petitioner will have to return home when their current visa expires.
If a Deferred Action Request is Approved
If the petition for DA is approved, the petitioner may remain in the US. The DA will be granted in 2 year increments, and may be available for renewal upon expiration. If the MAVNI withdraws from the program or becomes disqualified, they will lose their DA.
If a petition is approved, the MAVNI may then apply for work authorization by filing Form I-765. If the MAVNI can go to basic training and begin their active duty service, they may then apply for naturalization by filing Form N-400 with Form N-462. Once a MAVNI recruit is naturalized, they then may have the option to complete Form I-130 to bring a spouse or family members to join them in the US.
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