Should Illegal Immigrants Be Eligible to Join the United States Military?


Every year, more than 8,000 green card holders but who are non-U.S. citizens join the military. However, recently some policy changes may interfere with the ability for some resident but non-U.S. citizens to join the military, even in a limited (no security clearance) capacity.
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MAVNI Program – Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI, enables non-citizens to join the military with such skills as interpreters, certain cultural knowledge, and even medical professionals. However, in 2014 the program was suspended and the current administration is looking to cancel the program altogether.

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DACA Program – Currently, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) may face a new reality in the current administration and could be subject to deportation versus having the ability to work or attend advanced educational opportunities. However, Congress could change direction and allow DACA groups the opportunity to serve in the military.

Pathway to Citizenship?
There is great interest from all over the world from foreigners wanting to serve in the United States Military. Often, they know it can be a pathway to citizenship, but not always. The two involved branches of government—Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security—do not work together to naturalize citizens. It is the same process for all holders of the green card. However, military members may have an expedited process.

There are some steps to be eligible for military service as a non-citizen. Here is a frequently asked question on the topic:

Can a Non-U.S. Citizen Join the United States Military?
Yes. A non-citizen can enlist in the military. However, federal law prohibits non-citizens from becoming commission or warrant officers.

The green card is slang for Permanent Resident Card and has a 10-year span before it has to be renewed. The card is issued by the Citizenship and Immigration Services of the Department of Homeland Security and contains a photo and fingerprint. Years ago the green card was green, but today it looks something like a driver’s license.


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