Normally, permanent residents who enlist in the U.S. military must be lawful permanent residents (hold a green card) before they can enlist. However, through the MAVNI program, asylees, refugees, and those in certain nonimmigrant visa categories can obtain citizenship without first becoming a permanent resident.
While the program is new, the policy is not. Section 329 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (sometimes referred to as the "wartime naturalization" provision) states that a qualifying Service Member can become a citizen without first being a permanent resident. The MAVNI program taking advantage of this provision to enhance military readiness.
The one-year MAVNI pilot program will allow up to 1,000 non-citizens, who do not have permanent resident status but have been here legally for at least two years, to join the Army if they have the needed medical or foreign language and cultural expertise. The program ends on December 31, 2009 or when 1,000 non-citizens have been recruited.
While citizenship is not guaranteed, nonimmigrants who apply under the MAVNI pilot program must undergo the same background checks, security screening and meet all of the general qualifications to become citizens of the United States, as do all other members of the U.S. armed forces who apply for citizenship.
The MAVNI program is scheduled to continue until December 31, 2009 or when it meets its target of new recruits, whichever happens earlier.
Update:The MAVNI program has been granted a temporary 60-day extension. Applications are being accepted through February 28, 2010.