Department of Defense Announces Policy Changes to MAVNI Military Requirement Program

On October 13, 2017, the Department of Defense (“DoD”) released several memoranda that increases the scrutiny on immigrants joining the Military. The new policy changes affect participants in the DoD’s Military Accessions Vital To National Interests (“MAVNI”) Recruitment Pilot Program, as well as all foreign nationals seeking to join the United States Armed Forces. The program was frozen earlier this year pending further review.

What is MAVNI?

MAVNI permitted the military to recruit certain immigrants, asylees, and nonimmigrants who possess “critical skills” such as physicians, nurses, language specialists or specialists in certain cultural backgrounds, in order to enhance the military’s operational capabilities and readiness. The program was designed and implemented in 2009 to attract immigrants with certain specialized skills in medicine, languages, or cultural studies to join the military. The program offered an expedited path to naturalization in exchange for service in the armed forces. Though the program required an applicant to submit a lengthy application demonstrating his/her proficiency in the specialized field and required a commitment of at least 3 years of active duty or six years in the Selected Service for healthcare professionals, and at least 4 years of active duty for enlisted individuals with special language or culture backgrounds.

On October 13, the DoD reversed the policy permitting expedited applications for citizenship and implemented additional vetting procedures and complete longer enlistments prior to applying for naturalization. The new policy directive requires that all foreign-born recruits, including legal permanent residents, must complete a background investigation and receive a favorable military security suitability determination (MSSD) prior to entry in the active, reserve or guard service. Additionally, foreign born enlisted personnel will no longer receive expedited citizenship until they have completed 180 consecutive days of active duty service or one year of satisfactory service in the selected service. Prior to this policy change, recruits under the program received a certification of honorable service required to start the expedited naturalization process after one day of service.

What Impact Does this Change Have?

The DoD’s new policy will have an immediate impact on approximately 10,000 immigrants currently servicing in the United States armed forces, as well as any foreign-born individual who seeks to join. The new policy directive also affects the Department of Defense, as an estimated 13% of the country’s population is foreign-born, thus further constricting the pool of potential recruits. The change represents another unfortunate and unneeded alteration of the government’s current immigration policies, and sets a poor precedent for those individuals who, as green card holder, wish to serve the country they now call home. Though the policy shift has been billed as a requirement to prevent foreign espionage, in practice the change unduly prejudices foreign-born nationals who have already passed several security checks to additional screening and scrutiny. Legal Permanent Residents should speak to a qualified immigration attorney prior to enlisting to understand how these new policy changes may affect your immigration status.

To find out more about the new rules or other investor visas, contact Scott Legal, P.C.


Ian E. Scott, Esq. is the Founder of Scott Legal, P.C. He can be reached at 212-223-2964 or by email at

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