Military Accessions Vital to National Interest

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Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) is a recruitment program by the United States Department of Defense, through which legal non-immigrants (not citizens or legal permanent residents of USA) with certain critical skills are recruited into the military services of US.[1] Certain health care professionals and experts in certain languages relevant to the US military (e.g. Pashto and Farsi, due to the War in Afghanistan) meet eligibility requirements for recruitment through this program.[2] Soldiers belonging to the enlisted rank, and recruited through this program, become citizens of the United States, usually at the end of their Basic Combat Training (BCT).


MAVNI was spearheaded by immigration attorney Margaret Stock, a former U.S. Army Reserve and West Point professor.[3] The program started in 2008 under the George W. Bush administration as a one-year pilot program with a cap of 1000 recruits.[4] The program was suspended following the 2009 Fort Hood shooting and a revision of Army vetting procedures, before being resumed in 2012 with the new vetting procedure.[5] In October 2014, people belonging to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) category became possibly eligible for the MAVNI program.[6] In December 2014, the program has been extended until 2016 with a raised cap of 5000 recruits.[1] Enlistments are permitted for both active-duty and reserve assignments, but not in the National Guard.

As of December 2016, MAVNI is under review and closed indefinitely to new recruits, as the Trump administration was unenthusiastic.[7] Several lawsuits happened due to the Defense Department allegedly attempting to pressure out existing MAVNI service members, including outright discharging 40 members in July 2018 for failing new background checks.[5] These new background checks were criticized as being shoddy and relying on trivial information such as a MAVNI member having parents living in a foreign country as a reason to reject the check due to "foreign ties".[5] The softer methods included an "administrative discharge" of simply not sending soldiers to required training or giving them new contracts.[5] This process of discharging MAVNI members itself was suspended on July 20, 2018, one month later.[8][9] A related legal dispute ended in February 2019 with U.S. District Judge Thomas Zilly of the Western District of Washington ordering the Defense Department to stop unequal treatment of soldiers in the program, such as by forcing them to submit to "continuous monitoring" background checks without any case-by-case reason, when other soldiers are not subject to similar restrictions.[10]


The MAVNI program has several notable recruiting successes; for example, the program enlisted Saral Shrestha, the U.S. Army Soldier of the Year for 2012,[11] and Augustus Maiyo, the winner of the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon.[12] It also enlisted world class athletes like Paul Chelimo, the 2016 Olympic silver medalist at 5000 meters and many others.[13] MAVNI recruits of the Army have a lower attrition rate than other recruits,[14] and many hold higher educational credentials than other enlistees. Around 30% of MAVNI recruits were assigned to Special Operations units due to their language abilities, which facilitate operations in territories with few English speakers.[15] Several MAVNI recruits have written about their experiences in the program.[16]

With the suspension of MAVNI, the US Defense Department has weakened its requirements on would-be native citizens in an attempt to fill up missing headcount, such as allowing more waivers for people with criminal backgrounds or histories of illegal drug use to join the military.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Military accessions vital to national interest (MAVNI) program eligibility" (PDF). Department of Defense. November 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  2. ^ Stock, Margaret D. (2012). Immigration Law & the Military: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard. American Immigration Lawyers Association. pp. 17–19. ISBN 978-1-57370-317-8.
  3. ^ "Margaret Stock". MacArthur Foundation. 25 September 2013. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
  4. ^ Bennett, Jonah (9 April 2015). "US Army To Double Immigrant Recruitment Caps". The Daily Caller. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  5. ^ a b c d e Romo, Vanessa (9 July 2018). "U.S. Army Is Discharging Immigrant Recruits Who Were Promised Citizenship". NPR. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Military enlistment program for immigrants with special skills put on hold, creating frustration". Fox News. 24 October 2014. Retrieved 30 December 2014.
  7. ^ "Broadcast Message 1611-10 Upcoming PDSO DSO and RO ARO Annual Verification" (PDF). U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 2 December 2016. Retrieved 20 December 2016.
  8. ^ Chappell, Bill (9 August 2018). "U.S. Army Stops Discharging Immigrant Recruits Seeking Citizenship". NPR. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  9. ^ "DOD Temporarily Suspends Separation Actions to Members in MAVNI Program". American Immigration Lawyers Association. 20 July 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  10. ^ Gonzales, Richard (2 February 2019). "Judge Orders Pentagon To Stop Discriminating Against Naturalized Citizen Soldiers". NPR. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  11. ^ Cuningham, Henry (23 October 2012). "Fort Bragg's Sgt. Saral Shrestha named 2012 Soldier of the Year". Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  12. ^ Hipps, Tim (1 November 2012). "Maiyo Wins Marine Corps Marathon, Leads All-Army to Victory". Fort Drum Mountaineer. Archived from the original on 25 December 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  13. ^ Siskind, Gregory (4 August 2016). "Immigrants of the Day: Rio Olympics Edition – The Track and Field Team". Immigration Law & Policy. Retrieved 2 August 2017.
  14. ^ Horton, Alex (8 July 2017). "How the Pentagon ending its deal with immigrant recruits could hurt the military". The Washington Post. Retrieved 4 October 2018.
  15. ^ Tyson, Ann. "Immigrants Race to Enlist in U.S. Military". Retrieved 22 April 2017.
  16. ^ Sharma, Umesh (13 May 2011). "Not the War Umesh Sharma Expected". Harvard Ed.Magazine. Retrieved 29 December 2014.