The Pentagon is changing the way it accepts immigrant service members in the military by making the screening process much more strict, according to a report by NPR.

In a policy update released mid October of 2017, the Department of Defense announced legal permanent residents, or green card holders, will not be able to ship out to basic training until after their background check is complete.

Prior to the announcement green card holders went to basic training while their background checks were taking place. The DoD expects this new policy will be a more secure way to ensure security within the military.

This policy change alters a program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest. That pilot program was adopted by the Obama administration and suspended in 2016 because of security concerns. The program was designed to encourage foreign nationals with certain medical or language skills to serve in the military.

In exchange for their service, the government would grant these immigrants expedited citizenship through a certificate called the “certification of honorable service”. Prior to the program’s suspension the certification was granted after just one day of service.

Portrait of an Hispanic man in the US military, wearing camouflage clothing, sitting with his sons, 2, 8 and 13 years old, and wife outdoors.

The new policy changes how these immigrants obtain that expedited citizenship. Instead of just one day of service the DoD announced these service members will have to:

  • Complete the screening process.
  • Complete initial military training requirements.
  • Complete at least 180 days of active duty service, or at least one year of satisfactory service in the selected service.

“These changes reflect lessons learned from the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) Pilot Program. While the Department recognizes the value of expedited U.S. citizenship achieved through military service, it is in the national interest to ensure all current and prospective service members complete security and suitability screening prior to naturalization,” a statement from the DoD reads.

The new policy went in to effect immediately.

In order to be eligible for the MAVNI program an immigrant must:

  • Be in one an asylee, refugee, or have temporary protected status. They can also have a nonimmigrant visa in these categories: E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V.
  • The applicant must have been in valid status in one of those categories for at least two years immediately prior to the enlistment date, but it does not have to be the same category as the one held on the date of enlistment.
  • Applicants could not have left the U.S. for more than 90 days at a time during a two year period.
  • Individuals who have been granted deferred action by the Department of Homeland Security pursuant to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals process are eligible for consideration.

Health care professionals must:

  • Fill medical specialties where the service has a shortfall.
  • Meet all qualification criteria required for their medical specialty, and the criteria for foreign-trained DoD medical personnel recruited under other authorities.
  • Know English.
  • Commit to at least 3 years of active duty, or six years in the Selected Reserve.

Those with special language and cultural skills must:

  • Possess specific language and culture capabilities in a language critical to DoD.
  • Demonstrate a language proficiency.
  • Meet all existing enlistment eligibility criteria.
  • Enlist for at least 4 years of active duty.

MAVNI Eligible Languages (as of April 2015)
Albanian
Amharic
Arabic
Azerbaijani
Bengali
Bulgarian
Burmese
Cambodian-Khmer
Cebuano
Chinese
Czech
Dhivehi (language of Maldives)
French (limited to individuals possessing citizenship from an African country)
Georgian
Haitian-Creole
Hausa
Hindi
Hungarian
Igbo
Indonesian
Kashmiri
Korean
Kurdish
Lao
Malay
Malayalam
Moro
Nepalese
Pahari
Persian [Dari & Farsi]
Polish
Portuguese
Punjabi
Pushtu (aka Pashto)
Russian
Serbo-Croatian
Sindhi
Sinhalese
Somali
Swahili
Tagalog
Tajik
Tamil
Thai
Turkish
Turkmen
Ukrainian
Urdu
Uzbek
Yoruba