The Onerous Path to Citizenship of U.S. soldiers

Tobias J Song


USCIS (United States Citizenships and Immigration Services) is the governmental agency under the department of homeland security. The agency was formerly called INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) under the Department of Justice. USCIS was transferred to the department of homeland security in 2003 because of the increased security needs in regards to immigration services due to the 9/11 terror attack. However, the potential malfeasance of the agency may trigger increased voices of people that believe the USCIS should go back to being under the Department of Justice to bring back the justice of immigration services.


There is a military enlistment program for immigrants named MAVNI (Military Accession Vital to National Interest), and the people who enlist through this program are always full of will to serve the country they love. It ran smoothly when it first began; people got shipped to basic training and worked hard in each military organization (but mostly in the Army). The program was continued and opened the Army reserve slots to the applicants in 2015. The cap of the program was filled very quickly and the program of the fiscal year of 2016 was closed in June 2016. Still, things were okay, and people got shipped to the basic training all at once, or they got delayed once. People did not anticipate any potential erroneous event. However, the security issue was aroused in the Army, and the Army halted shipping of applicants to basic training in September 2016. Then, no one got shipped after that moment until now.


Delay of shipment is vetting for the MAVNI applicants because sometimes they fell out of the legal status while they are waiting for their shipping date, or seldom they could not afford their living because they did not have non-limited employment authorization in the United States. However, the situation has been continued from last September. Army Reserve applicants were in slightly better condition. They were considered soldiers, legally, right after they make the enlistment contract. They could also work in the reserve component although they did not go to the basic training yet. This availability of immediate accession was because of the character of the reserve unit, and due to this character, they could have the CAC (Military ID Card) and get benefited from the insurance for military personnel. Also, they could apply for citizenship even before basic training. The law (INA-328 and INA-329) says that “one day of honorable service during the hostile period is enough to apply for the naturalization.” This information of the naturalization process for reserve soldiers was popularized in the MAVNI community in December 2016, and many reserve soldiers who have served at least one day in the reserve unit.

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However, the department of homeland security is hampering the naturalization of the Army reservists. USCIS said, “We need to ask the secretary of defense whether USCIS proceed the naturalization of reservists who did not finish their basic training yet or not.” However, completion of basic training is not a requirement for the naturalization of military personnel. The requirement during the hostile period, which is right now, since 9/11 terror attack, is “at least one day of the military service.” That is what the law says. In regards to this issue, immigration law experts immediately show their concerns. Margaret D. Stock, who is a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve who also was involved in creating MAVNI, said she believed the government was violating a segment of the law that says Army reservists are eligible for citizenship as soon as they begin serving.


Through this event in USCIS, many people are getting ready to do the legal action to retrieve their rights. And, the agency which did not comply with the law is facing many lawsuits.

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