A federal court has approved a settlement between beneficiaries of the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program and the United States government, allowing more participants in that program to obtain military naturalization. The settlement, once implemented, will allow foreign citizens who served in the U.S. Army with “uncharacterized” discharges, as well as those currently serving in the Army, to pursue U.S. citizenship. For many who served in the military, this is a welcome development that could help them on the road to naturalization.
What is MAVNI?
The Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program was originally put into place in 2008, as a way of recruiting non-U.S. citizens with valuable skills into the military. Under the MAVNI program, immigrants with certain specialized skills (such as proficiency in foreign languages or those with knowledge of medicine) could apply to join the military for a certain period of time. Provided they fulfilled all requirements of the program and did not receive a dishonorable discharge, they could apply for military naturalization in the U.S. upon completion of their service. Unfortunately, the MAVNI program was suspended in 2017, and it no longer accepts applications.
What Was This Lawsuit About?
In Calixto v. Department of the Army, Civ. A. No. 18-1551 (PLF) (D.D.C.), the plaintiffs allege that the Army began suddenly discharging members of the MAVNI program in 2016 while they were still in their entry-level status, without any notice or process and without any specific grounds for the discharge. As a result, they were unable to use their military service to apply for military naturalization as promised. They allege they were unfairly discriminated against, and that their right to due process had been violated.
What Does The Settlement Mean?
Under the recently approved settlement, participants in the MAVNI program who received an uncharacterized discharge, or who are currently serving in the Army and facing potential immigration issues, will be able to seek a military naturalization. In other words, they will be able to seek U.S. citizenship as though they had successfully completed the MAVNI program. This does not apply to MAVNI participants who received an Honorable, General, Other Than Honorable, Medical, Bad Conduct, or Dishonorable Discharge.
What Should You Do?
If you or someone you know participated in the MAVNI program and was discharged without a stated reason, or if they are currently serving in the military, you should speak to an immigration lawyer. They can help you to go through the process of enforcing your legal rights and ensuring you receive the protections you deserve. The sooner you call, the sooner they can help you with your case.
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