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Resources Related to DOD’s Tightening of Rules and Discharges of Immigrants from the Military

7/24/20 AILA Doc. No. 17102300. Naturalization & Citizenship

If you are a service member who has served or is serving in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve (the “Selected Reserve”), who enlisted through the MAVNI program, and who has not yet become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you may be affected by ongoing litigation in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (the “Court”). Several MAVNI soldiers brought two lawsuits (the Kirwa litigation and the Nio litigation) against the DOD, DHS, USCIS, and certain government officials challenging the lawfulness of Defendants’ policies affecting naturalization.

Please read this website carefully if you are have a client who is a MAVNI service member who has not been naturalized.

In October 2017, the Department of Defense issued several memoranda that tightened the rules for immigrants joining the military.

The Congressional Research Service issued an In Focus report on expedited citizenship through military service describing the current law and eligibity, as well as the MAVNI program and deportation of U.S. military veterans.

On April 24, 2020, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Pentagon on behalf of six non-citizen U.S. troops, who allege they are being blocked from accessing the expedited citizenship procedures they are eligible for as military personnel. According to the National Immigration Forum, roughly 8,000 non-citizens join the active duty military each year, and as long as they have received certification from the Pentagon that they have served honorably, all are eligible for expedited citizenship under the INA. In 2017, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued policy guidance which dramatically slows the certification process and limits the number of officials who can approve it. This new lawsuit claims the 2017 guidance “makes it difficult, if not impossible, for service members to benefit from expedited naturalization.”

In July 2020, the number of immigrant military personnel receiving U.S. citizenship is beginning to rise after years of decline, and service members are getting approved for naturalization at a higher rate than civilian applicants for the first time since 2017, government data shows.

Practice Resources

Government Memos

Congressional Action

  • On September 12, 2019, several members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and DHS Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan inquiring about DOD policy on the process for noncitizen service members seeking naturalization and how USCIS evaluates such applications for citizenship.

Media Coverage


Department of Defense Memos Issued in October 2017

Department of Defense Press Release (October 13, 2017)

Advocacy Resources

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