32,000 non-citizens are serving today in the United States military, around 2% of the total military force. Over 760,000 non-citizens have gained citizenship through military service. About 8,000 non-citizens join the military every year. Roughly 6,000 persons a year become citizens through this route. Here is an analysis of the military’s program, including benefits to the military which include longer voluntery tenure. Here is a recruitment website of the military.
Rules and citizenship benefit: The individual must be a legal permanent resident with a green card; must be able to read, write, and speak English fluently; must be between the ages of 17 and 35, although some branches of the military may have different age requirements; must be physically fit; and must pass a background check. If accepted into the military, the non-citizen soldier will be required to serve for a minimum of one year of active duty or two years in the reserves in order to be eligible for citizenship. This process for citizenship takes around six months.
During World War I, the Selective Service Act of 1917 allowed non-citizen soldiers to be drafted into the military. However, it wasn’t until World War II that non-citizen soldiers were actively recruited to serve in the military through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program. This program was designed to recruit non-citizen soldiers with critical skills, such as language expertise or medical training.
In the Korean War, about 32,000 of the 1.7 million American military were non-citizens. In the Vietnam War, non-citizen soldiers were about 50,000 of 2.7 million.
After Vietnam War, the number of non-citizen soldiers in the military decreased In 2002, after the 9/11 attacks, the MAVNI program was reinstated to recruit non-citizen soldiers with critical skills.
Special Filipino citizenship programs began in 1901 and ended in 1992. The “Philippine Scouts” program was established in 1901 during the Philippine-American War. Under this program, Filipinos were recruited to serve as soldiers in the United States Army and Navy, with the promise of gaining U.S. citizenship as a reward for their service. In the case of stewards serving Navy officers, Filipino stewards were hired to work on U.S. Navy ships, where they would serve as cooks, waiters, and cabin stewards for American officers. In exchange for their service, the Filipino stewards were promised the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship after completing their contract. It was only in 1946, after the Philippines gained independence from the United States, that U.S. citizenship was assured. The program ended in 1992.
DACA cohort: In 2014, the Department of Defense issued a policy, later turned into law, allowing individuals who have been granted DACA status to enlist in the military, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements. The individual must be a legal permanent resident with a green card; must be able to read, write, and speak English fluently; must be between the ages of 17 and 35, although some branches of the military may have different age requirements; must be physically fit; and must pass a background check.
Pilot program begun, terminated: A program focused on language capability started as a pilot program in 2008 and recruited about 10,800 people before it ceased in 2016. Some of the languages that were eligible for the program included Pashto, Arabic, Farsi, Urdu, Bengali, Somali, and Yoruba. The Defense Department ended the program citing security concerns, and imposed strict new screening on thousands of recruits who had already signed enlistment contracts for the program but had not yet begun basic training. The Army flagged many of them as security risks, even when other federal agencies had cleared them for more sensitive jobs in the civilian world. (Go here.)