Navy: No Immigrant Sailors Admitted Under MAVNI Are Facing Separation

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Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) man the rails for an international fleet review during Multilateral Naval Exercise Komodo (MNEK) 2016. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew P. Holmes)
Sailors aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106) man the rails for an international fleet review during Multilateral Naval Exercise Komodo (MNEK) 2016. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Andrew P. Holmes)

There are still a dozen sailors in uniform who entered the Navy under a program that fast-tracked citizenship for some troops, and none will be discharged from the service, according to officials.

The Navy admitted 29 sailors under the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI, program. Twelve remain on active duty, while the rest completed their service agreements and transferred to the Inactive Ready Reserve, said Lt. Christina Sears, a service spokeswoman at the Pentagon.

Dozens of soldiers admitted under that same program are being discharged from the Army because their background checks have not been completed or they've been labeled security risks, The Associated Press reported earlier this month.

"No sailors have been moved toward separation as a result of the policy the Army is following," Sears said. "No MAVNI-accessed sailor is or has been labeled as a security risk."

The Navy has completed security-clearance investigations on all 29 of the sailors admitted under MAVNI. The service maintains valid security clearances for the dozen sailors still serving, Sears added.

The MAVNI program was suspended in 2016. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last year he supported foreign-born recruits joining the military to fast-track their citizenship in exchange for their service. He cited security concerns when discussing the MAVNI cancellation, though, adding that future programs must guard against espionage attempts by those born outside the U.S.

Military.com followed the lengthy limbo some troops who entered the military under MAVNI faced while they awaited completion of their background checks.

The Navy is allowing new applicants who weren't born in the U.S. to continue volunteering "as long as they meet all enlisted criteria," said Lt. Cmdr. Jessica McNulty, a Navy Recruiting Command spokeswoman.

That program applies only to prospective enlisted sailors since all military officers must be U.S. citizens to earn commissions.

"There are approximately 2,218 future sailors of this classification in the delayed-entry program," McNulty said. "Our Enlisted Recruiting Manual contains information for recruiters to brief prospective non-citizen applicants that they may be eligible for U.S. citizenship after enlistment."

In addition to meeting the Navy's normal physical and education requirements, non-citizen applicants must also be permanent resident aliens with an unexpired green card, she added.

Foreign-born sailors who joined after Oct. 13, 2017, are eligible to apply for citizenship only if they've received an "honorable service designation," which requires 180 days on active duty.

Those in the Reserve must complete a year of satisfactory service, McNulty said.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @ginaaharkins.

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