The 2016 MAVNI Information Paper answers some of the common questions you may have about the MAVNI program. Read this information paper in its entirety because it contains valuable information that will help you in your new Army career.
Most sections apply to both MAVNIs who enlisted due to expertise in foreign languages and those who entered as Health Care Professionals (referred to as HCPs in the rest of this document). A section that applies to only one group is so noted.
You may ask your Recruiter, Station Commander, or Guidance Counselor any questions you have at any time, but remember that only written information in your contract is legally binding. Before continuing your enlistment process, you must read and sign this document on the last page.
A MAVNI Soldier is first and foremost a Soldier in the US Army and is subject to a strict military code of discipline. As a Soldier, you are sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. You will serve at locations to support the needs of the Army in the United States and overseas. You may be deployed overseas, just like any Soldier, and you may be ordered to serve in a combat zone.
The MAVNI program expands recruiting to legal non-citizens (non-green card holders) who are fully licensed health care professionals in critically short specialties, or who speak one of 44 strategic languages. The language portion of MAVNI recruits highly qualified Soldiers to provide increased language and cultural diversity to the force. These Soldiers will help the Army maintain a constant state of readiness in strategic language capabilities in order to be prepared for current and future world-wide operations. For those enlisting through the language program you are not enlisting as a linguist unless you are in MOS 09L. All other language dependent MOSs require a Top Secret security clearance which can only be granted to U.S. citizens. You will enlist into an MOS that does not require a security clearance and IF needed MAY be called upon to use your language. Therefore you must choose your MOS wisely and be happy serving in that MOS as it is possible that you may never be called to use your language.
When you enlist in the Army, there is always a chance you may be discharged. You may get injured at Basic Training or may not successfully complete training. If you are discharged from the Army before you become a citizen, you may no longer have a valid immigration status. For example, if you are on an H1B worker visa prior to joining the Army and are later discharged without citizenship, you will have no legal status. This is a risk you take when entering the program. If you are not able to obtain another visa you may be forced to leave the country. You should consider this risk before signing your enlistment contract.
All Soldiers who enlist in the Army are required to sign up for an Army Knowledge Online (AKO) account. Your recruiter will show you how to get an AKO account. Once you have an AKO account, you will have access to the MAVNI Program Information Center portal. Important information is posted on this website and will be updated as needed. Below are directions on how to find the MAVNI portal:
MAVNI is an enlistment option and not a specific MOS. Most individuals outside of the recruiting environment do not know what MAVNI is. Do not be surprised to meet people who have never heard of MAVNI when you attend Basic Combat Training (BCT), Advanced Individual Training (AIT), or arrive at your first duty station. Once you enter the Army, you will be treated like any other Soldier in the U.S Army, but may be called upon to use your language skills at some point.
When you arrive at your first duty station, please inform your Chain of Command that you have native language and associated cultural skills and are able to support operations using these language skills if the need arises. As stated above, MAVNI is an enlistment program, or a means of entering the Army. Because MAVNI is not an MOS, your Chain of Command will most likely not be aware that you are a MAVNI or even know what MAVNI is. It is your responsibility to let your Chain of Command know that you posses language and cultural skills. HCPs were enlisted for medical or dental expertise, but your language skills may also be beneficial while treating patients who may speak your language. You should also inform your commander of all languages you speak.
The US Army Special Operations Forces (ARSOF) is very interested in the language capabilities of MAVNI Soldiers. Every ARSOF Soldier must have a basic understanding of a foreign language. Native-level language expertise among ARSOF units helps in the very important mission of training indigenous foreign forces or conducting joint exercises or training with foreign countries. While in BCT or AIT you may be approached by an ARSOF recruiter and asked if you would like to volunteer to be assigned to an ARSOF unit. You will not be an ARSOF Soldier, which takes very specialized training, though this is something you might aspire to in the future; instead, you will be providing support to ARSOF Soldiers. You are not required to sign an ARSOF volunteer statement and it will not reflect poorly on you if you choose not to volunteer. The ARSOF recruiters are looking for specific languages and other capabilities. Being chosen for assignment to an ARSOF unit is an honor, as these are the Army’s elite forces with very important missions, but it is your choice whether to accept.
The Army recommends that MAVNI enlistees stay inside the United States between the time that they sign their enlistment contract and their ship date to Basic Combat Training. MAVNIs who travel internationally do so at their own risk. If a MAVNI enlistee fails to return to the United States and ship to Basic Training as scheduled, the Army will cancel the enlistment contract and give the quota number to another MAVNI enlistee. The Army cannot assist a MAVNI in getting a visa to return to the United States after foreign travel; there is no US visa category for MAVNI enlistees.
Here is a further explanation of this issue:
Once a person has signed a MAVNI enlistment contract, the person has shown an intent to serve in the Army and become a US citizen. This means that the person no longer has “non-immigrant intent” because the person intends to reside in the United States permanently.
The Department of State issues visas. The Army is part of the Department of Defense, a separate cabinet department of the US Government. The Army does not issue visas and cannot control whether the Department of State issues a visa. The Department of State requires non-immigrant visa applicants to demonstrate “non-immigrant intent” in order to get a non-immigrant visa, such as a student visa (F-1).
A MAVNI enlistee who travels internationally must have a visa to re-enter the US after travel. There is no law that allows the State Department to issue a visa to someone who has enlisted in the Army; there is no “MAVNI” visa. In addition, a MAVNI recruit cannot enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) since the law requires VWP applicants to also demonstrate “non-immigrant intent.” For this reason, among others, MAVNI is only open to persons who are already living inside the United States.
A person who has enlisted in the Army under MAVNI is no longer eligible for an F-1 student visa or any other visa that requires the applicant to show “non-immigrant intent.” Thus, if a MAVNI travels outside the US and applies for an F-1 student visa in order to return, the Department of State will deny the visa application. The MAVNI will likely be unable to return to the United States and will be unable to ship to BCT. When the MAVNI fails to ship, the Army will treat the MAVNI as a “failure to ship” case and will give the MAVNI’s quota number to someone else.
The Army cannot help a MAVNI who is outside the United States and is denied a visa by the Department of State. The Department of State must follow US law, which does not contain a visa category for MAVNIs. MAVNI enlistees should therefore avoid international travel after signing the MAVNI enlistment contract. Once a MAVNI obtains US citizenship and a US passport, the MAVNI will no longer need a US visa in order to return to the US and can safely engage in international travel. For further questions, please consult an attorney who is experienced in US immigration law issues.
NOTE: Some MAVNI enlistees may have heard that there is an exemption in US immigration law that allows alien members of the US Armed Forces to enter the United States without visas. This exemption does not apply to MAVNI enlistees before they report to Basic Training. MAVNI enlistees who depart the United States prior to Basic Training are subject to being denied admission and immediately removed upon return.
The Army, along with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has implemented expedited citizenship processing for all non-citizens at each of the Army’s Basic Combat Training (BCT) locations. USCIS officers are present at each of the BCT locations on a weekly basis to collect citizenship packets, interview and test Soldiers, and administer oaths. You should be given time to meet with a USCIS officer either while at the Reception Battalion or during BCT. DO NOT MAIL YOUR CITIZENSHIP PACKET BEFORE YOU SHIP TO BCT. Please ensure that you ship to BCT with a complete citizenship packet filled out and ready for processing. There is no application fee for a Soldier to submit a citizenship packet. Before you ship, you should be fingerprinted at a local USCIS Application Support Center. You should also obtain two passport-style photos to include with your citizenship packet. All documentation including the N-426 will be signed at BCT. Your recruiter does not need to sign or mail anything for you. You should carry your completed citizenship packet with you to BCT. Your recruiter may provide you with a citizenship filing instruction memo, or you can find one on AKO in the MAVNI Program Information Center in the folder named “Road to Naturalization.” Please note there are three separate instructions, one for Language Enlistees, one for HCPs and one for Green Card Holders. Ensure you have the correct document. You should also ship to BCT prepared for your citizenship interview and test. The Army’s goal is to ensure that all non-citizen Soldiers take their oath of citizenship prior to or concurrent with graduation from BCT. Once you receive your citizenship, you may apply for adjustment (Green Card) for your spouse and eligible family members if you choose; the Army does not do this for you. You will also need to pay application fees for their adjustment of status packets. Please note that neither USCIS nor the Army guarantees any Soldier US Citizenship, or that the Soldier will receive citizenship prior to graduation from BCT.
If you do not receive your citizenship prior to graduation from BCT, notify USCIS as soon as possible. You must inform USCIS that you have moved to a new military installation. Give them your new mailing address so the old USCIS office knows to transfer your file to the USCIS office in your new location. The best way to do this is by calling the Military Help Line at 877-CIS-4MIL (877-247-4645) or sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org .
The U.S. Army has zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. If you feel you are being discriminated against because of your race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender or any other characteristic, you have many solutions available to you. You can speak to the individual who offended you to let them know that their actions or words insulted you. If you do not feel comfortable confronting this individual you can speak with your Chain of Command, the Chaplain, your Equal Opportunity Representative or Advisor, the Inspector General or the Provost Marshall.
SPECIAL NOTICE TO THOSE OF MIDDLE EASTERN OR AFGHAN DESCENT, THOSE FROM PAKISTAN OR IRAN, AND OTHERS CONCERNED ABOUT THE RELEASE OF THEIR NAMES OR LIKENESSES:
Be aware that Soldiers participate in ceremonies and other events to which the public and the news media are invited. Unless you choose otherwise, your name and the country or city you are from could be released to the public. You also could be seen on video or in photos made available to the public. If you join the U.S. Army via the MAVNI program, you should consider asking not to take part in any public Army event if you would fear for your safety or the safety of your family (in the U.S. or overseas) if your identity as a U.S. Soldier were revealed. If you are of Middle Eastern or Afghan descent, are from Pakistan or Iran, or otherwise have concerns about the release or your name or photo, you do not have to agree to be photographed for public affairs events.
All MAVNI Soldiers, regardless of visa category, must maintain a valid immigration status until you ship to BCT. If you do not maintain a valid status, you run the risk of being picked up by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). If you are on a work visa, continue to work until you ship to BCT. Do not quit your job because you have signed an enlistment contract. If you are an F1 Student Visa holder the Army strongly recommends that you stay in school and therefore in status until you ship to Basic Combat Training (BCT). You have a few options:
If you drop out of school, you will fall out of status in SEVIS. You will be out of status from the date when you drop out of school until your ship date and you may have problems with your school or the Department of Homeland Security. Neither you nor your spouse (if the spouse is an F2) can work or renew your driver’s licenses, and you both risk being picked up by ICE and placed into proceedings because you failed to enroll in school. Again, the Army does not recommend you drop out of school and strongly suggests that you remain in a valid non-immigrant status until you ship to BCT.
**IMPORTANT NOTE: When you are going to drop your classes or not enroll for the next semester, inform your Designated School Official (DSO) that you joined the Army under the MAVNI program so that he or she can properly record your termination status in SEVIS. This is a very important step and you must let your DSO know that you joined the Army under the MAVNI program. Bring a copy of your contract with you as proof of enlistment. The SEVIS policy guidance concerning MAVNI Soldiers is posted on the MAVNI Program Information Center portal.
During your enlistment process, your recruiter will complete a DD Form 1966. You must ensure that the recruiter lists all languages that you speak on this form. The section on the form for languages will only accept two languages, so if you speak more than two, the rest of your languages should be annotated in the remarks section of the DD Form 1966. You should rank your languages in order of fluency, with the languages you speak best, first and the languages you are less proficient in, last. If you are enlisting in the MAVNI language program, the language you tested in for the Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) should be the language you are most proficient in, or speak the best, instead of whichever OPI is available first.
Your DD Form 1966 should remain in your personnel file. When you get to your permanent duty station, please ensure the personnel clerk enters any additional languages you speak into your record in a system called TAPDB. These languages can be entered as “self assessed” languages, and if you later test in these language and receive a passing score, those languages can appear as languages you have successfully tested in.
All Soldiers in the Army, regardless of MOS, are eligible to apply for Foreign Language Proficiency Bonus (FLPB). You may be able to earn extra pay for the languages you speak. You may receive up to $1,000.00 a month if you are highly proficient in 3 different languages. If you speak an eligible language, you are qualified to receive special pay if you pass the Defense Language Proficiency Test (DLPT) or an approved foreign language proficiency test. Some languages entitle you to more pay than others. To receive FLPB, inform your chain of command at your first duty station that you would like to be tested in whichever languages you speak. Most posts have an Education Center where tests are administered. You can also speak to the Education Center if you have any questions, and there may also be a language lab at your unit. Once you take the test and receive a passing score your unit will have to file paperwork to ensure you get paid. You must retest once a year to stay current and receive your payments unless you are deployed overseas. Once you test and receive your scores on a DA Form 330, ensure your personnel clerk transmits orders to Finance to ensure you receive FLPB pay. Your personnel clerk must also enter your scores into your personnel record. Ask him or her to enter the scores in the TAPDB data base as well. If you receive a passing score, you are also eligible to receive a Special Qualifications Identifier (SQI) of “L” for linguist. This SQI will become part of your MOS designation and should also be entered into the TAPDB database by your personnel clerk. Please note that you will not be paid FLPB unless you take the DLPT or approved foreign language proficiency test. The Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) that you were administered at MEPS, in most cases does not count for FLPB. Check with the Education Center to determine the appropriate test for your language. One exception is for Soldiers in the MOS 09L (Translator/Interpreter). 09Ls will be paid FLPB based on the OPI for their primary language and must retest yearly. However, if a 09L speaks more than one language, he or she must test in the DLPT or approved test for any additional languages, unless a DLPT or approved test is not available in that language. You are not eligible for FLPB until you reach your first duty station. Do not ask about FLPB during BCT or AIT.
A checklist for all MAVNI HCPs can be found on the AKO MAVNI Program Information Center Portal. If you did not receive a copy of this checklist from your recruiter, be sure to print a copy from the website. This document contains detailed information on the steps you need to take from initial processing through to your first duty assignment.
NOTE: The HCP MAVNI program manager can be reached at the following e-mail address: USARC_AccessionsDiv@usar.army.mil . Please direct your recruiter or Reserve unit to this address if you encounter any problems with orders, pay, BOLC, etc. This address is only for HCPs, not language enlistees.
If you are not happy with your current MOS, you may possibly be eligible to reclassify into another MOS in the future. You are NOT automatically eligible to reclassify into another MOS once you receive your citizenship. For most MOSs you are not eligible to reclassify until you have served a minimum of 2 years in your current MOS. When you reclassify, you may incur an additional service commitment; in other words, if the Army re-trains you in a new MOS, you may be required to remain in the Army for a longer period of time. Reclassification rules differ depending on your current MOS and the MOS you wish to reclassify into. To get all the details concerning eligibility to reclassify, please talk to a career counselor or reenlistment NCO at your first duty assignment.
Once you enter the Army, you will have all the same opportunities afforded to you as any other Soldier in the U.S. Army. If you are eligible and meet all the requirements, you can apply for Officer Candidate School (OCS), Green to Gold, Warrant Officer Candidate School (WOC) or any other Army school or program for which you are eligible. To become an officer, you must be a U.S. citizen and you must also be eligible to receive a security clearance. You must be recommended to become an officer, and you will most likely have to work in your unit for at least a year so that your commander will have time to evaluate you and make a recommendation. It is also important to be aware of all your education benefits, such as tuition assistance and the G.I. Bill. Each post has an education center that can provide you with information on education benefits. It is up to you to make the most of your military career.
You may have questions about family members’ status once you ship to Basic Combat Training. If your spouse’s visa status depends on yours, he or she is technically in a “gray area” while you are attending BCT. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published a regulation that allows you to work for the Army, but this regulation does not cover your spouse’s status. However, it is not the intention of DHS, USCIS or ICE to deport your spouse while you are at training. The Army will work closely with DHS to ensure that DHS is aware of all MAVNI Soldiers. **Note: if your spouse was in the US illegally before you shipped to BCT, or otherwise broke the law, then he or she may be subject to arrest or deportation even if you are in the Army. If you have questions about the immigration status of your family members, please seek advice from a competent and licensed immigration attorney.
While you are away at BCT, your spouse should keep a copy of your Army enlistment contract with him or her at all times. If questioned by ICE or any other agency, your spouse should show a copy of the enlistment contract to the questioning official. Your spouse should explain that you are currently in BCT and enlisted under the MAVNI program. It may also help for your spouse to keep a copy of a DHS policy known as the “Forman Memo,” which states that officers are not supposed to process for deportation Active Duty military personnel without checking with their headquarters. Though this memo technically only covers the Service Member, it is still a good idea for your spouse to keep a copy of this memo; it can be found on the AKO MAVNI Information Center Portal.
As soon as you receive your US citizenship, you may be eligible to apply for a “green card” for your spouse and children. Your family members will not receive this status automatically; you must do the necessary paperwork to file and pay the required fees.
As a condition for participation in the MAVNI program, all MAVNI applicants will be subject to enhanced security screening measures which will occur while you are in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) before you ship to BCT. It is very important that you maintain your immigration status until you ship to BCT. Do not drop out of school or quit your job because an unfavorable result on this screening may require your enlistment contract to be voided; in that case you will not be able to remain in the U.S. Army. If you are unwilling to allow these enhanced security screening measures, you cannot join the U.S. Army.
Once you are in the Army, if you have an immigration issue and do not have or cannot afford an attorney, you can seek assistance from your unit or post Judge Advocate General (JAG) Legal Assistance Office. If a JAG attorney cannot assist you, then the American Immigration Lawyers Association Military Assistance Program may be able to assist you; go to the following website http://www.aila.org/military and click on the link for information for military personnel seeking assistance.
I have read and understand the foregoing information paper (and agree with its terms).
Signature: _____________________________________ Date: ___________
Recruiter (Print): ________________________________________________
Signature: _____________________________________ Date: ___________
Station Commander (Print): ________________________________________
Signature: _____________________________________ Date: ___________
Guidance Counselor (Print): ________________________________________
Signature: _____________________________________ Date: ___________
MSG Washington has served within the ranks of the United States Army since June of 2001. With ten years of recruiting experience, he is an expert on Recruiting Operations, who willingly assists applicants across the Country with their enlistment process.