DOD Pilot Program for Foreign Doctors, Nurses, and Linguists

The United States Department of Defense (DOD) issued a press release to announce a new plan designed to address the chronic shortage of doctors, nurses, and linguists in the United States Armed Forces. Under a trial program, the Military Accession Vital to National Interest Recruitment Pilot Program (MAVNI), the DOD is authorizing the military services (comprised of the Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force) to enlist up to 1,000 legal noncitizens (foreign citizens or nationals who have lived in the United States legally for at least two years) who are doctors, nurses, or linguists, because their skills are critically needed in the nation’s armed forces. The benefit to the individuals from an immigration perspective presumably would be sponsorship on an H1B or other relevant nonimmigrant visa, followed by likely sponsorship for immigrant status (or the “green card”), as well as expedited eligibility for citizenship if the criteria are satisfied under the law.

Shortage of Doctors, Nurses, and Linguists

The DOD is not able to fill its vital need for more than 24,000 doctors, dentists, and nurses required to treat all of the patients in the armed forces. In fact, the DOD’s doctor and nurse corps is 1,000 people short of meeting staffing levels required to treat our nation’s soldiers and people in uniform. In addition, the U.S. Special Operations Command needs individuals with special language and cultural skills for its detailed operations in remote places around the world.

Eligibility for the Military Accession Pilot Program

Eligibility for the program extends to applicants who are asylees, refugees, in Temporary Protected Status (TPS), or present in the U.S. in E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V classification for the two-year period immediately prior to the enlistment date. Applicants must not have been absent from the U.S. for any single period greater than 90 days. Although the individual branches of the armed services may add requirements for eligibility for the program as they administer it, the minimum requirements are set forth here.

Severe Shortage of Neurosurgeons and Dermatologists

Applicants seeking to qualify as health care professionals must fill only those medical specialties in which the armed services have a shortfall. The armed forces most pressing needs are for neurosurgeons and dermatologists to treat troops returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan with brain and burn injuries. The applicants also must meet all qualification requirements for their respective medical specialties and the criteria for foreign-trained medical personnel who are already recruited by the armed services under other programs. They must be proficient in English and agree to serve for at least three years of active duty or six years in the reserves.

Language and Cultural Specialists

To qualify for the program, based on their special language skills or cultural backgrounds, applicants must demonstrate language proficiency and culture capabilities in specific areas critical to the DOD. They must meet all exiting enlistment eligibility criteria and must commit to at least four years of active duty.


The U.S. has a long and illustrious record of accepting noncitizens into military service. Multiple governmental acts and agreements have prompted numerous brave noncitizens to answer the call of their adopted country and defend her values across the globe to help and support the United States. In turn, the U.S. recognizes these contributions by providing opportunities for early citizenship to these brave men and women.


Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.