Non-Citizens in US Military File Class Action Suit for Delayed Citizenship

Published by Matt Fishman on

Non-citizens seeking United States citizenship by serving in the U.S. military, have filed a class action lawsuit against the Department of Defense for policies delaying their path to citizenship.

Through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) recruiting program, the U.S. military is authorized “to recruit certain legal aliens whose skills are considered to be vital to the national interest.” To “recognize their contribution and sacrifice”, these “service members are eligible for expedited citizenship”.

In October of 2017, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a policy change to this program requiring a new “Background Investigation and Suitability Vetting” process and completion of “at least 180 consecutive days of active duty service” before completion of a Form N-426, “certifying the member’s honorable service for purposes of naturalization,” to be signed by a higher-ranking military officer. The DoD explained “it is in the national interest to ensure all current and prospective service members complete security and suitability screening prior to naturalization.”

Prior to the change, N-426 certifications of honorable service were issued “without regard to any additional criteria, including a minimum service duration requirement.” Plus, “a broad range of military personnel… could certify the N-426, and would typically do so within days of receiving it.”

The class action lawsuit alleges that this new policy “significantly prolonged the period service members must wait before they may obtain an N-426 certification and apply for naturalization…, and makes it difficult, if not impossible, for service members to benefit from expedited naturalization.” Additionally, without citizenship, the suit argues how these service members “can be placed in removal proceedings and deported from this country” while waiting for N-426 form certification following military service.

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