Immigration Law & the Military

"The post-9/11 conflicts have caused major changes in the U.S. military, and those changes have had a substantial impact on non-U.S. citizens serving in the All-Volunteer Force, as well as on the non-citizen family members of U.S. military personnel. After 9/11, as one of the few lawyers with a military background who also had a background in immigration and citizenship law, I found myself constantly answering military-related immigration questions from prospective members of the military, current U.S. military personnel, military family members, military lawyers, government officials, U.S. Representatives and Senators and their staffs, and fellow attorneys. The flood of questions grew so great that I thought I would do myself a great favor by writing a book in which I answered the most common questions in a way that would be easily accessible. The result was Immigration Law and the Military, published in April 2012 by the American Immigration Lawyers Association. 

The book discusses the laws, regulations, and policies that apply to immigrants and other non-citizens serving in or associated with the United States Armed Forces. I explain the immigration-related criteria for enlistment of non-citizens (no, undocumented immigrants cannot currently enlist in the U.S. military, but they must register for the draft, and if there is a military draft, undocumented immigrants can be drafted for service), military naturalization procedures (yes, there is an expedited naturalization process for non-citizens who serve honorably in the U.S. military), immigration remedies for military family members (yes, there are special remedies for non-citizen family members of U.S. military personnel), and the immigration consequences of military disciplinary proceedings and courts-martial (yes, a non-citizen who misbehaves during military service can face deportation later; and a veteran who serves honorably can be deported for post-discharge bad behavior). 

IntLawGrrls readers will be most interested in the book’s coverage of international law aspects of U.S. military service. For example, the book has a chapter describing how the United States government makes decisions with regard to security clearances in cases where a person has dual citizenship in the United States and another country, or in situations where a US citizen is married to a foreigner, or has foreign relatives. Another chapter explores the US immigration law remedies for non-American family members of US military personnel; the US Government occasionally provides special immigration and citizenship benefits—including expedited naturalization and “parole in place” to adjust status—to the family members of those who serve in the American military. I was also the principal architect of a highly successful post-9/11 US military recruiting program called “Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest” (MAVNI), which allows certain lawfully present foreign nationals—such as H-1B professional workers—to join the United States military and obtain expedited US citizenship in exchange for honorable service; in the book, I provide materials on the MAVNI program, which the Obama Administration has promised to extend after the program was temporarily halted in 2010. The book provides updated materials on these issues, including checklists and copies of policy memoranda and other official materials that are difficult to find at a law library in online legal research services.

U.S. military personnel are deployed in more than 100 countries around the world, and their global travels have inevitably created complex legal issues, many of which have immigration aspects. The immigration laws that apply to U.S. military members and their families are often the same laws that apply to other U.S. citizens and non-citizens, but there are also unique laws and unique military aspects of American immigration and citizenship laws. Because of the presence of non-citizens in the U.S. military and the global mobility of citizen and non-citizen military members, these issues are likely to continue.

 - Margaret Stock, June 4, 2012.