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Immigrant Veterans in the United States

May 17, 2024 (1 min read)

Jeanne Batalova, MPI, May 9, 2024

"Immigrants have served in the U.S. military since the nation’s founding. Their share of overall military enlistment has fluctuated over time in response to recruitment needs and other factors, yet the foreign born have been a constant presence in the U.S. armed forces. As of 2022, nearly 731,000 U.S. veterans had been born outside the United States, representing 4.5 percent of the country’s 16.2 million veterans. Naturalized citizens, lawful permanent residents (LPRs, also known as green-card holders), and certain nationals of three Pacific Island countries in free association with the United States—the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau—are eligible for U.S. military service. Other foreign-born individuals may be eligible to serve if the secretary of a specific military branch determines they have a skill or expertise “that is vital to the national interest,” as was the case with the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) program which ran from 2008 to 2016. Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2022 American Community Survey (ACS), this Spotlight provides information on immigrant veterans (ages 18 and older) in the United States, focusing on the population’s size, racial and ethnic composition, socioeconomic characteristics, and top countries of origin."

An immigrant from Rwanda serving in the U.S. Air Force. (Photo: Samuel King Jr./U.S. Air Force)