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Immigrant U.S. soldiers file lawsuit over new citizenship rules

On Behalf of | Jun 8, 2020 | Immigration |

Florida readers might be interested to learn that six soldiers are suing the United States for allegedly breaking its promise to grant them citizenship in exchange for their military service. The class-action lawsuit was filed on the plaintiff’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The plaintiffs all joined the Army through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program, also known as MAVNI. Under the initiative, non-citizens can enlist in a U.S. military branch and submit an N-426 form for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services certifying honorable service, which places them on the fast track to naturalization. Past practice has been for soldiers to submit the form soon after they report to basic training and receive citizenship before they deploy. However, the lawsuit, which was filed on April 24, argues that the Department of Defense introduced restrictive and unlawful new rules in October 2017 that make it difficult to complete the naturalization process. As a result, the plaintiffs claim they have been placed in “personal and professional limbo.”

According to the complaint, the Defense Department now requires MAVNI military members to undergo additional background checks, pass a military suitability screening and serve between 6 and 12 months before they receive the N-426 certification needed to apply for U.S. citizenship. The suit alleges that these changes make it harder for military members to obtain citizenship than it is for civilians. However, in a statement, the Defense Department countered that the new screening rules are necessary security measures that serve the national interest. The plaintiffs are currently serving at various military posts in Hawaii, Texas and Alaska.

U.S. immigration laws are complex and subject to frequent changes. Individuals who want to apply for U.S. citizenship might find it helpful to seek the advice of an immigration attorney before beginning the naturalization process.