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How to enlist in the US Military

By Tujipange KE Research Team


YES, EACH YEAR, ABOUT 8000 NON-CITIZENS join the U.S. military. A 2011 study found that roughly 4 percent of those enlisted in active-duty military service are noncitizens. Generally, if a person is not a U.S. citizen, he/she/them needs to be a green card holder, i.e., a lawful permanent resident, to join the military. Only foreign-born non-U.S. citizens having green cards can enlist in the Marine Corps or the other three military service branches. Also, U.S. resident aliens desiring to enlist as Marines must be able to speak, write and read English fluent.

To meet these requirements, the army is currently only accepting recruits with a high school diploma or a recruit with a GED and 15 college credits in classes numbered 101 or higher. You will not typically be eligible to join without the above.

The maximum age for Army enlisted recruits is 35, while the Navy and Marines cap recruit ages at 34 and 28, respectively. Under federal law, the oldest recruit any military branch can enlist is 42, although each service sets its own policy within that limit.

The Air Force typically closes the door to recruits at age 27. The Marines close it at29, and both the Army and Navy limit the maximum age to 34. Yet the Coast Guard has both doors open to applicants as old as 39, according to Military.com.

Before Serving in the Navy Reserve. To join the U.S. Navy Reserve, you must be between 18 and 39 years old (exceptions can be made for those with prior service). You must also pass a physical exam and have a high school diploma although, in rare instances, GED certificates can be accepted.

The general age requirement for the Navy Reserve is that you must be between the ages of 18 and 39 and be able to have 20 years of total service by age 60.

Army Reserve Soldiers receive the same training as active-duty Soldiers. After Basic Combat Training (BCT) and Advanced Individual Training (AIT), Army Reserve Soldiers return to their civilian lives and spend one weekend a month training to keep their skills sharp.

Non-citizens are not eligible to become commissioned officers in the U.S. military, and they may also be barred from certain Military Occupational Specialties, or job categories; particularly those requiring security clearances.

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If you want to serve your country, you need to be in peak physical condition. The U.S. Army has stringent rules regarding weight, body fat and health status. The physical demands don’t stop with signing up: Recruits who want to make it through boot camp and infantry training must also survive increasingly tough physical-fitness challenges. Aspiring Army Rangers face the harshest fitness demands of all.

Physical Characteristics

The Army has strict height, weight and body-fat composition rules for recruits. Allowable measurements vary by age and gender. A 5-foot-6-inch woman, for example, must weigh at least 117 pounds but cannot weigh more than 155 to 161 pounds, depending on age. A 5-foot-9-inch man must weigh at least 128 pounds, but can’t tip the scales at more than 175 to 188 pounds. Body fat can’t be more than 30 to 36 percent in women or more than 20 to 26 percent in men. Recruits who fail to meet basic height and weight qualifications receive a body-fat calculation based on abdominal and neck measurements. For recruits who exceed allowable body-fat percentages, the Army has a monitoring program that mandates monthly weight loss. The service also gives overweight recruits personal counseling to help them create a fitness and nutrition routine.

Health Conditions

Army recruits must take a medical fitness exam to spot health conditions that could cause problems on the battlefield. The service may reject aspiring soldiers with gastrointestinal ulcers, acute or chronic pancreatitis, hernias, anemia, bleeding disorders and dental problems such as missing teeth, which could limit a recruit’s ability to eat a healthy diet. Recruit hopefuls with hearing problems and poor night vision may also miss the cut. Vision must be at least 20/30 to 20/40 in one eye, and 20/70 to 20/100 in the other eye, with or without corrective lenses. Army docs also check recruits for joint problems such as poor mobility and arthritis.

Boot Camp

To complete boot camp, Army recruits must pass the Basic Training Physical Fitness Test. The test consists of three challenges: Two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups and a timed, two-mile run. The Army bases scores on recruits’ age, gender, number of repetitions or amount of time taken for each component. To complete boot camp, recruits must score at least 50 points in each event, for a total of 150 points. For men ages 17 to 21, that means performing at least 35 push-ups and 47 sit-ups, as well as running two miles in no more than 16 minutes and 36 seconds. Male recruits ages 22 to 26 must complete a minimum of 31 push-ups, 43 sit-ups and a two-mile run in 17 minutes and 30 seconds or less. Women recruits ages 17 to 21 must be able to do 13 push-ups and 47 sit-ups, and post a time of no more than 19 minutes and 42 seconds on the two-mile run. Female recruits ages 22 to 26 must perform 11 push-ups, 43 sit-ups and a two-mile run of 20 minutes and 36 seconds or less.

Advanced Infantry

Physical fitness requirements ramp up for recruits in Advanced Infantry Training. Graduating requires a fitness test score of 180 points or more, with at least 60 points in each of the three challenges. Male recruits ages 17 to 21 must do 42 push-ups, 53 sit-ups and a two-mile run in 15 minutes and 54 seconds or less. Women in the same age group must complete 19 push-ups, 53 sit-ups and two miles of running in 18 minutes and 54 seconds or less. For recruits ages 22 to 26, men must manage 40 push-ups and 50 sit-ups, as well as a 16-minute, 36-second two-mile run. Women must do 17 push-ups, 50 sit-ups and a two-mile run in less than 19 minutes and 36 seconds.


To join the elite Army Rangers raid force, recruits must meet stringent fitness criteria. All physical challenges, including push-ups and sit-ups, are timed, with required minimums. Ranger recruits have two minutes to finish 49 push-ups, and another two minutes to finish 59 sit-ups. They must complete a two-mile run in less than 15 minutes and 12 seconds, as well as a five-mile run in 40 minutes or less. They must be able to perform six untimed pull-ups. A 16-mile hike with a 65-pound pack in 5 hours and 20 minutes or less and an untimed 15-meter swim in full Ranger gear are also mandatory

Status check

  1. Be a permanent legal resident living in the U.S. with permission to work in the country. Neither tourist nor student visas are sufficient for enlistment in the U.S. military, and undocumented immigrants are not eligible to join the U.S. military. Non-citizens must also meet the same standards of physical fitness and education as U.S. citizens seeking to enlist.
  2. Have a valid Permanent Residence Card — form I-551 (popularly known as a Green Card) — to prove your legal resident status. If you don’t have a current I-551, you have to show proof that you have applied for renewed status, such as an original receipt from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services showing you have paid for the renewal application — form I–90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card).
  3. Apply to join the enlisted ranks of the U.S. Army. You will not be permitted to begin formal military training until your legal permanent resident status is established. Your Permanent Residence Card must be valid for the duration of your enlistment.
  4. Apply for U.S. citizenship if you want to be eligible to reenlist beyond your initial service commitment or to become a commissioned Army officer. Although the normal path to citizenship requires a legal resident to maintain that status for at least five years while living and working in the U.S., the military offers an accelerated program that takes about 10 months.
  • Check with your local military recruiter to find out if there are any other requirements you must meet for enlistment in the other branches of the U.S. military.
  • Non-citizens from countries considered hostile to the United States may not be able to join the U.S. military, even if the other requirements are met. In some cases, they may be able to join if a waiver is obtained from the government through the recruiter.

Can DACA youth enlist?

Currently, no. In 2012, the Obama administration launched a program called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals that gives limited immigration benefits to individuals who entered the U.S. as children.

Although individuals in the DACA program are authorized to work, they cannot join the military. There may be exceptions under the MAVNI program in the future, but not currently. Hopefully Congress, which has now been assigned the task of determining the future of the DACA program, will create more wiggle room for those interested in enlisting.

What is MAVNI?

A program known as Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI, allows the military to recruit non-citizens with specific skills, such as health care professionals or those with language and cultural skills. The program was created in 2008 by the secretary of defense to help the military meet its recruitment goals in these high-need areas. You can request more information from the Army here.

MAVNI allows the military to recruit non-citizens with specific skills

The MAVNI program was widely seen as a success, so it was a surprise to many when the Pentagon announced in 2014 that the program has been suspended. The status of the program under the Trump Administration is now under review, and may be canceled.

The Selective Service System is a federal agency that collects information about non-citizen individuals who may be required to perform military service. All non-citizen males ages 18 to 25 living in the U.S. have to register with Selective Service. Even undocumented immigrants who can’t enlist in the military are required to register with Selective Service

In July 3, 2017 NPR reported that Pentagon considered cancelling program that recruited immigrant soldiers

The Pentagon is considering pulling out of a deal it made with thousands of non citizen recruits with specialized skills: Join the military and we’ll put you on the fast track to citizenship.

The proposal to dismantle the program would cancel enlistment contracts for many of the foreign-born recruits, leaving about 1,000 of them without legal protection from deportation.

The plan under consideration is laid out in a memo from Pentagon officials to Defense Secretary James Mattis. In the memo, obtained by NPR, high-level personnel and intelligence officials cite security concerns and inadequate vetting of recruits under a program called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest, or MAVNI.

The memo also cites “the potential threat posed by individuals who may have a higher risk of connections to Foreign Intelligence Services,” and it refers to an “elevated” risk of an insider threat.

The Pentagon is considering pulling out of a deal it made with thousands of non citizen recruits with specialized skills

The recruitment program began in 2009 to attract immigrants with medical or language skills, such as surgeons or Arabic speakers. It allows visa holders, asylees and refugees to bypass the green card process to become U.S. citizens.

The founder of the MAVNI program, retired Lt. Col. Margaret Stock, said the security concerns are overblown. “If you were a bad guy who wanted to infiltrate the Army, you wouldn’t risk the many levels of vetting required in this program,” she said.

Noncitizens have had a long history in the U.S. military. Immigrants have been eligible to enlist since the Revolutionary War.

The program has been frozen pending further review.

Questions about the program arose last year when officials discovered that some MAVNI recruits had offered false educational credentials, according to a legal brief from the Department of Justice. The brief was filed as part of a lawsuit challenging the Pentagon’s decision to freeze the program.

The Pentagon responded to the discovery of some recruits providing fake university degrees by ordering security checks on all recruits in the program and barring new enlistments.

But that screening process has overwhelmed the Army’s resources. According to the Pentagon memo, those security checks have “diverted already constrained Army fiscal and manpower resources from their primary roles.”

Stock said many MAVNI recruits were left in limbo.

“The Army said you can ship to basic training after you complete the background checks. But now they’ve canceled all the background checks so nobody can ship to basic training,” she said.

In one of two ongoing lawsuits, several noncitizens recruited under MAVNI and serving in the Army Reserve have sued. They argue that they were promised an expedited path to citizenship but that the Department of Homeland Security, at the behest of the Pentagon, has failed to process their naturalization applications, as required by law.

In the other case, the plaintiffs argue the Pentagon discriminated against naturalized U.S. citizens who were denied security clearances in the first terms of their enlistment. That meant that the military careers of the MAVNI recruits were effectively stalled out because they were unable to attend officer training school, for instance.


 http://www.npr.org/2017/07/03/535342867/pentagon-considers-canceling-program-that-recruits-immigrant-soldiers, http://work.chron.com/join-us-army-not-us-citizen-11930.html

http://stories.avvo.com/rights/immigration/can-immigrants-serve-us-military-8-rules-non-citizen-service.html Sep 6, 2017


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