To alleviate chronic shortages of physicians, nurses and language experts in the U.S. military, the secretary of defense has authorized a pilot program to temporarily recruit foreign nationals living legally in the U.S. to enlist in the military. For the first time in recent history, foreigners without  permanent resident status will be able to enlist in the U.S. military if their skills are vital to the national interest. This limited pilot program will recruit up to 1,000 people and will continue for a period of up to 12 months. In exchange, the enlisted foreign national will be eligible for expedited U.S. citizenship.

To be eligible under the pilot program, the applicants must have lived legally in the U.S. for at least two years as a refugee, asylee, holder of Temporary Protected Status, or in one of  the nonimmigrant visa status categories, such as E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U, or V. Applicants must have also been present in the U.S. for most of those two years with absences of no more than 90 days. By way of example, an L-2 or F-2 family member or an F-1 student with the necessary medical or language skills can now enlist in the U.S. military.

Under the program, health care professionals are required to make a commitment of three years of active duty or six years in the Selected Reserve, while enlisted foreign language experts are required to enlist for four years of active duty. Announcement of the pilot program is welcome news to recruitment centers around the country. The program will provide necessary medical, language and cultural expertise for our armed forces.

USCIS Offers New Immigration Resources to the U.S. Military Community

In related news, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a frequently asked questions (FAQ) resource for members of the U.S. military and their families stationed in the U.S. and abroad. The FAQ deals with a variety of issues, including naturalization for applicants stationed abroad, change of address, sponsoring a foreign national spouse or other immediate family members for permanent residence, as well as overseas processing of immigration benefits. The FAQ has been published on the USCIS website at In addition, USCIS has established a brand new toll-free military help line, 1-877-CIS-4MIL (1-877-247-4645), exclusively for members of the military and their families. Callers can receive assistance with immigration-related information, such as checking the status of an application or petition or notifying USCIS of a new mailing address or duty station.

U.S. military personnel can also get legal assistance through a new collaborative effort between the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the U.S. military Legal Assistance Offices. The AILA Military Assistance Program (MAP) provides free legal assistance to military members and their families who face serious immigration obstacles. Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney is proud to be part of the AILA MAP program and has already helped several U.S. soldiers and their families resolve their cases to a successful result. We look forward to continuing our support of this important program in 2009. Military personnel interested in getting help through the program should email AILA directly at