The wait list for US citizenship is very long. It can take several years for an application to be processed, based on the annual quota assigned to each country. And as there are several classes of US visa statuses that are almost half the letters of the alphabet, you have to be prepared to wait several years before being called for an interview.
It was announced recently that there are shorter ways to become a US citizen, as short as six months, even without being a green-card holder.
As a Healthcare Professional
- If you hold a non-immigrant status and have been working in the United States as a doctor or a nurse for two years continuously, then you are eligible to apply to join the US Army and immediately apply for US citizenship even without gaining permanent residency. This is done through the Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program. The pilot program will run from January to December 2009. If this is successful, it may be extended and will cover all branches of the US military service.
- The US Army is in need of a lot of healthcare professionals and is currently sourcing from skilled workers who have received more education in their home country, and speaks another language. This is done to boost their shortages in language interpretation, field intelligence analysis and medical care.
- You still have to provide documentation that you are working in the US legally and must pass the guidelines for immigration set by MAVNI. Your fingerprints will be verified and scrutinized against all security databases of the US government. Take notice that all applicants will also be subjected to other screening methods to prove that they are not a risk to the US Army and the US government.
- You can choose to sign a contract for a tour of active duty for three years. Another choice is to sign on for six years serving in the US Army Reserves. If you opt to enlist as a reserve you must apply for a doctor or nurse position in any of the specialties and branch of medical service that the US Army requires such as psychiatry, veterinary medicine, plastic and general surgery, dentistry or obstetrics. Applicants must pass an English test as well as a rigorous qualification procedure prior to acceptance. A doctor is also expected to serve additional two or more years in the military before he can be fully released without an obligation to serve.
- Even if you are a member of the reserve unit, you must still attend the monthly training assemblies, participate at the annual training for at least two weeks a year and be available for mobilization. You must also be willing to volunteer for special tours of duty when needed. However, you may continue to do your civilian job as stated in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994.
- There are foreign nationals who are enlisted in the US military yet they do not hold a US citizenship. These enlisted individuals especially those with special culture and language backgrounds are also qualified to apply through the MAVNI program. Others who may apply are:
- Refugee, asylee or those under temporary protected status (TPS)
- Non-immigrant visa categories E, F, H, I, J, K, L, M, O, P, Q, R, S, T, TC, TD, TN, U or V that have valid status for two years at least immediately before the date for enlisting and have not gone out of the US for more than 90 days in this two-year period.
- Applicants for enlistment should possess specific language and culture capabilities based on the critical requirements of the US Department of Defense. They must also be very proficient in the language, meet all the criteria for enlistment and willing to be on active duty for four years.
If you fall under these two categories, then your dream of being a citizen of the United States can be fast-tracked by the MAVNI program. Gather your legal documentations and certifications and check if you are eligible.