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US military offers immigrants fast track to citizenship in effort to boost recruiting

Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images

The United States military recently launched a new program to boost recruiting by offering a fast track to citizenship for legal immigrants who enlist.

The Army, Air Force, and Navy reported that they would likely be unable to meet their yearly recruiting goals. Last year, the Army missed its recruiting goal by 25%.

Additionally, only 20% of U.S. individuals meet the physical, mental, and character requirements to join the military.

Officials report that low unemployment, fewer qualified people, and declining public confidence in the military are to blame for the recent recruiting shortfalls.

In an effort to enlist more service members, the Air Force started a new program this year that offers an accelerated path to citizenship for legal immigrants who join.

The Army relaunched a similar program in October, offering legal immigrants a fast track to naturalization for enlisting.

The Air Force and the Army boosted their marketing efforts to combat declining recruitment by creating pamphlets, social media campaigns, and offering additional incentives. The branches also enlisted recruits with similar backgrounds to reach out to potential recruits.

Esmita Spudes Bidari, a woman from Nepal, explained to the AP, “It is one thing to hear about the military from locals here, but it is something else when it’s from your fellow brother, from the country you’re from.”

Air Force Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, who heads the branch’s recruiting command, told the Associated Press, “We have large populations of legal U.S. residents who are exceptionally patriotic, they’re exceptionally grateful for the opportunities that this country has provided.”

Thomas noted that the program required the Air Force to alter its policies and work with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to develop a thorough screening process. He stated that new immigrant recruits are rarely placed in positions that require top-secret clearance.

“We have to take exceptional measures to be able to thoroughly vet and go through the security clearance investigation,” Thomas said.

The immigrant Air Force recruits undergo seven weeks of training, and once that process is complete, they are sworn in as citizens.

Since the launch, the Air Force’s first group of 14 individuals graduated from basic training and became U.S. citizens in April. The recruits were from Cameroon, Jamaica, Kenya, Philippines, Russia, and South Africa.

Approximately 40 recruits have completed basic training and become citizens as of mid-May. Another 100 individuals have started basic training and the citizenship process.

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