The US military, faced with a skills shortage, will open its doors to immigrants on temporary visas, enticing them to enlist with an offer of fast-track citizenship, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
Knowledge of a foreign language such as Arabic, Pashto, Chinese, Hindi, Tamil and Nepalese is among the skills the military is looking for. Doctors and nurses are also needed.
<b1>Immigrants who are permanent residents — those with green cards — have long been eligible to enlist, the Times said. But this is the first time since the Vietnam War that the military will recruit temporary immigrants. Only legal immigrants, including students and refugees who have lived in the United States for at least two years, will be eligible.
Immigrants in the military can apply to become citizens on the first day of active service, and take the oath in as little as six months, the paper said.
“The American Army finds itself in a lot of different countries where cultural awareness is critical,” said Lt Gen. Benjamin C Freakley, the top recruitment officer for the Army. “There will be some very talented folks in this group.”
The programme will be limited to 1,000 enlistees nationwide in its first year, most for the Army, the Times said. If this succeeds, the programme will be expanded. It could eventually provide as many as 14,000 volunteers a year, or about one in six recruits, the paper said.