Speak Hindi? Join the army and become a citizen in 6 months

It’s not easy to get a green card in America, and harder still to become a citizen. However, under a new recruitment program for the armed forces, if you’ve been in the US for 2 years and have the skills the military needs, you can get your citizenship in as little as six months from the day you begin service. While in the past recruitment was open to green card holders (with 8,000 a year signing up for the military) this is the first time recruitment has been opened to temporary immigrants.

The program targets two groups: medical professionals and those with language expertise including speakers of “Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Igbo (a tongue spoken in Nigeria), Kurdish, Nepalese, Pashto, Russian and Tamil. [link]” In other words, this is a program tailor made for desis (although not exclusively so)

The only catch is that you have to serve out your time in the military honorably, or you might lose your citizenship (!) even if you received it in the first six months of service:

Language experts will have to serve four years of active duty, and health care professionals will serve three years of active duty or six years in the Reserves. If the immigrants do not complete their service honorably, they could lose their citizenship. [link]

What made the US military realize their sudden love for brownz? They’re not getting the right kinds of recruits for service in Afghanistan:

Recruiters’ work became easier in the last few months as unemployment soared and more Americans sought to join the military. But the Pentagon, facing a new deployment of 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, still has difficulties in attracting doctors, specialized nurses and language experts. [link]

(Can somebody explain why the military thinks it will need Igbo and Tamil speakers in Afghanistan? I’m a bit puzzled by the mix of languages that they’re trying to pick up.)

Part of this is the military looking for specific skills, but part of it is a desire to raise the quality of recruits. Right now almost 1 in 5 has a waiver for a past criminal record or a health problem. A similar number don’t even have a high school diploma. Recent immigrants are expected to have high skills, and cannot have a criminal past:

Military figures show that only 82 percent of about 80,000 Army recruits last year had high school diplomas. According to new figures, the Army provided waivers to 18 percent of active-duty recruits in the final four months of last year, allowing them to enlist despite medical conditions or criminal records. [link]

While this is just a trial run, officials are looking at temporary immigrants as a source of up to 14,000 volunteers or 17% of army recruits each year!

The big challenge this program faces is political pressure from nativists who would rather have American-born recruits with a criminal past and no high school diploma than higher skilled and more closely vetted recent immigrants:

A preliminary Pentagon announcement of the program last year drew a stream of angry comments from officers and veterans on Military.com, a Web site they frequent… Commenters who vented their suspicions of the program on Military.com said it could be used by terrorists to penetrate the armed forces. [link]

It’s also possible that this security suspicion is just a fig leaf for naked protectionism, of the old guard wanting to keep certain jobs for Americans (that is citizens and green card holders). We’ll see which proves stronger – market forces or politics, in the coming years.

Related posts: Major Bhutani, Neil Prakash in ‘Wired’ (updated)

65 thoughts on “Speak Hindi? Join the army and become a citizen in 6 months

  1. A few months ago, the US army was discharging language translators for being gay.

    I guess I shouldn’t even apply. Plus all that dry weather will just ruin my skin.

  2. 51 · suede said

    A few months ago, the US army was discharging language translators for being gay.

    Gay or not, this has led to many language translators standing around holding their discharge in their hands.

  3. It is terrible to see the cheapening of American citizenship. This act has sad parallels to the late Roman republic when roman citizenship was granted to anybody willing to fight for the army.

  4. 29 · fiield marshal uncleji said

    Why don’t you Amerikans just headhunt the gurkhas from the Brits. Speak Hindi & hard as nails & decades of loyal service to the previous hegemonic power what more do you want ?

    Maybe that’s why they want speakers of “Nepalese”?

  5. rumor has it that Tamil mercenaries from SL are getting trained in afghanistan and also being hired to operate by Al Qaida. makes sense to have a few tamils in the army to me.

  6. I guess it has something to do with Canadian immigration laws as many foreigners are leaving for north even students. I read there is a bill under discussion that one can achieve PR on the basis of presence. Guess lot of foreign students will fall in that category. But then I maybe delusional since Homeland security passed a law with limit educated foreigners options.

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  8. I am the citizen of india ,and live in gujarat city bharuch. i finished my graduation with special subject ENGLISH and first subsidary HINDI.And am very fluent in HINDI. Rite now am doing MBA but am very much interested to join U.S army under this programme of HINDI. so pls guide me that how can i join and become a part of U.S army……..

  9. Hi Sir or Madam

    Please let me know how to apply for this job. I have US citizenship, 4 yr degree from US university and I can speak Hindi/Punjabi fluently. I really need a job, thank you.

  10. Yeah great, Now it’s India’s turn to get “liberated” by the white missionaries and academics. No doubt this “initiative” will be amply supported by the clueless abcd crowd. Jai ho slumdog!