Immigrants with temporary US visas are to be accepted by the United States army (photo, from abc.net). It will be the first time since the Vietnam war, said the New York Times.
So far, in order to qualify for the services, immigrants have had to have permanent residency, a “green card”.
According to the Times, those with temporary visas will be offered accelerated citizenship if they enrol.
The Pentagon hopes the scheme will cover shortages in areas like medical care and language interpretation.
As many temporary immigrants will have been granted visas on the basis of their education or skills, the defence department expects the new recruits to be more qualified than applicants who are US citizens. They particularly expect them to have languages whici will be useful in combat zones like Afghanistan and Iraq.
“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”, he told the New York Times.
“The army will gain in its strength in human capital, and the immigrants will gain their citizenship and get on a ramp to the American dream.”
Rise of unemployment
The scheme could cut the time a temporary resident has to wait for a green card from up to 10 years to as little as six months, said the Times.
In its first year, the programme will be limited to 1 000 enlistees. However, if it proves successful, it could be spread to other services and expanded.
As unemployment has risen in the US in recent months, army recruiters say their job has become easier. Yet in spite of that, they regret having had to turn away many immigrants because they had only temporary residency.
But there appeared to be some opposition from officers and veterans, said the Times. They expressed concern that some foreigners might have divided loyalties or be terrorists seeking to infiltrate the US armed services.