In a push to increase skilled foreign language speakers of 35 specific languages, the US Army will now accept temporary visa holders and make them American citizens in approximately 6 months. Prior to the commencement of this new one year pilot program, the Army could only recruit non citizens that were green card holders. The Army believes this move will help it with "cultural awareness" and also, with the recruitment of doctors, nurses and other skilled individuals, as recruitment is at an all time low.
One of the languages being recruited for is Igbo, a language spoken primarily in Eastern Nigeria. As such, any Nigerians who speak Igbo and are currently in the United States on a temporary visa (work, school visa) are eligible. The typical path to citizenship for such individuals would take at least 10 years and cost $675 or more excluding legal fees. However, the recruitment push means that the usual time and financial requirements for naturalization will be waived by the Army.
The army is seeking speakers of Arabic, Chinese, Kurdish, Nepalese, Russian and many other languages. It is unclear why Igbo is one of the languages being sought. One can only wonder if there are any ties to the Niger Delta region being that in 2007, there were reports of American military involvement in the region on anti-piracy missions. However, if that is the case, other languages should be sought, such as Kalabari and Ijaw, which are some of the languages spoken by the many smaller tribes of the Delta.
Whatever the reasons for this push are, it will be interesting to see how many Igbo speakers choose to take advantage of this opportunity to help the US Army and of course, become American citizens.