Naturalization Pitfall: Failing to Register for the Selective Service

Men living in the United States, with few exceptions, must register for military Selective Service (otherwise known as the “draft”). This is common knowledge to Americans, but it often surprises foreign nationals, who often learn about this requirement only when they encounter questions about their Selective Service registration status when applying to become naturalized. If you came to the United States under age 26 and did not register during the required time frame, there can be serious consequences in your N400 case.

If you are an American male between ages 18 and 25, you must enroll in the Selective Service. Enrollment must occur within thirty days of the male’s 18th birthday. This requirement, however, also extends to many non-citizens such as lawful permanent residents, refugees, asylees, special agricultural workers, and even undocumented foreign nationals. Note, however, that if you hold this status after your 26th birthday, registering is unnecessary.  Further, there is no registration requirement for males born in certain

Some people are exempt from Selective Service. Specifically, it does not apply to lawful nonimmigrants in a temporary status. Some of these individuals include: tourists, diplomats, H1B workers, J-1 visitors, and those in other “lettered” temporary classifications.

The reason that complying with the Selective Service requirement is so important is that failure to do so will hurt your chances of demonstrating your good moral character to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). To become naturalized, a green card holder must show that he is “a person of good moral character” for five years (or else three years, if you are an applicant who got a green card due to marrying an American citizen). If you do not comply with this requirement, your application can be denied because you have failed to demonstrate good moral character during the requisite period.

This isn’t theoretical, either. If one knowingly and willfully fails to register for Selective Service, his application for naturalization will be automatically denied if he is 30 or younger. From age 31 and on, more than five years would have passed since his failure to register occurred. Therefore, on its own, it would not be enough to deny his naturalization application. If you are in the first category, you can present evidence that it was not done willfully and knowingly. However, there are certain evidences that USCIS expects to see to make this determination.  You should consult with an experienced immigration attorney if you failed to register but did not do so willfully and knowingly.

The selective service requirement is only one of the many rules considered when determining if a lawful permanent resident is a good candidate for naturalization. Therefore, anyone considering naturalization should consult an experienced immigration lawyer before filing. This will help you to avoid common pitfalls that can hinder or completely derail your chance of becoming a U.S. citizen.

Immigration Lawyers USA, LLC has extensive experience dealing with naturalization cases and can guide you in your naturalization matter.