Failure to Register With Selective Service Can Get Your Citizenship Application Rejected

While one would expect most native-born US citizens to be aware of the national requirement for men between the ages of 18-26 to register with Selective Service, immigrants seeking US citizenship might be surprised to learn they aren’t exempt from this rule. But when you take a closer look at the citizenship application, specifically Part 11, Question 46 on the Form N-400, it plainly states this requirement applies to those seeking naturalization as well. In fact, failing to register for selecitve service can be one used as a reason to deny US citizenship.

The US immigration service takes the idea of registration seriously enough to make it a foundational concept for becoming an American. To understand the thinking behind this requirement, we consider the concepts established in the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Policy Manual. In reading Chapter 7 of the manual, we find that, to be granted American citizenship, an applicant must demonstrate they believe in the principles inherent in the US Constitution. To overtly refuse to register - and keep in mind ignorance is not always an excuse - can be grounds to have your US citizenship application denied.

What is Selective Service?

The Selective Service System is an agency within the United States government that maintains a master list of all citizens and potential citizens who would be eligible for military service in the event of a national emergency. One should keep in mind that, at present, there is no draft and hasn’t been since January 27, 1973, towards the end of the Vietnam War. Since then, the US armed forces have been staffed on an entirely voluntary basis. Failure to register with selective service is a reason for us citizenship application denial

The actual requirements of registering are pretty simple. All male US citizens and male immigrant non-citizens between the ages of 18-26 are required to register within 30 days of their 18th birthday. In order to insure a higher compliance rate, a handful of federal benefits have been tied to getting registered such as student loans, Pell Grants, job training, federal employment, and - the topic of this article - naturalization or green card renewal.

Keep in mind that the simple act of registering doesn’t mean you have joined the military in any shape, matter, or form. It simply means your name has been added to a list of potential draftees in the event the military needs to be staffed quickly. Considering it has been almost 45 years since the last draft, and that public opinion seems to be stacked firmly against the idea, neither immigrants or native-born citizens should worry too much about another national draft actually happening.

Failure to Register with Selective Service: How it Affects a Citizenship Application

The effect of failing to register can have various results, depending upon the applicant’s age, up to and including rejection of the Form N-400. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. If you’re under the age of 26 and decide not to register, your application is liable to be denied outright. A failure to comply is seen as a lack of the moral character necessary to fully support the US Constitution. The easy solution to this problem is to get yourself registered ASAP. Also, be sure to get a verification letter that proves you have completed registration.

  2. If you fall between the ages of 26 and 31 and have not registered with Selective Service for immigrants, you can expect your citizenship application to be denied unless you show that the oversight was due to ignorance. Even if your failure to register was an innocent mistake, you might have better luck in having your application approved if you wait until you are either 29 or 31 years old and can show 3-5 years of good moral character independent of registering.

  3. Those over the age of 31 generally won’t have any trouble with obtaining citizenship from a lack of registration, assuming they haven’t run afoul of any other laws or prospective citizenship obligations since they turned 26.

The Bottom Line

Registration is as easy as visiting the agency's website and doing it all online. If you don’t have internet access, you can obtain the necessary form from any US post office. There is also an option provided to register online from outside the US.

The US immigration authorities take a failure to register seriously when it comes to evaluating the fitness or lack thereof of a foreign born male to become an American citizen. An applicant would be wise to understand and abide by the USCIS requirements in order to have the best chance for citizenship approval.

A denial means you would have to go back and start the entire process over again from the beginning. Don’t get discouraged by the tedious process of becoming an American. Millions have stood in your shoes and made it through to wave the red, white, and blue as their home flag. There’s no reason you can’t do the same.

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