Will my US citizenship be denied as I failed to register for Selective Service?


US Citizenship Application
"I am writing to you about my naturalization application.  I have been married to a U.S. citizen for almost four years. I applied for citizenship earlier this year.  I had my interview last month and I was told that I would be denied because I did not register for Selective Service when I arrived in the U.S. I was 22 when I got here, and now I am 28.  I was told that I had to get a status notification letter which I wasn’t aware of."

“I can’t find much information out about these letters. Can I be outright denied if I’m not issued with one?  A friend of mine who was naturalized a few years ago also didn’t register for Selective Service, and this fact never came up during his interview.  What will happen to my case?”

The N-400 naturalization paperwork that you had to complete spells out a male applicant’s Selective Service requirements quite clearly – if the applicant is under 26 years of age and hasn’t registered with Selective Service he must do so before applying for naturalization. If the applicant is over 26 he must attach a statement explaining why he did not register.

Just to backtrack a bit, most all males between the ages of 18 and 26, including U.S. citizens and permanent residents, must register with Selective Service, commonly known as “the draft.”  It’s a quick and easy process that can be done online (www.ssa.gov), and allows the government to maintain a base of eligible males who could be called to war (the likelihood of which is just about zero.)

Failure to comply with Selective Service requirements can cause problems, as you’re discovering with your naturalization case.  But rest assured that they are fixable, especially with citizenship cases. 

All citizenship candidates must show that they possessed “good moral character” during the five-year (or three, if based on marriage) period prior to applying for naturalization.   Drug dealers and murderers obviously would never pass, while those who pay their taxes and stay out of trouble can usually meet the requirement.

However, not registering for Selective Service is considered a breach of the good moral character requirement, and naturalization applications can be temporarily denied as a result.  (Your friend appears to have gotten off lucky, and yes, that can happen.)

You can request a status information letter from Selective Service (www.sss.gov/instructions.html), which will require you to explain why you failed to register. 

Once you turn 29 you will be eligible for naturalization regardless of the Selective Service issue, because you (presumably) will have possessed good moral character for three years since your 26th birthday, the last year that you could have registered.  Since three years is the required amount of time to become naturalized based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, you’ll once again be eligible.

Those who are in the country illegally are, believe it or not, required to register for Selective Service.  Should the opportunity for U.S. citizenship arise in the future, not doing so could become an issue as it did for this week’s questioner.

Males between the ages of 18 and 26 can register online, but those who do not have a Social Security number must do so by mail. U.S. post offices have the necessary paperwork, which is very basic – name, address, date of birth and that’s it.


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