Can failure to register with Selective Service cause problems with an application for naturalization? Most definitely.

A male friend, 28 years of age, recently went for a naturalization interview in New York, but had his request for citizenship temporarily denied because he did not register for Selective Service during the required time period.

(Selective Service, a U.S. government agency, requires U.S. resident males between the ages of 18 and 26 to register themselves in the event of a draft into war. The last time Selective Service conducted a draft into the armed services was 1973. Registration can be completed online or at a post office, and requires a person’s name, address, date of birth and Social Security number. Undocumented males are also required to register, but do not need to provide a Social Security number or its equivalent.)

The friend genuinely was not aware of a need to register for Selective Service when he was granted permanent resident status six years ago at the age of 22. And given that a draft hasn’t taken place in 37 years, and almost certainly won’t in the near or distant future, perhaps it is extreme to sidetrack a naturalization application because of non-compliance.

What’s the remedy for a successful solution to the problem? A couple of things. First, as naturalization applicants are informed when they receive confirmation that their paperwork has been received, they must contact Selective Service to request a status information letter, which verifies that the applicant has been contact with the agency about registration status.

There is currently a six month backlog on processing these status letters, so for those eligible males who did not register with Selective Service, but wish to at some point apply for naturalization, visit the agency at for information on obtaining the letter.

Even when the applicant has the letter in his possession, there’s no guarantee that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) will approve the naturalization request.

“The benefit agency official handling your case, not the Selective Service, will determine whether you have shown that your failure to register was not a knowing and willful failure to register. The final decision regarding your eligibility for the benefit that you seek will be made by the agency granting the benefit,” says Selective Service.

If the letter does not satisfy the USCIS officer handling the case – and officers are absolutely subjective; some will approve the application, while others may not – the applicant can re-apply for naturalization at the age of 31 without Selective Service becoming an issue.

Why? Because applicants are required to show “good moral character” during the five year period prior to a naturalization application being submitted. Failure to register for Selective Service could be considered a failure of moral character, hence the five year waiting time from the age of 26, the last applicable year for registering, and 31.

We’ll let you know how said friend gets on once he receives his status letter from Selective Service, which will be fall/early winter at this point. In the meantime, his permanent resident status has not been affected by the temporary rejection, and he is free to travel and work as he pleases.