Failing to Register for Selective Service

How failing to register for Selective Service creates a problem for men filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization

n-400 failing to register for selective servicePermanent resident men are commonly surprised when they stumble upon Question 46 in Part 11 of Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

Men between the ages of 18 and 26 are expected to register for the Selective Service and provide proof for the purposes of naturalizing as a U.S. citizen. But how does failing to register for selective service affect one’s eligibility for naturalization? Will Form N-400 be denied if the applicant has not registered? There are numerous questions that this article addresses based on a review of the USCIS policy manual.

Selective Service Requirement on Form N-400

According to U.S. law, a man must register with Selective Service within 30 days of his 18th birthday. Selective Service can accept a late registration but not after a man has reached his 26th birthday. This requirement applies to citizens, permanent residents, refugees, asylees, and even undocumented aliens. It does not apply to women or foreign nationals in the United States with non-immigrant visas (e.g. tourists, students, business, etc.).

failing to register for selective service
Registering does not mean you are joining the military. The U.S. does not have a drafted military; the decision to join the military is entirely voluntary. The Selective Service maintains a list of names in case there is a national emergency requiring rapid expansion of the armed forces. For more information, read Selective Service for Immigrants.

Citizenship Problem Created by Failing to Register for Selective Service

Several federal benefits can be denied to someone that has failed to register for Selective Service, including U.S. citizenship. Deliberately avoiding registration or even not knowing to register can create a significant problem for a male permanent resident that wants to naturalize as a U.S. citizen.

failing to register for selective service, naturalization

According to Chapter 7 of the USCIS Policy Manual, “An applicant for naturalization must show that he or she has been and continues to be a person attached to the principles of the Constitution of the United States and well disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States during the statutorily prescribed period.”

Further, the manual makes it clear that “an applicant who refused to or knowingly and willfully failed to register for Selective Service negates his disposition to the good order and happiness of the United States, attachment to the principles of the Constitution, good moral character, and willingness to bear arms on behalf of the United States. “

What Happens to Someone that Failed to Register for Selective Service

n-400 register for selective service
Applicants Under the age of 26

Applicants for U.S. citizenship under the age of 26 should expect to have Form N-400 denied if they choose not to register for Selective Service. By making the decision not to register, the applicant is willfully failing to meet this obligation, and the USCIS officer will be forced to deny the N-400 application based on the applicant’s moral character.

Applicants that are least age 18 and under the age of 26, can take action now to correct the problem. They can easily register for Selective Service by visiting www.sss.gov. Not sure if you have registered? Applicants can even create an instant Official Letter of Verification to get proof.

n-400 register for selective service
Applicants Between 26 and 31 Years of Age

N-400 applicants between 26 and 31 years of age may be ineligible for U.S. citizenship. Again, applicants that “knowingly and willfully failed to register” or simply refused to register for Selective Service, should expect to have Form N-400 denied. On the other hand, USCIS will allow the applicant an opportunity to show that he did not knowingly or willfully fail to register, or that he was not required to do so.

Even if the reason for not registering was innocent, some immigration attorneys suggest it is better to wait until age 31 (if applying based on five years of permanent residence) or 29 (if applying based on three years of permanent residence while married to a U.S. citizen). The reasoning is that the applicant must show five years (or three years respectively) of good moral character.

Applicants under the age of 31 that want to proceed with naturalization (rather than waiting) may do so. The applicant will need to present evidence that failing to register for selective service was an innocent oversight and that he did not “willfully” avoid the requirement. Applicants should submit the following three items with Form N-400:

  • Status Information Letter from Selective Service
    A Status Information Letter from the Selective Service states that you are over-age and therefore no longer required to register. USCIS will refuse to consider your situation without this letter. Request a Status Information Letter.
  • Sworn Declaration from Applicant
    This signed statement explains why you did not avoid the Selective Service and why the nature is innocent.
  • Sworn Declaration from Supporter(s)
    This signed statement is most effective if provided by people of authority such as a teacher or pastor. The letter should support your explanation of what happened to result in your not knowing you were supposed to register.

Many people have successfully naturalized by addressing the requisite good moral character in this manner. For the best results, always speak with an immigration attorney first.

n-400 register for selective service
Applicants Over 31 Years of Age

Failure to register for Selective Service will generally not prevent a man who was over 31 years of age from demonstrating that he is eligible for naturalization. This is because the applicant’s failure to register would be outside of the statutory five-year period during which the applicant must show that he is of good moral character and disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States. (Note: The applicant must be at least 31 years of age on the day Form N-400 is mailed to USCIS to create the five years of permanent residence since turning 26.)

Seeking Legal Advice After Failing to Register for Selective Service

Failing to register for Selective Service can be grounds for USCIS to deny Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Many immigration attorneys will recommend that their clients wait until age 31 to apply to ensure five years of good moral character.

Applicants between 26 and 31 years of age should contact an immigration attorney before filing Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. Although the applicant may prepare sworn declarations on his own, the guidance of an experienced attorney will always be more successful.

About CitizenPath

CitizenPath is an online immigration resource that provides simple, step-by-step guidance through USCIS applications and petitions. Our low-cost service simplifies the application process by explaining each question and providing alerts if your answer to a question could be a problem. Most people do not need a lawyer to prepare USCIS forms, but many need a little assistance. That’s where CitizenPath can help. CitizenPath provides support for the Citizenship Application (Form N-400), Green Card Renewal/Replacement (Form I-90), and several other popular forms.

Source: USCIS