If you are a male, registering for the Selective Service System (SSS) is a very important requirement for United States Citizenship. A deliberate and conscious failure to do so will cause a naturalization application to be denied by USCIS. The reason why is that in order to naturalize and become a U.S. citizen, a green card holder must show that he is "a person of good moral character" for five years (or three years, for applicants who became green card holders based on marriage to a U.S. citizen). If an applicant fails to comply with the Selective Service registration requirement, this deliberate failure may constitute or support a finding that the applicant has not demonstrated good moral character.
What is the Selective Service Requirement?
In general, all males who live in the US between the ages of 18 to 26 must register with Selective Service. In a wartime crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth. They then would be examined for mental, physical and moral fitness by the military before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the Armed Forces. Non-citizens who are not required to register with Selective Service include men who are lawfully in the U.S. on student or visitor visas, and men who are part of a diplomatic or trade mission and their families. Almost all other male non-citizens are required to register, including undocumented aliens, legal permanent residents, and refugees. Applicants may register for Selective Service by picking up the form at your local post office and mailing it in, or by registering online at the Selective Service System website. Confirmation of registration may be obtained by calling (847) 688-6888 or online at www.sss.gov.
USCIS and Selective Service
USCIS assists with the registration process by transmitting the appropriate data to the Selective Service System for male applicants between the ages of 18 and 26 who apply for adjustment of status. There is even language on I-485 which explicitly says this. After registering the eligible male, Selective Service will send an acknowledgement to the applicant that can be used as his official proof of Selective Service registration. This should be saved with all your important paperwork. As a precaution, though, one cannot and should not assume that USCIS will actually take care of the registration. It is better to presume that you have not been registered and take a few minutes to do it yourself. Many young men who are lawful permanent residents just assume that they were registered when their cases were approved, only to find out at the time of their citizenship interview that they have not been registered. Countless others are not even aware of what the selective service is.
The N-400 and Failure to Register for the Selective Service
If you are getting ready to apply for U.S. citizenship, but have not yet registered for the Selective Service and are still under the age 26, it is not too late to satisfy this requirement. You can still register online or pick up the registration form at a U.S. post office, fill it out, and submit it. If your case has already been filed, the Immigration Services Officer (ISO) in the Newark Field Office may continue the case in order to give you time to register. He or she may issue a RFE (Request for Evidence) and let you bring back proof of registration to your second interview.
Otherwise, USCIS will ordinarily deny a naturalization application when the applicant refuses to register with Selective Service or has knowingly and willfully failed to register during the statutory period. The officer may request the applicant to submit a status information letter before concluding that he or she failed to register. The status information letter will indicate whether a requirement to register existed. The applicant must show by a preponderance of the evidence that his failure to register was not a knowing or willful act. This may sometimes involve submitting a sworn declaration explaining the failure to register as well as any other relevant evidence suggesting the applicant's lack of willfulness.
In problematic cases where a failure to register cannot be reasonably excused, it may be more prudent to wait until the failure falls outside the statutory period considered for good moral character. Therefore, applicants for naturalization who are over the age of 31 may still be eligible for citizenship even if they knowingly and willfully failed to register because the defect occurred outside the period during which the applicant must show that he/she is a person of good moral character and disposed to the good order and happiness of the United States.
For more information on the selective service requirement and its impact on naturalization, please contact our office. Issues such as these should be addressed well ahead of the application being filed.
We hope that you have enjoyed this article and learned at least one new thing or tip that you may not have known. To keep informed about the latest developments in immigration law, please subscribe to our blog feed by clicking on the "Subscribe To This Blog's Feed" button on the left. It is important to understand that the above is only general information and not legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship nor should it be relied upon as legal advice. The law is extremely fact and circumstance sensitive. For an individual legal analysis of your specific legal case, please complete the "Case Evaluation" box to the right of the screen to get in touch with one of our attorneys.