Immigrants and Selective Service: How failing to register can hurt your US citizenship application
If you are a man between the ages of 18 and 25, among the documents you may need to provide, as you make your way through the immigration process, is proof you registered with Selective Service. Read the answers to common questions and learn if you need to register, how to obtain proof of registration, or what to do if you failed to register.
What is US Selective Service?The US Selective Service System is the way the US federal government keeps a list of names of men from which to draw in case of a national emergency requiring rapid expansion of our Armed Forces. By registering all young men, Selective Service ensures that a future draft will be fair and equitable. Registering with Selective Service does not mean that you are joining the military and it does not mean that you are being drafted.
Who is required to register?Almost all men between the ages of 18 and 25 must register. Including:
- Dual national US citizens
- US citizens living abroad
- Lawful permanent residents (green card holders)
- Seasonal agricultural workers (H-2A visa holders)
- Refugees and asylees
- Undocumented immigrants
- Nonimmigrant visa holders who failed to maintain legal status for more than 30 days
- Nonimmigrant students (F-1 visa holders) who failed to maintain full-time student status
- Men with a disability, physical or mental
- Men rejected for enlistment for any reason before age 26
- People assigned male at birth
Who is not required to register?There are very few exceptions from the Selective Service registration requirement. The following are the primary exceptions:
- Lawful nonimmigrants on valid, unexpired non-immigrant visas (some examples are student, tourist, and diplomatic visas, H1B/H4, L1/L2/ J1/J2, and F1/F2
- Immigrants who entered the US after age 26
- Those hospitalized, committed to mental institutions, or incarcerated (However, they must register within 30 days after being released if they have not yet reached their 26th birthday)
- People assigned female at birth
I'm undocumented. Won't Selective Service send my information to USCIS?No, the information you provide Selective Service when registering does not include anything related to your immigration status. Selective Service has no authority to collect immigration-related information. It has no use for it and it is irrelevant to the registration requirement. As a result, there is no immigration data to share with anyone.
I didn't register with Selective Service, and now I'm applying for US citizenship. Will this hurt my application?Unfortunately, like most applications with immigration, the answer is "it depends." The good news is that there are only 3 possibilities.
1. If you are applying for citizenship while you are between the ages of 18 and 26 years old, your failure to register makes you ineligible for US citizenship. In this case, we recommend you register with Selective Service as soon as possible. You can do this here.
2. If you are applying for citizenship while you are between the ages of 26 and 31 years old, your failure to register may make you ineligible. You would have to convince USCIS that you truly didn't know you had to register with Selective Service. If you honestly didn't know you were required to register, we recommend you complete a paper registration form (found at the US Post Office) and submit it.
Though Selective Service will reject your registration because you're ineligible, meaning you are over 25 and no longer required to register, that's okay. Selective Service will send you a letter indicating that you did try to register. We prefer this because your attempting to register, even if late, shows your willingness to comply with the law when you did learn you were required to do so. This goes a long way toward demonstrating that you're a person of good moral character.
3. If you are applying for citizenship while you are over 31 years old, your failure to register will not impact your eligibility for citizenship. This is because the requirement for you to register is more than 5 years old, which means that USCIS should not consider it, since they are only required to review the five years immediately prior to your application.