What is the Selective Service?

The selective service system registers adult males for a potential, future draft into the U.S. military. Nearly all males between the ages of 18 and 25 are required to register for the Selective Service.

What does the Selective Service have to do with the N-400 and Naturalization?

Selective Service registration matters in that ‘knowingly and willfully’ failing to register with the Selective Service, between 18 and 26 years old, may lead an officer to find that you do not have the good moral character (GMC) necessary for naturalization. The failure to register matters primarily if the failure to register falls within the statutory GMC period. The statutory period is either the 3 or 5 years preceding the filing of your N-400 (3 years if you’ve been married to a US citizen for three years).

The N-400 asks, “are you a male who lived in the United States at any time between your 18th and 26th birthdays?” If the answer is yes, then you are prompted to enter the date that you registered and your selective service number.

What if I Did Not Register for the Selective Service Between the Ages of 18 and 26?

The simple answer is, it depends.

First, if you were in the U.S. in lawful non-immigrant status, then you were not required to register with the Selective Service. Lawful non-immigrant status typically means you were on a non-immigrant visa, like an H-1B, F-1, J-1, TN, or B-2.

If you were not in the U.S. between the ages of 18-26, you were not required to register.

If you were born between March 29, 1957-December 31, 1959, you were not required to register.

If you were in the U.S. without status, then you were required to register.

If I Did Not Register for the Selective Service, What Should I Do Now?

The following assumes that you are in the United States:

  • You are under 18: Register within 30 days of turning 18.
  • You are between the ages of 18-26: You must register before applying for naturalization.
  • You are between the ages of 26-31: You must provide evidence that your failure to register was not knowing or willful. Submit a statement explaining why you did not register for the Selective Service (example: you were unaware of the requirement), and also provide a ‘status information letter’ from the Selective Service.
  • You are over 31: By the age of 31 the requirement to register with the selective service falls outside of the five-year statutory eligibility period, and failure to register will thus, generally, not preclude a finding of good moral character. According to USCIS guidance, “a male applicant over 31 years of age who failed to register with Selective Service should, ordinarily, be found eligible for naturalization.”

Even if you knowingly and willfully failed to register for the Selective Service you are not permanently ineligible for naturalization. However, you should consult with an experienced attorney to strategize your case.

If you would like information about naturalization and selective service requirements, please contact an immigration attorney who is trustworthy and knowledgeable! Our attorneys at Landerholm Immigration, APC, are experienced in both simple and complex naturalization cases. Please feel free to call us at (510) 491-0291 to see how we can help!