If you don’t register with Selective Service you may still be able to naturalize. However, not registering can make it harder for you to become a citizen of the United States.
What is the Selective Service?
The Selective Service is one of the ways the United States gets volunteers to register to be in the military. Registering for the Selective Service does not mean you will actually serve in the military. Making people register for the Selective Service is also one of the ways that the United States keeps track of both citizens and non-citizens who are in the country.
Who Has to Register with the Selective Service?
If you are a woman, you DO NOT have to register with the Selective Service. If you are a man who is between 18 and 25 years old, then you are required to register with the Selective Service.
Citizens and non-citizens are required to register. Most immigrants or undocumented aliens need to register.
Some exceptions are made, though, such as for people with student visas that were valid from when they were 18 to 25 years old.
What If I Don’t Register for the Selective Service?
Good Moral Character
When you apply to be naturalized, you will have to prove that you have good moral character. Part of proving that you have good moral character is registering for the Selective Service if you are required to do so.
When you apply for naturalization, the government looks at your good moral character for the previous five years. That means that if you are 26 to 30 years old, and you are applying to be naturalized, you should have registered for the Selective Service within the past five years.
By registering, you are showing evidence of your good moral character.
If you did not register, the best option may be to wait to apply to naturalize until you are 31 years old. That way you can show you have 5 years of good moral character even though you didn’t register.
If you are married to a United States citizen and have been living with that person the entire time you have been in the United States, then you only need to show three years of good moral character.
Other Options If You Didn’t Register
If you came into the United States before you turned 26 years old, you were supposed to register with the Selective Service. If you are still younger than 26 years old, you can still register. If you are older than 26 years old, it is too late to register.
If it is too late to register, it may be easiest to wait to naturalize. However, if you did not know that you were supposed to register for the Selective Service you can try to prove that to the USCIS. To prove you did not know you had to register, you should submit three things:
- a Status Information Letter,
- a sworn statement showing why you did not know you had to register, and
- sworn statements from people who knew you from when you were 18 to 25 and would be able to confirm that you did not know you had to register.
If you can provide those three things, you may submit them with your application to naturalize.