While it is not often talked about, the selective service requirement is necessary for all immigrants who are living in the United States ages 18-25. The selective service is not the same thing as being drafted into the military, but rather a federal agency that would call on young men and women if there was ever a military draft in the U.S (there hasn’t been a mandatory draft since the 1970s).

Therefore, it is important to register in order to be part of the system and also to make sure that via not registering you affect your immigration status or future applications. According to the federal website, this includes naturalized citizens, parolees, undocumented immigrants, legal permanent residents, asylum seekers, and refugees. The rule of thumb is for anyone in these categories to register for the service within their first 30 days of being in the U.S. You might also receive a notice in the mail at your new U.S. address if you haven’t registered. It’s important not to throw away this piece of mail because it is not just a scam.

Exceptions to the Rule

While the above categories of immigrants need to register with the Selective Service, others are not required to. This includes mainly non-immigrants, i.e. those who are in the United States on a temporary visa. This includes H1-B holders who haven’t adjusted their status yet, and also J-1 visa holders who are usually PhD students who also have a finite period of time in the country.

In addition, immigrants who are coming to the U.S. but have already passed their 26th birthday have now aged out of the requirement to register with the selective service. If you were present in the U.S., for example as a legal permanent resident, but failed to register with the Selective Service and are now older than 26 years of age, you might run into trouble if you ever apply for naturalization. For example, you could receive another multi year delay in processing of your N-400 naturalization form through failure of registration.

Confusion about Registering

If you fail to register for the Selective Service because you discarded the mail that was notifying you to register, or because you never went online and registered, you could be denied the following benefits: federal student aid, job training, a federal or state level job (such as working for a U.S. state run office), or citizenship as mentioned above. You could also be fined thousands of dollars. If you are confused about why you have been denied any of these things and have checked your application materials, you should know that the Selective Service might be the reasoning behind it all. 

If you felt that you were not given notice about registering, that you had no idea you were supposed to register, or are otherwise confused as to why the penalties are so harsh for not registering, you need to contact an immigration attorney and provide evidence that you didn’t intentionally avoid registering. This could alleviate some of the problems associated with failing to register. Legitimate reasons why an LPR or green card holder would fail to register involve:

  • The sickness or ill health of a family member that required the non-citizens attention during the registration window
  • The sickness or ill health of the non-citizen that made it impossible to meet the deadline of the registration window
  • Another emergency situation that required the non-citizen to travel, internationally, after being admitted to the country 

Updating Address History

One other aspect of the Selective Service that is important to note for immigrants is to contact an office if you have moved or changed addresses within the United States. This needs to be done within 10 days of the move. You should also contact the Selective Service if any information was incorrect on your registration card. 

In order to contact the Selective Service System, call 1-847-688-6888 or toll-free 1-888-655-1825 Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM ET.

Links: https://www.usa.gov/selective-service

Selective Service Immigrants