Naturalization After Failing to Register for Selective Service

Naturalization After Failing to Register for Selective Service

Applicant: Mr. Lin
Country/Region: Taiwan, China
Applying For: Naturalization
Time: 1 Month

  • Client received a green card at 14 years old
  • Client left the U.S. and returned when he was 19 years old for an education
  • He did not know that he needed to sign up for Selected Service 30 days before 18th birthday
  • Applied for naturalization at 28 years old.


The intricacies of immigration law in the United States can leave all but the most informed lawyers and legal representatives with their heads spinning. Our client, Mr. Lin, inadvertently did something that threatened his naturalization process, or more correctly, failed to do something: he did not sign up for Selective Service with the United States within 30 days of his 18th birthday and stayed registered until he was 26 years old. That is a requirement for men who wish to be naturalized into United States citizenship between their 26th and 31st birthdays. However, Mr. Lin did not know that rule, partially because he was not an expert in U.S. Immigration policy, and partially because he wasn’t even in the country at the age of 18. Mr. Lin had received his green card at 14 years of age through his parents, however, at the time he was living in Taiwan. He didn’t come to the United States for a prolonged period of time until after he was already 19 years old, as he was coming to get a secondary education. Thus, he had missed the 30-day window to register with the Selective Service System (SSS) and he still didn’t even know he needed to do this. He went about his life, continued going to school and living in the United States. When he turned 28 this past year, he decided he wanted to become a naturalized citizen. However, if you fail to register for selective service, you are generally not allowed to get your naturalization until the age of 31, after a five-year statutory window. Distraught upon finding this out, Mr. Lin came to us. Upon reviewing the facts of his case, we felt strongly that he could indeed be naturalized before the age of 31 so we took him on as a client and got to work.



While it is true that if you fail to register for selective service as a U.S. immigrant you will not be considered for naturalization until at least the age of 31, there is a process for receiving a waiver from the SSS to receive naturalization early. The only way to receive that waiver is to prove, with copious documentation, that you did not know you needed to register for selective service between the ages of 18 and 26. Fortunately for Mr. Lin, that was exactly his situation.

“The client was a bit upset when he came to us. He had been living here for almost a decade, he loved it here and he wanted nothing more than to get his naturalization. Now he was being held back due to a regulation that he didn’t know existed, and he was worried that this would hold him back for years to come. I was happy to help get this issue fixed for him, and I was happy to hear that his naturalization ceremony went well.” – Cathy Hsu, Account Manager

Mr. Lin was out of the country when he turned 18 years of age. This alone is a strong indication as to why he missed out on knowing about the requirement. There are several processes, like getting a driver’s license or registering to vote, in which selective service information can be transmitted to SSS, but Mr. Lin did not take part in any of these processes. Nor did he apply for federal aid when going to school, which he would have been ineligible for due to his lack of selective service registration. He had slipped through the cracks in the system, and he shouldn’t have been punished for it. This was the argument we made to SSS in order to get the waiver for the naturalization forms. It took several weeks, but eventually, SSS responded and agreed with our position. They provided the waiver that Mr. Lin needed to continue with his naturalization process.

The next steps were fairly common to us, given that we have helped many clients over the years achieve naturalization. We submitted his package in October 2018 and he received a notice that is interview was scheduled for October 2019. The only major change in this process – from preparing our client’s documentation to preparing them for their interviews – was that we wanted to send an attorney along with Mr. Lin to his interview. This was mostly to assuage Mr. Lin’s anxiety about the selective service issue. Failing to register for selective service can result in harsh penalties, and though he had already been legally cleared by the waiver, Mr. Lin was still anxious about this misstep. We want our clients as relaxed and calm as possible when interviewing because we believe that is how they best represent themselves to the U.S. government. So, we sent along an attorney to represent Mr. Lin to keep him calm and we awaited the results.



Mr. Lin performed well in his interview and his case officer was impressed with the thoroughness of the documentation and processed his selective service waiver just fine. He did so well that he was given a very quick turn around on his naturalization ceremony and has already been fully naturalized as a citizen. Now Mr. Lin can continue his life in America worry-free, and is extremely grateful he chose such a knowledgeable law firm for his case.

*Name has been changed for client privacy.


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