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Federal law requires men between the ages of 18 and 26 years of age to register with the Selective Service Office. The Selective Service Office establishes a list of all men eligible to be called to service in the military in case of a national emergency. Immigrants, even undocumented immigrants, living in the United States must register with Selective Service within 30 days after their 18th birthday. Immigrant men that are 18 or older when they enter the country must register as soon as possible and, at the latest, before their 26th birthday. Immigrants that are in the country on a non-immigrant visa are not required to register with Selective Service. Non-immigrant visas are issued for a fixed period of time e.g. 3 months, for a specific purpose like a visitor or student visa.
The penalty for not registering with the Selective Service Office can be severe. The law permits the imposition of a fine of up to $250,000 and up to 5 years in prison. Men that fail or refuse to register are disqualified from receiving certain government benefits like student financial assistance, and federal job training and employment benefits. In addition, men that do not register as required by law can have their citizenship applications denied under certain circumstances. These penalties can be avoided by providing convincing evidence that the failure to register was not “knowing and willful.”
The IMMIGRATION AND NATIONALITY ACT requires all applicants for U. S. citizenship to prove that they have been of good moral character for 5 years prior to filing their application. Applicants must also declare under oath that they are willing to bear arms on behalf of the U. S. when required by law. It is the policy of the Immigration Service to deny citizenship applications of men that knowingly and willfully refused to register with the Selective Service. Citizenship officials have concluded that such refusals to register demonstrate a failure to establish a “willingness to bear arms when required” and justify a denial of the citizenship application. If the citizenship applicant is not yet 26 years of age, he will usually be allowed to register and then be granted citizenship.
Prosecutions for failing to register for the Selective Service are extremely rare. And, it is very difficult for the government to prove that such failures to register were “knowing and willful. If the person accused of failing to register is not yet 26 years of age, the government will usually allow the person to register and avoid having charges filed.
During the early 1960’s thousands of men refused to register with the Selective Service because they knew that they would probably be drafted into the military and have to go to war (Vietnam). Today there is no real risk of forced military service since this country has not had a military draft law for decades. ¡NO SE DEJE! ®
Jess J. Araujo, Esq