Here’s the straight dope on exemptions from military service and naturalization (thanks, boss!).
From IRIS Immigration Briefings, No. 92-07, July 1992:
NATURALIZATION UNDER THE IMMIGRATION ACT OF 1990
ROBERT A. MAUTINO
“Exemptions from military service. Persons who applied for and received exemptions or discharges from U.S. military services on the basis of alienage are ineligible to naturalize in most cases. If the exemption was sought under a treaty with the country of the alien’s nationality, the applicant may be naturalized if he or she had previously served in the armed forces of that country.” (Sources: INA § 315, 8 USC § 1426 (as amended by IA90 § 404(2), and INA § 315©, 8 USC § 1426© (added by IA90 § 404(2)).”
More detail on the “good moral character” requirement for naturalization and its discretionary nature (there’s lots more there, but it mostly has to do with public charge grounds, i.e. dependence on public assistance, and criminal convictions and such, so although interesting, it’s not relevant for this discussion):
From * IRIS Immigration Briefings, *, August 2000 issue:
NATURALIZATION: A DISCUSSION OF CURRENT STANDARDS AND AN UPDATE ON RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
JUAN P. OSUNA
“… Good Moral Character
Every applicant for naturalization must be a person of “good moral character.” As with other naturalization requirements, the applicant bears the burden of demonstrating good moral character, and the applicant must show that he or she has been and continues to be a person of good moral character during the required residence period, and including the period between the naturalization interview and the date the applicant takes the oath of allegiance to the United States.
The good moral character requirement is one that sometimes causes much anxiety among naturalization applicants. One scholar has noted that the concept of good moral character involves “intangibles,” and applicants are often confused as to whether particular types of conduct will affect their eligibility for naturalization.45 Indeed, while the statute and regulations list several types of conduct that are not considered to be indicative of good moral character, the INS can and does look at other types of conduct not listed.
The phrase “good moral character” is not specifically defined in the statute, and courts have often struggled to define precisely what it means. One court stated that good moral character is a test “incapable of exact definition; the best we can do is to improvise the response that the ‘ordinary’ man or woman would make, if the question were put whether the conduct was consistent with ‘good moral character’.” In general, the INS has interpreted the phrase as meaning character that measures up to the standards of the average citizen in the community. As such, it does not necessarily mean the highest level of moral conduct. One expert advises that practitioners counsel prospective naturalization applicants to ensure that they “do the things in the community that upstanding people are supposed to do,” including such things as paying child support and filing income tax returns.
In general, in determining whether the applicant has the requisite good moral character, the INS will examine the individual’s conduct during the required five or three-year residence period. Significantly, however, the inquiry is not always limited to this time period. The INS may inquire into conduct before that time, especially if the prior conduct is relevant to a determination of the person’s present moral character, and some criminal convictions will haunt the applicant even if they were committed before the five-year period.49 At least one court, however, has held that the INS may not rely solely on acts outside the statutory time period…
Other good moral character issues.
**…A character ground that has become noteworthy because of recent guidelines is one that precludes a good moral character finding for applicants for naturalization who failed to register for the Selective Service system. **Under the law, almost every male in the U.S. is required to register for Selective Service upon reaching his 18th birthday. The INS deems an applicant unworthy of a good moral character finding if he “knowingly and willingly” failed to register during the statutory period.
In a legal opinion issued in 1998, the General Counsel of the INS outlined the requirements for naturalization related to registering for Selective Service. The legal opinion noted that in addition to the good moral character requirement, a naturalization applicant must be willing “to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law,” as discussed below. Except for aliens maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status, any man born after 1959 and living in the U.S. must register for Selective Service when he attains his 18th birthday. This obligation continues until his 26th birthday. The legal opinion notes that while the INA does not make compliance with this requirement a condition for naturalization, the INS nevertheless would be “fully justified” in finding that an individual who refuses to comply with this requirement is unwilling to bear arms when the law requires. In addition, this finding would support the further inference that the applicant “is not disposed to the good order and happiness” of the U.S. Hence, any naturalization applicant who falls within the relevant age range and who refuses to register for Selective Service should be denied.8
Once the applicant has turned 26, however, the situation changes. In such cases, the legal opinion states, there was, but no longer is, a duty to register. The INS may still find that the applicant is ineligible to naturalize, based upon his failure to have registered, unless the applicant establishes that his failure to file was not knowing and willful. The burden of proof is on the applicant, and the agency may presume the failure to register to have been knowing and willful unless the applicant proves the contrary by a preponderance of the evidence. The day after the applicant’s 31st birthday, the posture of the case changes again, the legal opinion states. This is because the failure to register will have occurred outside the period during which the applicant must demonstrate good moral character. In such cases, the INS should first consider whether the failure to register was knowing and willful. If not, the agency should find the applicant to have satisfied the good moral character requirement unless other adverse factors are present. Even if the applicant’s failure to register was knowing and willful, that fact would not be an absolute bar to eligibility. The INS could grant naturalization as long as the agency were satisfied that the applicant now meets the good moral character requirements, even if he may not have met the requirements in the past."