Logistics of Drafting Expatriates

Just curious.
If there were a military draft, and you were a man of draft age who had lived your whole life in another country, but were an American citizen, would you be just as likely to be drafted as anybody else?
If so, I assume you’d be expected to pay your own way to the induction center. Am I right?

It doesn’t have to be America. In other countries that have compulsory military service, what do they do about their expatriates?

If you’d lived your whole life in another country, you’d more than likely be a national of that country and exempt from the draft for that reason. Of course, if you serve or have served in another country’s military (other than on secondment from the US military), you’d be exempt.

Also, if you are the sole breadwinner for your family (regardless of where you live) you’d almost certainly be granted a hardship exemption.

This is all a bit theoretical because the classifications are different with each draft.

My grandmother’s great-grandparents were on their way from Italy to Argentina when they took a stopover in Barcelona. Until recently, mine was the only branch of that family to have Spanish nationality: my grandmother’s grandfather, uncles and cousins all chose Italian nationality precisely as a way to avoid the draft.

If they’d chosen Spanish nationality, they would have been due 18-24 months military service.

By being Italian, all they had to do was go to the Consulate periodically to establish that they were still living in Spain. I understand that once this went on for several years, they could be called for “reduced service” which would have meant some work at the consulate (coffee gopher?), but the most any of them ever had to serve was one month.

My great-grandfather chose Spanish nationality. In theory, because he was a Catalanist and wanted to be able to vote when the issue of Catalonia becoming an independent country came up for it. In reality, I suspect that being “unable to serve” due to Coke-bottle glasses helped his decision :stuck_out_tongue:

Now Spain doesn’t have a draft any more and by being Italians they actually have more obligations than our common ancestors did (new treaties between the two countries), so I understand that some of my distant cousins may have chosen Spanish nationality.

I’m not sure how American draft laws work. Presumably if they know about you well enough to send you a draft notice, they will try to enforce it. It may come down to the details of the extradition treaty between the US and the nation you’re in.

In South Korea, all male citizens are subject to compulsory military service. This even applies to men who claim citizenship of another nation. South Korea doesn’t recognize dual citizenship. If you happen to be an American citizen of Korean origin and your birth is in the official Korean registry (which is common among this culture obsessed with male descendants), when you visit Korea you can find yourself marched off to boot camp. See the State Dept travel warnings (Special Circumstance) for more details.

In general, most nations look at only your citizenship or lack of it. They do not consider your citizenship in other nations–that is beyond their control. Dual citizenship usually means more obligations, not fewer.

Seems like they ought to do something besides helping elect conservative turds whilst failing to pay their fair share in taxes or to contribute societally in any meaningful way.


So Pleonast, does Korea do anything about trying to retrieve its citizens from abroad in order for them to serve their military duty?

This actually happened to a (dual national) former client of mine. He was a citizen of a West European country by parentage, U.S. citizen by birth. The matter arose when I asked my boss why the hell I was preparing a green card application for someone who had been born in the U.S. After much investigation, it turned out that he’d returned to his parents’ native country during the Vietnam era, probably in an attempt to avoid the draft. When the U.S. Embassy came looking for him after he blew off multiple draft notices, he actually renounced his U.S. citizenship.
Unfortunately I left that job before the matter of his green card was resolved one way or the other, but there was some question about whether it’s even possible to get a green card if one has previously renounced U.S. citizenship to avoid the draft.

Eva Luna, Immigration Paralegal

I do not believe so. At least for “dual” US-South Koreans, the US government will not allow the extradition of an American to South Korea for evading the Korean draft. Each nation thinks of the person as their own citizen, and so won’t turn him over to the other. But, if you go into the other jurisdiction, you become subject to its rules.

I’m not sure what would happen if the dual citizen was in a third nation, except that the particulars of the treaties and diplomacy would become very important.

According to U.S. law, male aliens are required to register for the draft - the exceptions are for short-term student or tourist visas. This would presumably include illegal aliens, but this requirement is routinely violated.

In the Finnish army you get compensated for travel expenses regardless if you live in Finland or abroad. At 18 years old expatriates, like everybody else, receive a letter informing them of their duty to serve.

The Finnish government wont really do anything if you decide blow off the draft, except send more letters. When i was in the army there were a few Sweden Finns, who on vacation in Finland found themselves detained at customs and transported to Dragsvik military base because they dodged the draft. There also was this Finnish Australian who after completing basic training discovered that he never had Finnish citizenship. He was sent home on the governments expense.

My brother served with two Indian brothers that joined the army to regain their citizenships.

Not only does Israel not draft expatriates, it generally grants temporary exemptions for draft-age Israeli citizens who grew up abroad, allowing them to visit the country without being forced to serve. That’s how, for example, Natalie Portman was able to take her junior year abroad in Jerusalem a couple of years ago.

The reasoning is simple: they can’t force people to come here. If they let people visit without fear of draft, they may decide they like it here and choose to stay - and get drafted. Many do. I’ve known several Americans with Israeli passports who came here at 18 just to serve.