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Case Basics
Docket No. 
J. Howard McGrath, Attorney General
(argued the cause for the petitioner)
(argued the cause for the respondent)
Facts of the Case 

Kristensen was a Danish citizen who entered the United States on a sixty-day visitor's visa in August 1939 to visit the World's Fair and his relatives. World War II began in September, and Kristensen was forced to remain in the United States. He obtained two six-month extensions of his visa. During his second extension, he became gainfully employed in violation of the terms of his visa, and was ordered to be deported in 1941. Since World War II continued during this period, he was not deported. Kristensen successfully sought to be exempted from military service. Under the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940, however, this exemption caused him to be ineligible for naturalization as a citizen. He married an American citizen, and after the conclusion of the war, sought to have his deportation suspended under Section 19(c) of the Immigration Act of 1917. Since only foreign citizens who were eligible for naturalization could have their deportations suspended, the Attorney General denied Kristensen's request. Though he was never arrested, he challenged his deportation in United States District Court for the District of Columbia, which dismissed his case. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed this decision, holding that the Selective Training and Service Act applied only to aliens "residing in the United States" and Kristensen was not "residing in the United States" at the time of his exemption.


(1)Was Kristensen entitled to challenge his deportation in federal court even though he was never arrested?

(2)Was Kristensen "residing in the United States" at the time of his exemption from military service and therefore ineligible for naturalization?


Yes and no. In an 8-1 decision, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals and held that Kristensen was not only entitled to challenge his deportation, but that he was eligible for naturalization. Writing for the majority, Justice Stanley F. Reed established that Kristensen's case resulted from a federal law, and "as such a controversy over federal laws, it is within the jurisdiction of the federal courts." While the Court noted in the ambiguity in the Selective Training and Serivce Act, a regulation stating that all foreign citizens were "residents" was issued in May 1942. Since Kristensen "never declared an intention to become a citizen of the United States" and sought his exemption before the date he became a "resident," he was still a nonresident when he applied for exemption. As a nonresident, he was not barred from seeking naturalization under the Selective Training and Service Act. Justice Robert H. Jackson authored a concurring opinion. Justice Hugo L. Black concurred in the judgment. Justice Tom C. Clark did not participate in the consideration or decision of the case.

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MCGRATH v. KRISTENSEN. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 27 August 2015. <>.
MCGRATH v. KRISTENSEN, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, (last visited August 27, 2015).
"MCGRATH v. KRISTENSEN," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 27, 2015,