What Is the Selective Service? Everything You Need to Know

We frequently see questions about regulations surrounding registration for the Selective Service in Grown and Flown Parents. Here is everything you need to know about how to help your son register with the Selective Service. 

Although there has not been a draft in the United States since 1973, the requirement to register for the Selective Service was reinstated in 1980. It applies to all men born on or after January 1, 1960.

What you need to know about registering for selective service

Law on Selective Service

Current law requires that with a few exceptions, every male citizen and immigrant (documented or undocumented) between the ages of 18-25 must register with the Selective Service. Men are required to register during a 60 day registration period, within 30 days of their 18th birthday (30 days before until 29 days after their 18th birthday).

Also, registrants must let the Selective Service know within 10 days of any changes in the information provided in their original registration until they turn 26. Those who register for the Selective Service form the prospective pool of people who might be drafted if the draft is reinstated.

How Do I Register for the Selective Service?

There are several ways to register. You can register online using the Selective Service Registration website if you are a United States citizen with a valid social security number. If you are a citizen who has not recently moved you will get a registration card on or about your 18th birthday. Simply fill that out and put it back in the mail.

In addition, you can register through your application for financial aid via the Free Application for Federal Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) by checking “yes” where appropriate. You will then automatically be registered for the Selective Service. Finally, any man, regardless of citizenship, visa or immigration status can register at any U.S. post office.

Within 90 days of registering you should receive confirmation of your registration. If you do not, call the Selective Service.

What if I Am Late to Register for the Selective Service?

If a man does not register within the specified time period, he is technically in violation of the law. However, late registration with no consequences is allowed until a man turns 26. At that point it is too late to register.

What If I Fail to Register?

Failure to register by the age of 26 can make a person ineligible for federal student loans and grants, certain federal job training, federal jobs or security clearance. In the case of immigrants, U.S. citizenship may be denied. Individual states also have their own sanctions for failure to register, including, in some states, the inability to get a driver’s license, jail time and/or a fine.

If I Register Will I Be Drafted?

No, registration does NOT necessarily mean that you will be drafted. In the event of a draft, registered males will be selected by random lottery and birth year. Candidates will then be examined for mental, physical, and moral fitness by the military before either being deferred, exempted from, or inducted into the Armed Forces.

What If I Did Not Register?

If you did not register by your 26th birthday and are suffering the consequences, you have some recourse. Explain to the official handling your case, the reasons for your failure to register. You have the burden of proving that your failure to register was not knowing or willful.

“Some agencies may ask you to provide an official response, or Status Information Letter, from the Selective Service indicating if you were or were not required to register.”

Must Girls Register for Selective Service?

Girls do not have to register under the current law.

Who Does Not Have to Register for Selective Service?

  • Women
  • Any male resident above the age of 26
  • Residents of American Samoa who have never lived in the US
  • Active duty military personnel
  • Hospitalized, incarcerated, or imprisoned men (though they must apply within 30 days of release)
  • US residents on student or visitor visas
  • Individuals living in the US as part of a diplomatic or trade mission 
  • Individuals who are born female and choose to realign as men


You Might Also Enjoy Reading: 

FAFSA: What Parents Need to Know

High School Graduation Gifts For Guys: They Will Love These! 

About Helene Wingens

Helene Wingens has always been passionate about painting pictures with words. She graduated from Brandeis University with a degree in psychology and three years later from Boston University School of Law with a Juris Doctor. In a year long clerkship for an appellate judge Helene honed her writing skills by drafting weekly appellate memoranda. She practiced law until she practically perfected it and after taking a brief twenty year hiatus to raise her three children she began writing a personal blog Her essays have been published in: Scary Mommy, Kveller, The Forward, and Grown and Flown where she is Managing Editor. You can visit Helene's website here

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