Almost all male Unites States citizens and male aliens living in the United States who are 18 through 25 years old must complete Selective Service registration. Failing to do so may cost you certain benefits, and fines and even prison are possible. Females, some non-citizens, and some men who are hospitalized, disabled, in prison, or are in the military full-time don't have to register.
When to Register
All male US citizens, and male immigrants residing in the US ages 18 to 25 years old, must register within 30 days of turning 18. This means that you can register up to 30 days before or after your 18th birthday - a 60 day window. It violates the law if you fail to register, so if you're late, do register as soon as possible.
A male non-citizen who first takes up permanent residence in the US when he is at least 18 years old, but not yet 26 years old, must register within 30 days of becoming a resident. If he first enters the US as a resident at 26 years old or older, he doesn't have to register. Male non-citizens in the US temporarily, for example on a student or visitor visa, don't have to register.
How to Register
It's easy to register with the Selective Service. You can register online, at the post office, by mail, at your high school or by checking a box on your application for Federal Student Financial Aid. Register online by going to the Selective Service web site and follow the instructions. You need your Social security number to register. You can find printable forms on the web site, too, if you want to register by mail.
What Happens if You Do Not Register?
A man who fails to register may, if prosecuted and convicted, face a fine of up to $250,000 and/or a prison term of up to five years. Even if not convicted, a man who fails to register with Selective Service before turning age 26 may find that some doors are permanently closed. For example:
- Men, born after December 31, 1959, who aren't registered with Selective Service won't qualify for Federal student loans or grant programs. This includes Pell Grants, College Work Study, Guaranteed Student/Plus Loans, and National Direct Student Loans
- The US Citizenship and Immigration Services makes registration with Selective Servicea condition for US citizenship if the man first arrived in the U.S. before his 26th birthday
- The Workforce Investment Act offers programs that can train young men for jobs in auto mechanics and other skills. This program is only open to those men who register with Selective Service. Only men born after December 31, 1959, are required to show proof of registration.
- A man must be registered to be eligible for jobs in the Executive Branch of the Federal government and the US Postal Service. Those born after December 31, 1959 need proof of registration.
Some states have added penalties for those who don't register. Selective Service wants young men to register. It does not want them to be prosecuted or denied benefits. One main reason behind registration is fairness. In the event of a draft, for every man who fails to register, another would be required to take his place to serve the country.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Can I refuse to register based on religious beliefs? Can I be a conscientious objector?
- I turned 18 a while ago and never registered, what should I do?
- Do I have to register if I do not believe that I would be a good soldier?