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Register for the Draft: It's Still the Law

Males 18 through 25 are required to register

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The Selective Service System wants you to know that the requirement to register for the draft did not go away with the end of the Vietnam War. Under the law, virtually all male U.S. citizens, and male aliens living in the U.S., who are ages 18 through 25, are required to register with Selective Service.

Since there is no draft currently in effect, and men are not being classified for service, disabled men, clergymen, and men who believe themselves to be conscientiously opposed to war must also register.

Penalties for Failure to Register for the Draft

Men who do not register could be prosecuted and, if convicted, fined up to $250,000 and/or serve up to five years in prison. In addition, men who fail to register with Selective Service before turning age 26, even if not prosecuted, will become ineligible for:

  • Student Financial Aid - including Pell Grants, College Work Study, Guaranteed Student/Plus Loans, and National Direct Student Loans.
  • U.S. Citizenship - if the man first arrived in the U.S. before his 26th birthday.
  • Federal Job Training - The Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) 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.
  • Federal Jobs - men born after December 31, 1959 must be registered to be eligible for jobs in the Executive Branch of the Federal government and the U.S. Postal Service.

In addition, several states have added additional penalties for those who fail to register.

You may have read or been told that there is no need to register, because so few people are prosecuted for failing to register. The goal of the Selective Service System is registration, not prosecution. Even though those who fail to register may not be prosecuted they will be denied student financial assistance, federal job training, and most federal employment unless they can provide convincing evidence to the agency providing the benefit they are seeking, that their failure to register was not knowing and willful.

Who Does NOT Have to Register for the Draft?

Men who are not required to register with Selective Service include: nonimmigrant aliens in the U.S. on student, visitor, tourist, or diplomatic visas; men on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces; and cadets and midshipmen in the Service Academies and certain other U.S. military colleges. All other men must register upon reaching age 18 (or before age 26, if entering and taking up residence in the U.S. when already older than 18).

What About Women and the Draft?

While women officers and enlisted personnel serve with distinction in the U.S. Armed Forces, women have never been subject to Selective Service registration or a military draft in America. For a complete explanation of the reasons for this, see: Backgrounder: Women and the draft in America from the Selective Service System.

What is the Draft and How Does it Work?

The "draft" is the actual process of calling men between ages 18 - 26 to be inducted to serve in the U.S. military. The draft is typically used only in the event of war or extreme national emergency as determined by the Congress and the president.

Should the President and the Congress decide a draft was needed, a classification program would begin. Registrants would be examined to determine suitability for military service, and they would also have ample time to claim exemptions, deferments, or postponements. To be inducted, men would have to meet the physical, mental, and administrative standards established by the military services. Local Boards would meet in every community to determine exemptions and deferments for clergymen, ministerial students, and men who file claims for reclassification as conscientious objectors.

Men have not actually been drafted into service since the end of the Vietnam War.

How Do You Register?

The easiest and fastest way to register with Selective Service is to register on-line.

You can also register by mail using a Selective Service "mail-back" registration form available at any U.S. Post Office. A man can fill it out, sign (leaving the space for your Social Security Number blank, if you have not yet obtained one), affix postage, and mail it to Selective Service, without the involvement of the postal clerk. Men living overseas may register at any U.S. Embassy or consular office.

Many high school students can register at school. More than half the high schools in the United States have a staff member or teacher appointed as a Selective Service Registrar. These individuals help register male high school students.

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