The majority of financial aid comes from the federal government via the U.S. Department of Education. To be eligible for the grant, loan, and work-study options provided by the U.S. Department of Education, all males over the age of 18 must register with the Selective Service System. This creates a pool of men from whom the government could choose to serve in the defense of the United States should there be an emergency. Failure to register has legal and practical consequences, one being ineligibility for a federal financial aid package.


What is the Selective Service?

The Selective Service System is essentially the draft. In times of war or national emergency, if there are not enough soldiers to defend the nation, the government has the authority to call any registered males to join in combat. This does not mean that every man in the United States is signing up for military service. It does mean that if there is a crisis, men will be called randomly based upon their year of birth and assigned lottery number. Those selected will then undergo an examination to ensure physical and mental fitness, and finally inducted into or exempted from service.

Who must register?

All men over the age of 18 must register.

Individuals must register regardless of their immigration status:

  • United States citizens, no matter their current country of residence
  • Men with dual citizenship
  • Cuban and Haitian border crossers
  • Permanent residents
  • Refugees
  • Parolees
  • Asylees
  • Undocumented immigrants

Others groups of men who must register include:

  • Men with disabilities
  • Individuals who were born male and had gender reassignments to female
  • Conscientious objectors (those morally or religiously opposed to war)
  • Men serving with the National Guard or in the Reserve less than full-time
  • ROTC students and cadets at the Merchant Marine Academy
  • Men who have previously served in the military and separated from active duty before turning 26 years old
  • Men who attempted to enlist in the military but were turned down
  • Men who chose to enlist and participate in the Delayed Entry Program

Are there any people who don’t have to register?

Those not required to register include the following:

  • Females
  • Noncitizens with a student or visitor visa
  • Noncitizens on a diplomatic or trade mission
  • A person who was born female and had a gender reassignment to male
  • Men who have been continually confined to a hospital, home, or institution due to a severe disability or illness from the age of 18 through their 26th birthdays with no break in institutionalization longer than 30 days
  • Men who are currently hospitalized or incarcerated (but within 30 days of their release, they must register if they have not yet turned 26 years old)
  • Men who served or are currently serving in the military full-time on active duty (including cadets and midshipmen who are currently attending service academies [except the Merchant Marine Academy] and senior military colleges). Service must span the entire period from the age of 18 through an individual’s 26th birthday. If an individual leaves active duty before turning 26, they have 30 days to register.

When is registration?

The law requires that all males register within 30 days of their 18th birthdays (before or after). If this 60-day window is missed for whatever reason, you can still register with the Selective Service System up until your 26th birthday.

How is registration completed?

Typically the Selective Service System will mail a reminder card to all males on or around their 18th birthday. You can fill out this card and return it to the Selective Service. You may also choose to register online with a valid social security number. For immigrants or those with errors involving their social security numbers, there is a printable form that you can mail to the Selective Service System. You can obtain a copy at your high school or local post office if you do not have access to a printer. If you’re living overseas, a U.S. Embassy will be able to furnish you with the document. Finally, while filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, unregistered males age 18 and older may select “Register Me” when asked about their Selective Service status.

What are the consequences of not signing up?

This is a felony and you could be fined up to $250,000 and/or jailed for up to five years.

Beyond that:

  • You will not be eligible for any federal financial aid (grants, loans, or work-study).
  • You will never be able to work for the federal government or the postal service.
  • You will be ineligible for job training under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (previously named the Workforce Investment Act).
  • Immigrants will be ineligible to apply for citizenship.

What if I move after signing up?

You are legally obligated to inform the Selective Service System of any address changes that occur through your 26th birthday. The easiest way to do this is online. You may also obtain a Change of Information Form at your local post office and submit it through the mail. If you prefer to change your address over the phone, the number 1-888-655-1825 will connect you with a representative and is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET.

Page last updated: 08/2017