The majority of financial aid comes from the federal government via the U.S. Department of Education. To be eligible for the grants, loans, 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 go around, 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 joining the military. It does mean that if there is a crisis, men will be called randomly based upon year of birth and their assigned lottery numbers. 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
  • 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 the Reserve less than full-time

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
  • Men who served or are currently serving in the military full-time on active duty. This must span the entire period from the time they were 18 through their 26th birthdays.
  • A person who was born female and had a gender reassignment to male
  • Men who are currently hospitalized or incarcerated (but within 30 days of release, they must register if not yet 26 years old)

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 car 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. 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 Investment Act
  • Immigrants will be ineligible to apply for citizenship.

Page last updated: 11/2016