Did you know that during the first-word war, the US could have lost the first world war had it not created the selective service system? Yes, the president signed the agreement at that time because the military had failed in its target of expanding to 1 million men. This is when the US Congress had first drafted the Selective Service to include more men in the military.
What did the selective service do? How did it help? Starting from what the selective service is all about, in this article, you’ll understand the procedures needed to go about it.
What is Selective Service Registration? What does it Mean by Selective Service?
The Selective Service is a system where male citizens of the US between the age of 18-25 years need to register to agree to become a part of the military force when a national emergency arises. This means that an ordinary civilian, who may not be a trained soldier, has to serve the military if the country needs him.
In return, the registrant avails several benefits of the selective service such as student loans, job training, federal employment, free application for federal student aid, and naturalization.
What is the purpose of Selective Service? Does Selective Service Still Exist?
The selective service came into effect in the US for the first time in the year 1917, when the US army needed more men to defeat Germany in the first World War. The military needed the strength of 1 million men in a span of 6 weeks, failing which this act had to come into effect.
So, the selective service has only one purpose – protecting the nation from the horrible effect of wars. Back in 1917, it was compulsory for men between the age of 21-30 years to register for this service for a period of 12 months. They discontinued this draft in 1920 after the world war ended.
This draft came into effect again during World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam war. During each of these wars, selective service registration was active for drafting men. The age limit and conditions varied for the different wars. Ever since 1973, after the Vietnam war ended, the draft has not come into effect.
However, in case of a war or any other national emergency, the government has the right to make it compulsory once again. Currently, citizens between the age of 18 to 25 years can register for the Selective Service and receive the benefits it provides in return. It is also applicable for immigrants moving into the US falling under the same age limit.
Is the Selective Service Act Still in Effect?
Even though the military draft is not in effect, the Selective Service Act is. This helps the Government of the USA to be ready for war at any given point in time. So, currently, you have to register for the Selective Service. However, the draft will come into effect only when a war takes place.
Who Needs to Register in Selective Service System? Is the Selective Service Mandatory?
The Selective Service helps the military to gather more men during a war. Hence, registering under the act is always compulsory.
However, since 1973, after the Vietnam War got over, the country has not been in a state of war with any other country. This is the reason why the Government provides several benefits for registering under the Selective Service.
The following people are eligible to register for the selective service system:
- Men between the age of 18-25 years, who are citizens of the nation may register within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
- Male immigrants who are between the age of 18-25 years and are permanent residents within 30 days of their immigration.
Who is Exempt from Registering for Selective Service?
Only citizens and permanent residents of the US who are males between the age of 18 to 25 are eligible for registration. There are exemptions for people who don’t belong to this category as well as exceptions within this category.
The following do not have to register for the Selective Service:
- Transgenders were born as females and transformed into males
- Men in the US on non-immigrant visas
- Immigrants above the age of 26
- Men confined from registering during the time period due to illness or any other valid reason
- If a man had joined the military within 30 days of turning 18 and served at least till the age of 26
A few of the above points have some important clarifications. This is regarding Transgenders, men serving the military, and disabled men:
- Transgenders born as males and turned to females have to register for Selective Service.
- If you have joined the military after the period of 30 days of turning 18, you had to register beforehand.
- If you leave the military before turning 26 for any reason, you need to register for Selective Service.
- Men with disabilities have to register for the service, even though they are not drafted.
What are the Requirements to be Drafted?
The Selective Service is not applicable to all individuals, as you can see from the above section. You may be drafted under the following circumstances:
- You are a male citizen or permanent resident of the US.
- Your age is between 18 to 25 years.
- You have moved into US as a migrant for work and are now a permanent resident.
- An assessment proves you are physically, mentally, and morally fit to serve the army.
When Must All Men Register for the Selective Service?
If you are a male citizen of the US, living here since childhood, then you need to register within 30 days of turning 18. You can register online through the official site or send a hard copy of the form by post.
If you are moving to the US as a permanent resident, you need to register within 30 days of moving into the country or receiving documents, whichever is applicable. The process of doing so is the same and so is the age limit. You need to be above 18 and below 26 for application. If you’re here as a student or haven’t moved in as a permanent resident, then this registration is not applicable to you.
At What Age Can You No Longer be Drafted? What Prevents You From being Drafted?
Once you are 26, you can no longer be drafted for the Selective Service. Apart from that, there are several other factors too which either postpone or exempt you from getting drafted in case of a national emergency. These include:
- If you are a high school student, you won’t be drafted till you graduate or turn 20 years old.
- For college students, the postponement is there till the end the academic year.
- Ministerial students will also not be drafted till they finish their studies.
- Government ministers and officials are exempted from being drafted as long as they hold the office.
- Even though registration is compulsory for disabled men, they usually are not drafted as they are genuinely not fit for the same.
- Others who are exempted from the draft include veterans, sole-earning members of the household, and immigrants who have been living for less than a year in the country.
Even if you don’t fall under any of these categories, you have the right to file for a reclassification. This may not exempt you from being drafted, but can definitely delay the process.
How Long does the Selective Service Last?
As long as you are between the age of 18-25 and are residing in the US, the Selective Service will last. The moment you turn 26, it does not last for you any longer. You are eligible to serve the army as long as you’re a permanent resident of the country between the age of 18 to 25.
Again, there can be delays in some situations. If you don’t belong to any of the above categories and have not filed for a reclassification, then the Selective Service shall be applicable to you.
How to Sign Up for the Military Draft? How does US Military Draft Work?
There are several ways of registering for the Selective Service. Within 30 days of turning 18 or immigrating to the US, you may do either of the following:
- Register online through the official site of Selective Service System
- Print the application form and send it to the given address via post
- The same form can be availed from the post office and sent from there
- Register through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid
- Respond to the reminder received for registration
- Consult the US embassy if you’re living in another country as a US citizen
The US Military Draft is activated only when a war-like situation occurs. Among the registrants, the following are classified to be selected for getting drafted:
- Men who are currently above 18 and below 26
- Those who are not disabled
- Men on whom there is no sole dependency shown by the family
- Those who are not ministers or government officials
Even after they are selected, checking is done to verify if the man is physically, mentally, and morally fit to go to war. He may not be asked to go if he fails here.
How Long does it Take for Selective Service to Process?
You normally need to register within 30 days of turning 18 or moving into the country as a resident. Once your registration has been submitted, it takes anything between 30-90 days to receive a confirmation letter. Usually, online registration does not take more than 3 weeks to get confirmed.
Unless and until a war-like situation arises, the draft is not implemented. You shall simply be receiving benefits like federal job training and educational loans.
However, if the situation does occur, the Selective Service can call you anytime for duty. For this, there is no definite system as registrants are called randomly. If you are detected to be fit to serve the military, for the time being, you’ll be serving them.
How do I Find Out if I am Registered for Selective Service?
Under usual circumstances, you don’t have to find out for 3 months whether your registration has been confirmed or not. That is the maximum time the Selective Service department will take to send you a registration card through the post.
However, if it has been more than 3 months and you still don’t receive your registration card, then you may do either of the following:
Call on 1-847-688-6888 and ask them for your registration number.
Fill up a verification form online from the Selective Service System to receive the same.
You’ll be notified whether there has been a delay or any other kind of problem with your registration card.
How to Get Proof of Selective Service Registration?
The proof of selective service registration lies in your application and registration number. It is more convenient to apply online for these reasons, as it becomes easier to verify the same before receiving a registration number.
Once you receive a confirmation card via post, that is the main proof of your registration. Even if you lose it, the records will have your SSN number.
What’s the Selective Service System Contact Number?
If you wish to contact the Selective Service System, there are two numbers you can call on from Monday to Friday, between 9:00 AM and 5:00 PM EST:
What happens if you don’t register for Selective Service within 30 days?
Even though the draft does not exist right now, registering for the Selective Service is considered compulsory. Your registration shall be drafted only when a warlike situation comes up. However, even during the time of peace, the Selective Service System does ensure that every male citizen or permanent resident of the US between the age of 18-25 registers here.
If you haven’t registered for a long time, towards the end of 30 days you shall receive a reminder from the Selective Service to move forward for registration. In case you fail to do so, the action shall be taken on the basis of your circumstances.
If you are a citizen of the US, the following actions may be taken on the basis of your circumstances:
- You won’t be given benefits like federal student aid, job training, or job.
- You might have to pay a fine of up to $250,000.
- In a severe case, you can be imprisoned for a term of up to 5 years.
In case you’re not a US citizen but have applied for a permanent residence, the rules differ completely. You will simply not get citizenship in the country for failure to not register with the Selective Service.
Do you Have to Register for Selective Service if you Served in the Military?
Yes, being an ex-soldier does not exempt you from registering with the Selective Service. If you leave the military before the age of 26 years, you have to apply for the Selective Service. However, if you have left the military after turning 26, you are no more eligible for doing so.
Do Felons Have to Register for Selective Service?
If a felon is a man between the age of 18 to 25, not confined by any institution, then he has to register with the Selective Service. Being a felon does not make you an exception from registering. In fact, failing to register is considered to be an act of felony.
The Selective Service System can accept registrations made after the period of 30 days of turning 18 or immigrating to the US. However, till the age of 26, if you fail to do so, you may be fined or imprisoned, depending on the circumstances.
Can You be Drafted if You are Married?
Being married is usually not an excuse for not getting drafted. However, if you are the sole income earner in your family, or if your family is dependent on you for any other reason, you may be exempted from getting drafted.
Can You Get Drafted if You’re the Only Son?
As far as the family may go through severe hardship upon your conscription, you won’t be exempted from getting drafted. Being the only son is usually not the reason for not getting drafted. It is only applicable if your family is solely dependent on you.
Can Two Brothers go to War?
Yes, two siblings or brothers can be drafted at the same time to go to war. However, usually, they are not asked to serve the same unit. In case you and your brother are made to serve the same unit, you have the right to ask for separation.
Can You Get Financial Aid without Selective Service?
No, this may be a tricky question. Receiving financial aid is a right that citizens of the country hold. If you are exempted from registering for Selective Service, you can receive financial aid. This means females, Transgenders, handicapped, citizens above the age of 26, and others exempted from the selective service can receive financial aid.
Coming to male citizens between the age of 18 to 25, if you fail to register for selective service, the board of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) shall review the circumstances under which you did not register. They take the decision for providing or not providing you with financial aid accordingly.
In most cases, those who did not register out of ignorance or intentionally do not get financial aid. On the other hand, genuine cases may receive financial aid if necessary as they are exceptions.
Can I Apply for Citizenship without Selective Service? Is Selective Service Required for Citizenship?
If you are a man between the age of 18 to 25, you have to apply for Selective Service in order to receive citizenship. Immigrants belonging to this category will never get citizenship if they fail to do so.
On the other hand, if you immigrate after 26, you don’t have to with the Selective Service. In this situation, you can get citizenship in the US.
Does FAFSA Register you for Selective Service?
There are several ways of registering for the Selective Service. One of them is through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you need financial aid within 30 days of turning 18, your registration process shall become faster.
This is because the form that you fill for financial aid, there is a section in Block 22 where you simply need to check on “Register Me”. By doing so, your registration application reaches the Selective Service System as well FAFSA.
What Happens if You Refuse to Go to War?
If you do not have valid reasons for rejecting the draft, consequences can be serious for you. Filing for reclassification is your right if you are not eligible for being drafted.
If you have religious or moral obligations, they may place you for other activities such as health care or taking care of senior citizens and children. However, they do not recognize selective conscientious objections.
Hence, if you refuse to go to war, you may have to pay a fine and/or go to prison, depending on the circumstances.
What was the oldest age drafted in WWII?
During World War II, the age limit for men who had to register for the Selective Service was 18-64. Till 1941, men between the age of 21 to 35 could be drafted. After that, till 1947 this age limit increased to 37 years.
Hence, the oldest man who could be drafted in World War II was 37 years old.
Why is Selective Service Only for Males?
The Military Selective Service Act was first passed in 1917, during the first world war. In those days, only men would be serving the military and take part in wars. Women have only recently started joining the military forces, even though the ratio is very low.
So far, the act has not taken any action for including women. Only when circumstances admit, women might be made to register for selective services.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions:
Can 16-year olds be drafted?
No, anybody younger than the age of 18 cannot even register for the selective service. Hence, 16-year olds cannot be drafted.
Can you be drafted after 25?
No, once you reach the age of 26, you can no longer be drafted. However, these laws are subject to change in the event of a war.
Can I still register for selective service after 26?
No, once you have crossed the age of 25, you are no longer eligible to register for the selective service.
Resources: https://www.usa.gov/selective-service https://www.sss.gov/register/who-needs-to-register/