Fast Facts about Selective Service

  • Virtually all men living in the U.S. are required by law to register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday.
  • If a young man fails to register before he turns 26, he can permanently lose access to:
    • All federally funded job training programs, along with many state and locally funded programs.
    • All federal government jobs, along with many state, county and municipal jobs, and an increasing number of private employers.
    • All federal and many state college loans and grants.
    • The ability to renew his driver’s license in most states.
  • Failure to register can also significantly delay the citizenship process for immigrant men wishing to become citizens.
  • Registration is NOT signing up for the military. Selective Service is an independent, civilian-run government agency.
  • The easiest way to register is online at, or by printing out the form available at the website and mailing it in. Forms are also available at most U.S. Post Offices.

What’s Different for Young Incarcerated Men

  • Incarcerated men are not required to register while they are incarcerated, HOWEVER:
    • A man IS REQUIRED to register within 30 days of his release if he is 18 or older and has not yet turned 26.
    • A man who spent 30 consecutive days not incarcerated between the ages of 18 and 26 IS REQUIRED TO REGISTER.
  • A man who is currently in prison CAN AND SHOULD register before his 26th birthday if he entered prison after age 18, even if he will be incarcerated beyond age 26.
  • Men who ARE NOT REQUIRED TO REGISTER because they were continuously incarcerated between the ages of 18 and 26 should request a STATUS INFORMATION LETTER from Selective Service showing they were not required to register. Having this letter upon re-entry should facilitate the process of receiving job training, employment, or student loans tied to Selective Service registration.
  • There are NO PENALTIES for registering UP UNTIL AGE 26, even if:
    • A man was incarcerated after age 18 and he failed to register when he was required to do so.
    • A man fails to register within 30 days of his release.
    • A man entered prison after age 18 and will not be released until after age 26.
  • Our research and anecdotal evidence indicates that most incarcerated men who fail to register either didn’t know they were required to, thought that because they had a prison record they did not have to, or that because they didn’t register on time, they might make more trouble for themselves if they register late.
    • You can make a huge difference in a young man’s life by helping spread the word:
      • Educate young men when they are incarcerated.
      • Work to make registration part of the release process in your state or community.
      • Make sure Selective Service registration is part of the intake process for any social service, advocacy, or support organization young men may turn to when they are released.
      • Be an outreach champion. Include the registration message in any outreach you do to formerly incarcerated men and the groups that support them.

Learn more and register at 

We are always looking for materials that we can add to improve this resource. If you have ideas for content that you would find useful, please contact the Public and Intergovernmental Affairs Department at 703.605.4100, or e-mail

To download an unformatted Word version of this document, click here.
To download a PDF version of this document, click here.