The Selective Service System exists in the United States to bolster the military in times of war. It is made up of males in the country between certain ages who initially must do nothing other than register with the Selective Service. If the country goes to war and a military draft is required, those in the Selective Service may be drafted by lottery to fill vacancies that couldn’t be filled through voluntary enlistment. Once registered, each person receives a Selective Service registration number that can be found online.
Who Must Register for Selective Service
It is a requirement in the United States that all males between the ages of 18 and 25 register for the Selective Service, whether or not they are citizens of the country. Males must register within 30 days of their 18th birthday or by the time they turn 26 if they move to the U.S. sometime after they are 18 in order to receive any kind of government aid, including scholarships and other financial assistance.
The only males exempted from registering are nonimmigrants on certain visas, men on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces and those enrolled in service academies or other U.S. military colleges. Males who are hospitalized, are in mental health facilities or imprisoned don’t have to register while they are institutionalized. Individuals who are born female and change their gender to male are also not required to register.
Registration in the Selection Service System doesn’t mean that a person who signs up is automatically going to be shipped out. It just means that, if there is a war-related draft, he will be in the pool of those chosen by lottery to serve. Even then, he would be examined by the military for mental, physical and moral fitness before being inducted into the military.
Women are not required to register for the Selective Service. That is because the law as it currently stands only refers to male persons. Absent an amendment to the law by Congress, women are exempt from the military draft.
How to Register for Selective Service
There are many ways to register for the Selective Service, including:
- Online through the Selective Service System.
- At a U.S. Post Office through a registration form.
- A reminder mail-back card received in the mail.
- Checking a box on the application form for federal student financial aid.
- Through a high school registrar’s office.
When registering, you must submit your full name, address, date of birth, gender and Social Security number if you have one. A signature is required on paper forms. Once registered, you’ll receive in the mail a registration acknowledgement letter and a registration card. The registration card acts as proof of SSS registration, no matter which registration method you've used.
Finding a Selective Service Registration Number Online
If you misplace your registration card or want to find the Selective Service registration number for someone else, you can find it online for men born on or after January 1, 1960. To do so, you must visit the Selective Service System's website and find the section Online Verification. Once there, you can look up a man’s Selective Service number and the date he registered. To do so, you’ll need the person’s last name, Social Security number and date of birth.
If you want to get the registration number for someone born before 1960, you’ll need to make a request to the National Archives & Records Administration. You can print the form online, fill in the required information and mail it to the National Archives office in St. Louis.
If for whatever reason you are unable to find your Selective Service registration number, call the Selective Service System's registration information line at 847-688-6888.
Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.