Military, Veterans The Selective Service System Peacetime Draft Registration Program

  1. Millions of citizens, foreign nationals and aliens live in the United States yet many are probably unaware of the Selective Service System (SSS). It is important to know who the Selective Service is and if and by when you are required to register for “the draft” with the SSS. Everyone in the US needs to understand how US immigration laws and the Selective Service System work together as a unit in the draft of available people to serve in the military. This process is called the “Peacetime Draft Registration Program”.

    What is the Selective Service System?

    In the United States, the Armed Forces division is made up of men and women who have voluntarily chosen to enlist in military service. The typical length of time that a person signs up for the military is four years. During this time they will be paid for their services. For normal duties, the US Armed Forces have sufficient personnel. However, in case of an emergency situation such as an unexpected attack on the country, the Armed Forces division would need to drastically increase its numbers.

    When the government needs to enlist these extra personnel, they turn to the Selective Service System. The Selective Service System is used to keep a record of all citizens in the US who could theoretically serve with the armed forces if the need arose. Registering with the SSS is not the same as enlisting with the US military. It doesn’t mean that you are definitely going to be called for duty and military service. It just means that if our Armed Forces division has a need for personnel, you are available and may be drafted for service.

    Who Is Required to Register with the SSS?

    In general it is necessary for all men between 18 and 25 years of age – including immigrant non-citizens – to register with the SSS. Registration is required if you:
    • Have failed to maintain full-time student status while in the US on a student visa;
    • Are a green card holder and considered to be an LPR (lawful permanent resident);
    • Are an "undocumented immigrant" or "illegal alien". This means you didn’t enter the US with USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) properly and is sometimes referred to as "entering without inspection" (EWI);
    • Are present in the US on a temporary non-immigrant visa that you’ve failed to renew greater than 30 days (such as an “overstay” or if you fail to renew your visitor’s visa for a period longer than 30 days);
    • Were given a 90 day visa waiver by the VWP (visa waiver program) and stayed longer than the 90 days (also an “overstay);
    • Were given asylum or refugee status in the US (usually granted when one cannot return to their home country due to safety reasons);
    • Are a special seasonal agricultural worker who has been working in the US;
    • Entered the United States on a valid non-immigrant visa but it has expired for longer than 30 days (an “overstay” beyond the lawful time your Form I-94 permits).

    Exceptions to Selective Service System Registration

    Women are not required to register for the draft. In addition to being female, other exceptions to Selective Service registration for foreign nationals include those who:
    • Are in the United States on a temporary visa (such as a visitor’s visa or a student visa);
    • Are immigrant non-citizens who entered the US after their 26th birthday;
    • Did not enter the US or did not maintain a legal, non-immigrant status (utilizing a continuous visa) until after their 26th birthday.

    The Danger of Failing to Register with the SSS

    There are major implications for failing to register with the Selective Service System, including fines of up to $250,000 and up to five years imprisonment for US citizens. Failure to register with the SSS would also make one ineligible for student financial aid.

    Foreign nationals who fail to register could be permanently prohibited from becoming a US citizen (naturalized.) The USCIS uses “good moral character” as a standard when making a determination as to whether a foreign national should be granted US citizenship. A failure to register with the SSS in the five years before applying for citizenship would have a negative impact on an application.

    A foreign national who is 31 years of age or younger should certainly make sure that they are registered with the SSS in the event they want to filed an application for citizenship. USCIS inspects the records of applicants for the previous five years and registration is required if you are 26 years old or less. So if you apply for citizenship at age 31 or less, USCIS will be inspecting whether you fulfilled your registration requirement with the SSS while you were age 26 or less. Once you become 32 years old, the 5 year window ends at age 27, where no registration requirement exists and your prior record will not be reviewed by USCIS.

    How Can You Register for the Draft?

    Registration with the Selective Service System for the Peacetime Draft Registration Program can be done at any US Post Office or by visiting the Selective Service website. If you have applied for a non-immigrant visa at the US consulate or Embassy in your own country, you do not have to worry if you have completed a Form DS-230. Doing so will automatically register you with the SSS.
    Legal Topics:
    Military Law, Service

    Michael M. Wechsler

    Michael M. Wechsler
    Michael M. Wechsler is an experienced attorney, founder of TheLaw.com, A. Research Scholar at Columbia Business School and of-counsel to Kaplan, Williams & Graffeo, LLC. He was also an SVP and chief Internet strategist at Zedge.net and legal consultant at Kroll Ontrack, a leading service e-discovery and computer forensics service provider.

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