“Is it true that undocumented males must register for the draft, or Selective Service? I am writing to you from Ireland, and I have a son who’s 24 who lives in America. He’s been there for two years and is very happy, but I’m worried if he’ll have to sign up for the military given what’s going on in the world today. Does he have to do anything?”
There is no “draft” in the U.S. That existed many decades ago and really has no chance at all of ever returning, given that it would be political suicide for any legislator pushing for such a proposal.
Having said that, your reference to our Selective Service system is correct. Selective Service is a U.S. federal government agency that oversees the mandatory registration of virtually all male residents of the U.S. aged between 18 and 25 years. This includes U.S. citizens, green card holders, many temporary residents and undocumented residents. (Among those who are not required to register are those here on student or diplomatic visas.)
The Selective Service website,, is quite clear about the requirements for undocumented, age-eligible males. On its homepage is a message to them, advising that registration is mandatory under U.S. law.
“Selective Service does not collect any information which would indicate whether or not you are undocumented. You want to protect yourself for future U.S. citizenship and other government benefits and programs by registering with Selective Service,” the agency notes.
Naturally, most undocumented males aren’t in a rush to comply with such a law. It’s likely that most don’t even know of its existence.
But Selective Service compliance is a component in the process of becoming a U.S. citizen. There have been cases where naturalization applications have been denied because a candidate did not meet his Selective Service requirements. Even U.S. citizens can be denied certain federal government related jobs and financial aid opportunities if they cannot prove that they’ve registered.
Registration is quick and painless. It can be done online, at a post office or by mail.
“It's important to know that even though he is registered, a man will not automatically be inducted into the military. In a crisis requiring a draft, men would be called in sequence determined by random lottery number and year of birth,” the agency advises.
“Then, they would be examined for mental, physical and moral fitness by the military before being deferred or exempted from military service or inducted into the armed forces.”
There are those who think that holding dual citizenship could be a way out of the Selective Service requirement. Not so. Dual citizens must register and would, for the most part, be subject to the aforementioned agency scenario, if it ever came to pass.
It has also been asked if signing up for active duty in the U.S. military could be a way for an undocumented resident to regularize status. But that is not the case. Military members must be either U.S. citizens or green card holders.
Some interesting Selective Service facts – the percentage of eligible men who have registered is 93%. The number of names and addresses on file for eligible registrants numbers approximately 13.5 million.