Military Service

When can I enlist in the armed forces?

You must be 18 to enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces. You may enlist in the U.S. Armed Forces at age 17 with parental consent.

Are all 18-year-old males still required to register with the Selective Service System?

Yes. Even though the United States has not held a draft since 1973, every male citizen of the United States is required to register for the United States Selective Service within thirty days before or after his eighteenth birthday. Females are not required to register for the Selective Service System. All males between the ages of 18 and 26 who are not citizens of the United States also must register, unless they have legally entered the country as non-immigrants. Although it may seem unusual, illegal aliens still are required to register for the Selective Service.

You may be exempt from registering if you are already on full-time active duty with the U.S. Armed Forces, but part-time duty with the National Guard or Reserves does not exempt you from registering.

If for some reason you do not register when you are 18, you should register as soon as possible. The federal government will not prosecute you if you register before criminal action against you has been started. But if the federal government finds you first, it may be a different story. For failing to register, you could be convicted of a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine up to $250,000! If you need even more reasons to register, those who fail to do so are ineligible for federally-funded student financial aid, civilian jobs with the federal government, and federal job training programs.

How do I register?

To register, you simply go to any post office and fill out a Selective Service registration form. You also can register online at After your registration is processed, a Selective Service registration card will be mailed to you.

The Selective Service System gets addresses of males with driver’s licenses from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), so you may be automatically registered when you turn 18. You should receive a letter from the Selective Service System within thirty days of your eighteenth birthday. It is your responsibility to make sure you are registered.

What if I think I may be exempt from the draft?

You still must register. Draft cards are not issued at the time of registration, and you will not get a physical examination or receive a military classification. If a draft were to occur, you would be notified by the Selective Service. Your notice would order you to report for a physical examination and would provide information on possible exemptions and deferments at that time.

For further information you may visit the Selective Service System website at or call them at (847) 688-6888 or toll free (888) 655-1825.

So You’re 18 is presented by the Virginia State Bar Conference of Local and Specialty Bar Associations.
For print copies of So You're 18 contact (804) 775-0521 or [email protected].