Immigrant youth overview

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Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

If you are a child, teenager, or young adult who was born in another country, you probably have a lot of questions about the rules of immigration.

Below are some frequently asked questions and answers.

How can I know what my immigration status is?

There are many different types of permissions to live and work in the United States.

Some statuses that are just for young people include:

Learn more about DACA and SIJ.

You may be eligible for a status because your parents or siblings have green cards or became citizens. You may also be able to apply for a legal status if you are a victim of a crime, a victim of human trafficking, or if you are a refugee or cannot go back to your home country because it is too dangerous for you. Learn more about these and other immigration statuses.

Do I have to be a citizen to go to school in Massachusetts?

No. Everyone, including immigrants and undocumented students, has an equal right to attend public elementary, middle, and high school. Learn more about immigrant student rights in school.

What about college? Can I get financial aid if I am an immigrant?

Sometimes. You may be able to get in-state tuition and financial aid at Massachusetts colleges even if you are undocumented. Some private schools also give financial aid no matter what your immigration status is. Learn more about immigrant rights in college.

Can I get a driver’s license?

Yes, you no longer need a social security number to apply for a driver's license in Massachusetts. The RMV accepts several new forms of identification and proof of date of birth. These include:

  • valid and unexpired foreign passports, 
  • consular identification documents, and 
  • foreign national identification cards, among others. 

Identification documents from immigration officials, including green cards and work permit documents, will also help you meet the identity and other RMV requirements.

New drivers under 18 years old need to take a certified driver’s education course and get a learner’s permit before getting a license.

See Drivers Licenses for Noncitizens in Massachusetts.

What is the Selective Service and do I have to sign up?

The Selective Service System is used to keep information about men who could be made to serve in the armed services. Women and girls do not have to register for the Selective Service.

I am male but I am not a U.S. citizen. Do I have to register for the Selective Service?

Yes, registering for the Selective Service is required for all males 18 years old through 25 years old. This may include men who are not citizens and men who do not have immigration papers. Men who are in valid nonimmigrant status do not have to register. Valid student visa holders, for instance, do not have to register with Selective Service. You can check if you need to register on the Selective Service website.

This is not the same as joining the military. The Selective Service simply keeps information about men who could serve in the military in the case of a national emergency, but the U.S. government has not required men to serve in the military since 1973. 

When do I have to register?

If you are a man between the ages of 18 and 26 and you live in the United States, then you must register with the Selective Service. A man should register with Selective Service within 30 days after his 18th birthday, but late registrations are accepted up until a man has reached age 26.

How do I register for the Selective Service?

You can register by filling out a form at any U.S. Post Office. You can also fill out the form online at the Selective Service System website.

What could happen if I don’t register for the Selective Service?

Registering with the Selective Service is required by law. People who do not register can be denied federal financial aid for college, a federal job, or federal job training. It could also affect your chances of becoming a U.S. citizen. If you have forgotten to register, it might not be too late. Contact the Selective Service Office. 

Can I volunteer to join the armed services if I have a green card, and I am not a U.S. citizen?

Yes, men and women who have green cards can join and serve in the armed forces voluntarily. 

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