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United States Navy Enlistment Eligibility

Basic Requirements for Navy Enlistment

Updated: September 13, 2017

Applicants wanting to enlist in the United States Navy must meet specific eligibility requirements to be considered qualified. The following information is segmented into the various types of things that are required, and each of those paragraphs have links to the specific pages that may answer your questions. There are a few hundred pages of information regarding enlistment eligibility available, not to mention the thousands of informative comments. Please ask any questions you may have on the most appropriate page, or use the “Contact Me” link to communicate privately via email. Please keep your comments anonymous as your privacy is paramount.

A short note to keep in mind as you read this and any attached pages: When filling out your application to join the Navy, all your historical information (residence, education, and employment) must be listed for at least the last seven years; however, any prior military service, health issues, police involvement (tickets, citations, arrests, etc), drug, alcohol, and financial information must be included since your date of birth. For example, if you are 25 years old, and you received a ticket for jaywalking at 12 years old, the ticket must be listed in your application.

So, first let’s talk about how old you have to be to join the Navy. The days of being 15 years old and lying about your age to get in are long gone. You have to be at least 17 years of age (17 with parents signed permission that is) and not older than 34 (if you have reached your 35th birthday, your ship has sailed as it were) for service in the active Navy, you can be anywhere from 18-39 years of age for service in the Navy Reserve.

Update as of April 13, 2011: 17 year old applicants may enlist into the Delayed Entry Program but may not ship prior to their 18th birthday, unless their 18th birthday will occur no later than 60 days from date of shipping. All other notes regarding enlistment of 17 year old applicants still apply.

You need to be a United States citizen, permanent resident alien, or U.S. non-citizen national and possess a Social Security Card. You can’t join if we can’t tax ya! (Detailed citizenship requirements)

Non-prior service applicants must be a High School Diploma Graduate (DoD Tier I) and be able to achieve a minimum of a 35QT composite score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). If you do not have an approved Tier I credential, then a Tier II credential, like the General Education Diploma (GED) may be used, but a minimum ASVAB score of 50QT is required. Tier II applicants must be advised that the openings available for Tier II credentials are very limited.

English doesn’t have to be your first language, but you must be proficient in reading, speaking, writing, and understanding English to enlist.

You can have no more than one dependent although dependency waivers may be granted if you have more dependents when you can prove that you are a financially responsible human being. Note: If you’re single, you must not have physical custody of a dependent if you are processing for enlistment in the active Navy.

Whether you are enlisting or seeking a commission, you must pass a physical examination. This isn’t your everyday physical and it must be completed by a doctor at the Military Entrance Processing Station (good ol’ MEPS). You must be within the Navy height and weight standards. The physical not only checks your current status but reviews your past medical history as some ailments can cause long term issues that you may not feel any effects from today. Some disqualifying medical conditions can be waived and some are normally disqualifying altogether.

You can not be under civil restraint to include, but not limited to, probation or incarceration nor have a pattern of minor convictions or any non-minor misdemeanor or felony convictions; although, Conduct Waivers may be granted depending on number and severity – your personal conduct and accomplishments are just a couple of the factors used to determine your waiver (remember: if you get to the point where a waiver interview will be conducted, be respectful and polite!). Special circumstances for domestic violence charges and convictions.

You can not be a substance abuser to include prescription drugs, alcohol, and/or illegal drugs. The Navy has a zero tolerance when it comes to drug usage, it is a ONE strike and you’re OUT.

A six minute video that describes a regular visit to MEPS – your individual experience may vary depending on the need for medical consultations and the processing of any waivers that may be required.

Keep in mind this post is very general and is intended to give you a basic overview of enlistment requirements. Make sure you discuss any and all information with your Recruiter and ensure ultimately the information is documented in your enlistment application.



2,239 Responses to “Basic Requirements for Navy Enlistment”


  1. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Trish,

    With the anxiety you have that leads to the constant panic attacks, you would not be eligible for enlistment. I do recommend, if you have not already, seeking professional counseling.

    It is not a requirement that you know how to swim to go to Navy boot-camp, but it is a requirement that you learn some basic skills in the water while there — if you cannot, you would be discharged.

  2. Sarah says:

    Hello,

    My husband is actually in the process of trying to enlist he wants to go active duty. However, we currently live in [State redacted for privacy] and will be moving to [State redacted for privacy] eventually what happens if he enlist in [State redacted for privacy] and then moves? Can he transfer or how does that work? We do not have a choice on moving to [State redacted for privacy] we don’t want to but can’t help the circumstances. There’s no trouble or anything like that we are just trying to figure things out. Wasn’t sure if anyone had ever done this before.

  3. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Sarah,

    As long as he has at least a couple of months from the time you move from one state to another while in the Delayed Entry Program (the program he will be in from the day he joins until he actually leaves for boot-camp), it is a pretty easy thing to do. It is called a Courtesy Ship; when requested, the original MEPS documents and contracts are mailed to the new MEPS in the new state. His recruiter will make contact with a recruiter in the new state who will help with whatever needs may arise and to continue training him until his actual boot-camp date.

    Courtesy ships happen all the time.

  4. Nija says:

    Hello,
    I submitted my paperwork to my recruiter and also my DD214 paperwork. My recruiter says they have to transfer my information from Army to the Navy system, how long does that process usually take? so the can review my medical doc.

  5. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Nija,

    As long as your recruiter was able to get the SPF change into the MEPS before their cut-off time, when the computer systems updates at mid-night that day, the records become available the next working day.

  6. John says:

    My daughter signed up to an AD last July. They have pushed back her date to go to boot camp so many times I am wondering if the delay will affect her. She had no issues with her eQuip or her paperwork. She is getting irritated and when she asks the recruiter they keep telling her that it’s not them it’s MEPS. I told her she is the only person I know of that takes for ever to join. When I joined I signed up one week and left the next. No issues. I have pondered maybe she is delaying it, but when I called and asked about it they aid it’s MEPS pushing it back. Is there a timeline for how long someone can stay in DEP and doesn’t this get reported up the chain on how many are still waiting and and how long? Seems like it would. Thanks for any insight into the process you can provide.

  7. NCCM(Ret) says:

    John,

    When she joined, she signed a contract; I assume you have read that and the annex that said what day she was to report to boot-camp and what “A” school she was guaranteed. If she was rolled out from that date, she would be told a reason why, and she would have to sign a new annex to the contract that changes the date (and job if the same job was not available for the new date). She should be able to show you each of these annexes.

    MEPS can’t actually roll anyone out to a new date, only the branch of service they joined can do that. There are a few reasons a person can be rolled out, and they include waiting on a security background check if going into a high clearance rating; the class convening date for her school was changed (rare, but sometimes the school itself changes dates); she may have been caught up in the reduction if force last year when a whole bunch of people waiting to go had to discharge or change jobs due to a funding shortfall; and there are more reasons, but no matter which it is, she should have a copy of the annex that precipitated the roll to a new date.

  8. Donald says:

    Master Chief,

    I served, enlisted, in the Navy 1999-2004. I have an honorable discharge with an RE-1 code. I have always regretted getting out, I would like to rejoin as an officer.

    Since getting out I have obtained my bachelor’s degree, been married and divorced. Through the divorce, I aquired quite a bit of debt.

    What do you believe are my chances of getting back in and what steps do I need to take to make this happen?

  9. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Donald,

    As long as you don’t exceed the maximum age for the officer program you would apply for (that you are otherwise eligible and competitive for — age limits for some programs are up to 42 years of age), then your next step is to contact an officer recruiter near you.

  10. Anthony says:

    I am 29. I have tattoos on my hands. Does that disqualify me to enlist in the navy?

  11. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Anthony,

    As long as the tattoos meet the “content” criteria, you should be fine.

  12. Bryan v. says:

    i served 12 years in the navy and i got out in 2010 with an re-3f i am 38 now is it possible to rejoin active. i can pass the prt and weight.

  13. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Bryan v.,

    As long as you meet the minimum requirements for a NAVET reenlisting, it may be possible.

    The High Year Tenure rules will be changing effective next month, so when it comes to the time served periods referenced, know they should be changing, too. The biggest issue if not HYT, will be the length of time you have been out of the Navy. If active duty is not an option, ask about the Reserve.

  14. Makanjuola. says:

    Good sir,I am Nigeria Marine engineer already have sea term experience with tanker vessel of 27,620 Gross tonnage I’m just visiting UNITED STATES WITH B2 VISA can I join as an engineman sir I love USA NAVY VERY MUCH, PLS I WILL BE GLAD SIR IS THERE’S AWAY I CAN SERVE AMERICA

  15. Cindy says:

    I’m 23 and I decided to finally fulfill my lifelong dream and enlist.

    I have a bit of debt and I was wondering if that would disqualify me from enlisting.

  16. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Makanjuola,

    There is currently no provisions for anyone to join the Navy with a visa. You must have legal permanent resident status and in possession of an unexpired I-551 card (Green card).

  17. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Cindy,

    As long as you do not have any dependents, you should not have a problem enlisting; however, your job choices will be limited due to security clearance issues.

  18. Gina says:

    Good morning! I was curious to see what your thoughts were. I’m waiting for a waiver because I had a benign uterine fibroids removed because it cause me to be anemic. After removal, I have been 100% healthy. I am not on any medications, not taking iron. They asked for more documents including recent pap, recent CBC with a letter from physician stating I’m not anemic, and operating reports all of which I turned in. Pap was normal, CBC values within normal limits, doc notes sent. It’s been 6 years since surgery. It’s been two weeks since I’ve heard anything yet. Any idea how you think they treat these cases?

    Thank you,
    Gina

  19. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Gina,

    Based on what you wrote, and you have not had any recurring issues since your surgery six years ago, this should not be a disqualifying factor as long as your medical records mirror what you wrote. I assume you have not yet been to the MEPS and that you are awaiting permission to process. MEPS medical would have responded to the medical records within five working days. So, if the recruiter has been following up, he already knows what MEPS’ response was. You would have to ask him why the delay beyond the five working days the medical review process could take — I say five days because I add in the time it takes to get the documents to MEPS medical and the time it takes for the service liaison to report the result.

  20. Beatrice says:

    Hi I am 33 and I want to join the navy I have 4 kids and I’m about to get married in November I was wondering would I still be eligible due to my dependent size I also had the gastric bypass surgery 6 months ago

  21. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Beatrice,

    Both five dependents and gastric bypass surgery are disqualifying and can not be waived.

    I wish I had better news.

  22. Emmet says:

    Hello NCCM,
    I’m trying to join the reserves after being active. I was in phone contact with a recruiter. He said that I seemed eligible at first look, so I sent in a prescreening questionnaire, DD214,and other documents he requested. I haven’t heard anything at all back. I’ve called and left voice mails, emailed, and sent text messages. It’s been over a month since I sent him the documentation, and I’ve received no response. Without going into too much detail, I may have a few issues that could disqualify me. I’d like to know either way. I feel as though I’m being ignored. I wonder if there is any action I could take. The recruiting office said they couldn’t help me because he’s the only one who handles prior service. Any guidance you could give me would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.

  23. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Emmet,

    If the recruiter won’t return calls and those in the NRS are unwilling to help, I recommended using the “Navy recruiting districts” link in my site’s menu and call the local district headquarters. You want to talk to the enlisted programs department.

  24. Jahazi says:

    I was admitted to a mental hospital for depression and suicidal ideations due to family issues at home (Abuse). It was 2014. I am now a 18 year old who hasn’t had any problems since. I will graduate next year and I’ve always wanted to join the military. Now I dropped the Army because I didn’t want to lie. I wanted a waiver but it seemed to be non waiverable I think. I know the navy is more lenient in a way. I was hoping to hear if I could get a waiver based on the circumstances I was in. I never attempted suicide nor did I think of killing myself. It was more of thought about what it would be like to not be alive. I saw a counselor for like 2-3 months and then I was dismissed. I’m getting my medical records because a friend said it may not be there since I was under 18. Anyways. Could I get a waiver for This? I’d love to be a corpsman and I’m willing to go through every hoop that I’d need to.

  25. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jahazi,

    Depression can receive waiver consideration once a person has completed treatment and a minimum of three years has passed; however, I have never seen a waiver recommended for approval that required a hospital stay.

  26. Jahazi says:

    Do you think that it’s on my records since I was only 14? You think that I could get a waiver? Like the chances? Especially since North Korea is starting to do stupid stuff.

  27. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jahazi,

    Of course your medical records are still available. With the fact that you had to be admitted into the hospital for treatment, I do not like your chances for consideration and ultimate approval. What North Korea is doing has no effect on medical waiver possibilities.

    Gather your medical records and submit them for review.

  28. Jahazi says:

    Do you think my chances are low for every branch? If I get denied by the navy am I denied by all of the branches? I don’t want to just give up nor do I want to “Don’t ask, don’t tell” like the Army Recruiter told me.

  29. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jahazi,

    You would have to ask each branch as they all have a different waiver authority. to the Army’s highly unethical direction, they must not realize that the military branches are in the process of instituting MHS Genesis; a system where all electronic medical records for servicemembers will be available to the branch they are serving.

  30. Jahazi says:

    I don’t think he cared about me but me as a number. But I’m not here to bash people. If you could give me a % chance on being accepted if I brought every single shred of my paper work concerning that incident. What would it be?

  31. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jahazi,

    The only thing you have going for you is that you were 14 when your issues arose. I do not think your chances are very good, but I do recommend that you submit your records. I cannot put a percent chance on it. I do wish you the very best of luck.

  32. Jahazi says:

    Alright thank you for all the help and advice. I will most definitely update you on whether I succeed or not. Have a good day!

  33. Aaron says:

    I am looking at enlisting. I had stretched my ears up to an 1″ when I was younger. I have since taken my plugs out but my ears have not shrunk back down a lot and you can still see light thru them. Will this prevent me from enlisting?

  34. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Aaron,

    Yes, anything other than normal piercing, like guages — mutilating the ear, would be disqualifying. The holes must be healed to a point that light won’t pass through.

  35. Joseph says:

    Master Chief, I have researched this, but can’t really find the answers I need. Long story short, I was in the Navy from 2010-2014, as an SH. I never advanced to E-4.

    Anyhow, since then I have had a couple of kids, life has changed etc. Now I want to come back. The recruiter says I’ll be good to go active duty. I just don’t believe the guy, in one year I would be high year tenured. He says I will go in a different rate.

    I want to come back active or fts. Anyways, info on FTS is scarce. How difficult it is to be accepted into FTS as prior service?

    Re-enlistment: RE Code 1, honorable discharge

  36. Stacey says:

    NCCM,
    I was discharged from the Army 2008 before completing basic training. Received an Re-code 3 and ETPS of palpitations. They also said I had anxiety. I have numerous medical records disproving both diagnoses and have been cleared by my PCP, cardiology and psychology. Is there any chance of enlisting with the Navy with this Re-code and diagnoses from the Army?

  37. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Stacey,

    You don’t have documents that disprove a diagnosis; you have documents that describe your current mental and physical shape as not experiencing those issues. The medical and RE-code waivers you require are possible. Bring your medical records to your recruiter, and if you are otherwise considered to be fully qualified, he should submit them to MEPS for review.

  38. Tammy says:

    Hi! My 18yr old son is trying to enlist in the Navy. He started the process at 17 yrs old. He had a drs appt 2 years ago with our family dr. He told the dr he was sad because his older brother just left for boot camp. The dr prescribed him an antidepressant and said he was depressed. We filled the prescription and he took it not even for a week. We never had the prescription refilled. He never had a follow up appt. He did not have any therapy, counseling etc…He did not need the prescription because he was never depressed but the dr put depressed on his medical record. We have given the recruiter 3 letters from the family dr saying that he wasn’t depressed and was just sad. He seen a psychiatrist last month for a complete psych evaluation and gave the recruiter the results based on the evaluation saying that he demonstrates no signs of ever being depressed nor is he depressed and that she sees no reason why he should not be able to serve our country and would be proud and honored to have a young man like our son to serve our country. His recruiter just called and MEPS is still disqualifying him. What more can we do? I feel as there has to be someone else beside MEPS to help us. I’m hoping you can help and direct us in a better direction or to someone who will help my son be able to enlist. He has wanted this since he was in 3rd grade. Does he need to wait a certain amount or time since we had that prescription filled? We have given the recruiter what we needed to give him from the pharmacy that shows we never refilled it. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I hope to hear from you soon! Thank you for your service!

  39. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Tammy,

    Based on what you wrote, he was diagnosed with depression and treatment was prescribed. Unless the Navy will consider a waiver, he would not be eligible until three years passes from the end of that treatment.

    According to DoDI 6130.03, “Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services”, it states;

    Depressive disorder not otherwise specified, or unspecified mood disorder, [is disqualifying] UNLESS:

    1. Outpatient care was not required for longer than 24 months (cumulative) by a physician or other mental health professional (to include V65.40).
    2. The applicant has been stable without treatment for the past 36 continuous months.
    3. The applicant did not require any inpatient treatment in a hospital or residential facility.
  40. Raven says:

    I am currently in the DEP program and I ship to boot camp december the 5th I wanted to know do I have meet the weight I Initially enlisted at or do I have to meet the body fat standard which I am female so it’s 36 percent

  41. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Raven,

    You must meet the minimum criteria as laid out on this Navy height and weight standards page to be able to ship to boot-camp.

  42. Raven says:

    I qualified based on the circumference measure so if I maintain that measure should I be good to go because the people at meps said that I have to maintain the weight I came in at or lower but when I got down to that weight which was a 181 pounds my recruiter threw me off and said I have to get down to 36 percent body fat so I’m like what am I suppose to do

  43. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Raven,

    You must be able to meet the minimum criteria on the page I linked to.

  44. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Raven,

    It is very possible that your recruiter, if you gained significant weight while in DEP, will either ask to roll you out or discharge you. The only official measurement is completed at the MEPS; it is the only measurement that counts when you are shipping, and if you fail on ship date that eliminates a boot camp and school seat — that is not a good thing at all. So, if you gained a lot of weight, don’t be surprised if your recruiter’s command sides with caution and takes action by finding someone to fill your slot that will be able to ship on that date.

  45. Raven says:

    I still meet the minimum requirements based off of ACM am I still to maintain the original weight that I DEPPED in at because some of it is muscle weight

  46. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Raven,

    If you have maintained the same weight and measurement as when you enlisted, then you should be fine. If you gained weight, then you may want to lose it. I recommend that you discuss your concerns with your recruiter.

  47. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Effective, October 13, 2017, all Non United States Citizen (Green Card holders, etc.) MUST have their initial background investigation completed before leaving for boot-camp.

    Those already in the delayed entry program whose investigation is not yet completed may be rolled out to a new date to allow enough time for its completion.

  48. George says:

    Hello,

    I am currently in DEP as a greencard holder. I was informed by my recruiter that my original ship date will be delayed due to a new protocol of an additional background investigation. How long will these background checks last? Thanks

  49. NCCM(Ret) says:

    George,

    It isn’t an additional background check. It is the same one that you have already been submitted for; the new protocol is that now, just like for Nukes and Warrior Challenge Future Sailors, Non-citizens (Green Card Holders and MAVNI) must wait until the background investigation has been full adjudicated before they can ship to boot-camp. Previously, the investigation only had to be submitted before shipping.

    Final adjudication can take anywhere from 2 months to over a year.

  50. Jeremiah says:

    Good afternoon Sir,
    My cousin in the process of joining the Navy and is in the DEP. He is married to a foreign Woman that is not living in the US. His relationship with his wife is not at the good level. So, he wanted to divorce with her and marry another from the same country. But his recruiter told him he is not suppose to divorce or get married during his Delay Entry Program because he can loose his contract. He did not know about that until two days from his departure to his home country. What is the best advice to him? Can he get divorced and remarry another girl but hold on to the paperwork until he get out of Boot camp? He is now on his way home and he is scheduled for boot camp in January. It cost money to fly from here to Africa and he does not want to go back home in less than a year. Best advices are welcomed.
    Very Respectfully

  51. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jeremiah,

    If there are children, then ha cannot ship to boot-camp until the divorce is final and the court papers reviewed by legal to determine physical custody of the children. In the decree, child support must be addressed.

    If he is a non-United States citizen, and in the United States as a permanent resident (Green Card), then a change in status would most likely be grounds for discharge due to the new requirement of final background investigation adjudication before he can ship — that process can take anywhere from two months to over a year to complete. Changing the marital status will lengthen that time.

    If I was his recruiter, whether he is a US citizen or not, I would discharge him today because it is obvious the marital status will change (the instructional guidance is clear on this; those issues MUST be resolved before shipping), and when he gets everything in order, put him back in.

    You have been commenting on this site for a long time; your questions run the gamut, and you ask some for yourself, “friends”, and “cousins”. In the future, you ask for yourself, and if you have a friend or family member that seeks answers to questions, then send them here to ask for themselves. The arbitrary nature and consistency of your queries is very near its end.

  52. Cathy says:

    Good morning,

    My son is graduating from high school this year and has a learning disability which required an IEP. Apparently we were told there were two different types of diplomas. One is an “academic achievement” and one is an “individual achievement”. Both are actual diplomas but we’ve learned some branches do not take the “individual achievement” diploma. How much of this are you aware of? Is this true? How would this affect his ability to join?

    I appreciate all the help you can give me.

    Cathy

  53. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Cathy,

    The diploma would not be considered Tier I for military enlistment purposes because he required IEP; additionally, because he has a learning disability which required academic accommodations, he would be medically disqualified.

  54. George says:

    Chief,

    re: my question on comment #49

    Is there any way on my end to expedite the adjudication process? The uncertainty of not knowing when I’m going to bootcamp is both mentally and financially straining.

    Thank you,
    George

  55. NCCM(Ret) says:

    George,

    I wish there was. No branch of the military has the ability to expedite the adjudication for new recruits.

  56. NCCM(Ret) says:

    George,

    I did write an article about it; I have received a few questions similar to yours about the non-citizen background investigation final adjudication requirement for shipping. As a matter of fact, I selected and used your first question in the article.

  57. Jose says:

    I am eligible to enlist if i am married with 2 kids ?

  58. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jose,

    Yes, a dependency waiver is possible for someone with three dependents.

  59. kevin says:

    Just wondering what the maximum debt to income ratio is in the navy. I’m wanting to join but need to pay off some debt first.

  60. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Kevin,

    Are you married? How many dependents do you have?

    Generally, if your monthly bills are less than your basic pay, you should be fine.

    For jobs that require a high security clearance, no person shall be selected for those jobs who has a history of bad checks (unless through bank error), repossessions, cancelled or suspended charge accounts, or indebtedness exceeding half the annual salary (basic pay times 12) of the paygrade at which you are being recruited. If indebtedness includes a long-term mortgage, total indebtedness must not exceed 2½ times the annual salary.

  61. yvonne says:

    I have 45% custody of my daughter. I do not want to relingquish this. May I enroll in the Navy?

  62. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Yvonne,

    The custody papers must be reviewed, but if you have physical custody of your child, then active duty will not be an option. You may be eligible for the Reserve.

  63. yvonne says:

    i do not have physical custody of my daughter but i have 45% custody.
    may i enlist

  64. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Yvonne,

    I have no idea what 45% custody means. The legal department must read and evaluate your custody agreement. Bring a copy of the agreement signed by a judge (it should also contain your requirement to pay child support) to your recruiter so they can review it and determine eligibility.

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