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IAR Fire behind shooter from Cpl Lydia G

Enlisted Waivers

What will the Marine Corps potentially look past?

Everyone who joins the Marine Corps has a history before their enlistment, and sometimes that past can disqualify individuals from becoming a Marine.  To evaluate exceptions to disqualifications, the Marines allow waivers to be requested by applicants or their recruiters.

Read on to learn more about the waiver process and how to become a Marine if you are disqualified on your first try.

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What is a Waiver

The waiver process is utilized to evaluate medical, legal, and a variety of other adversity which precludes candidates from serving as a Marine.  Waivers allow specific disqualifiers to be evaluated so individuals are allowed a chance to serve by exception. 


Common types of waiver are for:

  • Age

  • Drug 

  • Moral Conduct

  • Physical Aptitude

  • Academic Capability

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Age Waivers

Waivers for applicant age are to allow those who do not meet the minimum or maximum age limits to become Marines.  The minimum age to enlist in the Marine Corps is 17 years old.  If applicants have not reached their 18th birthday, they require consent from their parent of guardian to enlist.  The exception to this requirement is those who are married 17-year-old applicants, who can enlist without parental consent.  Individuals under the age of 17 are prohibited from enlistment and are not able to request a waiver for exception.


The maximum age to begin recruit training is 29.  Those who have reached their 29th birthday require a waiver to enlist.  They must prove they have the physical ability to complete recruit training, so being in top shape is key for older applicants.  Waivers can be requested until an applicant’s 34th birthday, but no applicants over 34 will be allowed to attend Recruit Training.  

Drug Waivers

The Marine Corps has a Zero Tolerance policy for drug abuse in its ranks.  The Corps takes a similar stance towards its applicants and has put measures in place to prevent such activity from entering its ranks.  That said, the Marine Corps has established specific allowances for accepting applicants who may have utilized illicit drugs in their past.

During the enlistment process recruiters will complete a questionnaire with applicants.  Questions are structured specifically to uncover potential dependency or any legal record of illicit drug use.  Those who disclose their prior experimentation or casual use or drugs are eligible to request a waiver for enlistment.  These waivers are approved by the Commanding Officer of the Recruiting Station or a senior officer.  Applicants who state they have or have previously had an addiction to drugs (or alcohol) will not be allowed to enlist.  Anyone with a history of drug trafficking or sales will not be permitted to enlist.  Waivers are not accepted for addiction to or trafficking of drugs.

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Moral Conduct Waivers

The Marine Corps is built on discipline.  The Corps has no space in its ranks for those who have proven themselves to be a disruption to society, but a previous history of a mistake or two will likely not prevent individuals from enlistment.  The Marine Corps understands everyone has a history, so it has established guidelines on how any lapses of judgment can be properly identified to allow qualified applicants to enlist. 

When applicants review their history, common traffic offenses and other minor offenses can be annotated without preventing enlistment.  Generally, these situations do not warrant a waiver request for enlistment.  However, any number over four offenses of these types will be viewed as a trend of misconduct.  If an applicant has an abundance of traffic or minor offenses, they will require evaluation of a waiver to the Recruiting Station or as high as the Commanding General.


Individuals convicted of gang activity, any sex-based crime, domestic violence toward a significant other or child, or drug trafficking are not eligible for enlistment.  Waivers are not permitted, and those individuals are disqualified from enlistment. 

Physical Aptitude Waivers

The physical and medical background of applicants is key to the enlistment process.  The essential step to this requirement is the Medical Examination complete at the local Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS.  At MEPS, applicants complete a thorough assessment to determine their eligibility to enlist.  Medical and dental professionals will evaluate applicants’ height, weight, vision, lab samples, and medical history.  Conditions requiring waver and those which are disqualifying are numerous, so we list some common examples below:


Potentially Disqualifying, Waivers Allowed:

  • Heart Murmur

  • Asthma

  • Bee or insect allergy

  • Orthopedic surgery

  • History of psychological or psychiatric care

  • History of certain cancers

Permanently Disqualifying:

  • Blindness

  • Deafness

  • Scoliosis

  • Diabetes

  • Heart Disease

  • Mental handicap

For conditions or medical history specific to your situation, your recruiter can guide you through the process to verify eligibility.

Academic Capability

Marine recruiters are required to seek out the best and brightest of applicants.  Part of this requirement is to enlist applicants who possess the mental aptitude and ability to execute military duties.  To evaluate this requirement, recruiters will complete two steps with applicants:

  • Mental Aptitude Screening

  • Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)


The Mental Aptitude Screening is completed with applicant’s recruiting team to informally assess potential for successfully completing the ASVAB.  This screening will verify at minimum a 10th grade reading level and a predicted ASVAB score.


The ASVAB is utilized by each of the armed forces to evaluate the abilities of applicants.  It is composed of multiple subtests which provide a variety of scores that tell the recruiter what Military Occupational Specialty an applicant is qualified for.  The most important score is the AFQT, or Armed Forces Quality Test, and it provides recruiters an applicant score of out of a possible 99 points.  For High School Graduates, the minimum to enlist in the Marine Corps is a 31.  Anyone who scores less than a 31, but more than a 21 is eligible for enlistment, but they will require determination from the Recruiting Station Commanding Officer to be allowed to complete the enlistment process. 


To learn more about the ASVAB click here

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