Noncompetitive Eligibility FAQs
Do you have questions about NCE? Find out more below...
Unclear about your Noncompetitive Eligibility? Here's what it is.
Under the Provisions of Executive Order (EO) 11103 (5 CFR, § 315.605), certain returned Peace Corps Volunteers are awarded one year of noncompetitive eligibility (NCE) for selection for federal employment. This eligibility does not mean that returned Volunteers are entitled to federal employment. However, although noncompetitive eligibility does not require, it does permit an agency to hire a returned Volunteer who meets the minimum qualifications for the position without going through all of the formalities of the competitive process (including posting a vacancy announcement, screening or interviewing candidates, or going through the others steps that are involved in the standard recruitment process). All that is required is that the agencies have a classified position and an available opening, and that the candidate meet the minimum qualifications for that position. The decision whether to hire a returned Volunteer under noncompetitive eligibility is within the discretion of the hiring agency. Therefore, to alleviate any confusion it is advised that RPCVs make the hiring agency aware of their remaining NCE as clearly as possible.
Generally, RPCVs must have successfully completed a full tour of Peace Corps service to receive NCE. However, the Country Director may issue certification to Volunteers who do not complete service, provided that they have satisfactorily served for twelve consecutive months, including training, and that their termination is determined to be for reasons beyond their control (Volunteers who resigned from Peace Corps service are not eligible for noncompetitive appointment, no matter how long they served). Country Directors will include the certification statement as the final paragraph on the Description of Service (DOS) statements for Volunteers granted this benefit.
What are competitive service positions?
Congress has established laws, policies, and procedures governing federal employment. This formal process is designed to eliminate discrimination and favoritism and to provide fair and open competition so that hiring and promotion are based on merit. These competitive service jobs are governed by specific examination or appointment procedures as set out by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM); NCE is one of these special appointment authorities. Thus, RPCVs (with NCE) who have an interest in a competitive service position may be hired more easily because that employing agency can select that RPCV without going through all the competitive-related hiring procedures.
How do I make sure the employing agency is aware of my NCE?
RVS has developed a sample cover letter that can be tailored to help explain NCE status to the hiring agency. The regulatory authority for NCE is set out under Title 5 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) § 315.605. RPCVs should highlight NCE status in their cover letter, on their resume, and through the supplemental documents area most online applications systems provide. In addition, we have made available an informational letter from Peace Corps that RPCVs may also give to prospective federal employers explaining their noncompetitive eligibility. (Both of those documents are contained in this special issue of Hotline.)
How do I prove NCE?
NCE is officially granted to you through your Description of Service (DOS) and is proved by attaching a copy of your DOS when applying for a federal job. The DOS will reference "Executive Order 11103," which is the Presidential directive that established NCE. If you have misplaced your original DOS, the Peace Corps can send you a copy. Contact the Office of Volunteer and PSC Services for a copy. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855.855.1961, ext. 1770. Also note the earlier response regarding how to make an agency aware of your NCE.
How do I prove NCE without filling in a grade or series on the application?
Many federal applications require that you enter your grade and series when proving NCE. RPCVs do not have a grade and series since they were volunteers and not federal employees. An RPCV must contact the employing agency to determine how they should fill out an application that requires a grade and series in order to prove NCE.
What are some instances that noncompetitive eligibility is extended? And, if I qualify for the extension, how do I make sure that it is granted?
Noncompetitive eligibility can be extended by the hiring agency for up to two additional years beyond the one-year initial eligibility period (which would equal a maximum of three years from the COS date) for three reasons:
- If, after Peace Corps service, you enter the military.
- If you become a full-time student at a recognized institution of higher learning.
- If you engage in another activity that the hiring agency thinks warrants an extension. Generally, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has indicated to federal agencies that it is appropriate to extend a candidate's NCE if s/he is gaining work experience that is relevant to the position being filled and that can be expected to enhance the candidate's performance and value to the agency. While these extensions should not be granted routinely, they may be used in situations where the activity or experience has truly enhanced the RPCV's value to the agency.
Can noncompetitive eligibility be "used up" during the 12-month period?
No. You may use your noncompetitive eligibility as many times as you wish to apply for competitive-service federal jobs, provided that the hiring agency permits you to do so. Once you have been hired at a federal agency, you may even use your NCE to gain employment at another agency (assuming you are still within your 12-month eligibility period); you may not, however, use NCE to gain a promotion or a new position within the same agency without a break in service.
Does noncompetitive eligibility apply only to federal positions?
Yes. NCE is applicable only to federal government positions. Noncompetitive eligibility does not apply to state or local government jobs. They are separate organizations under the Constitution.
Last updated Jan 22 2014