Peace Corps Legal Information
The Peace Corps requires applicants to provide information regarding their legal status including their citizenship status, marital status, military status, dependents, legal history, intelligence activities, and financial obligations. Please see below for Peace Corps specific eligibility requirements and please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
To be eligible for Peace Corps service, an applicant must be a U.S. citizen prior to receiving an invitation. Citizenship is established either by birth or by naturalization.
Naturalized citizens must provide their naturalization number. A naturalization number is an eight-digit number preceded by an "A" (i.e., "A-12345678"), not the number in red on the upper right corner of the Certificate of Naturalization. In the event that the applicant is in the process of becoming a naturalized citizen, the expected date of registration should be noted in the space provided for naturalization number. No further documentation of citizenship is necessary to establish legal eligibility for the purpose of invitation. It is illegal to photocopy a Certificate of Naturalization.
The State Department will also require proof of citizenship before issuing a Peace Corps candidate a U.S. passport.
The United States does not recognize dual citizenship. An applicant who indicates they have dual citizenship must submit their U.S. passport when they apply for a no-fee passport. Applicants who are dual citizens are NOT required to denounce their foreign citizenship.
Applicants can be nominated with citizenship pending ONLY if the citizenship swear-in date is known. Before a final legal clearance can be issued, the Legal Eligibility Office must confirm receipt of the naturalization number.
Peace Corps' experience is that couples who have been in a committed relationship for at least a year before they begin service are better able to adapt to the challenges of the Peace Corps.
Applicants who are legally married or intend to marry prior to going overseas must both apply and qualify for assignments going to the same in-country site. A marriage certificate must be provided prior to invitation, regardless of when the marriage occurred. Same-sex couples in a domestic partnership should refer to the section below titled same-sex domestic partnerships.
Same-Sex Domestic Partnerships
Applicants in a same-sex domestic partnership must apply and qualify for assignments going to the same in-country site. Same-sex couples must sign an affidavit that will serve as evidence of their domestic partnership. The affidavit must be signed before the couple departs for service.
Serving without a spouse
Peace Corps Manual Section 201 states, "Ordinarily, if an applicant is married or intends to marry prior to Peace Corps service, both husband and wife must apply and qualify for assignment at the same location." Exceptions are as follows:
Spouses Who Live Together or Are Separated In Fact
The Peace Corps may accept an applicant who is married but whose spouse does not wish to accompany the applicant overseas if:
- the applicants' Volunteer service will not interfere with their ability to fulfill any financial or legal obligations to their spouses; and
- the Peace Corps is reasonably sure that the separation will not be the cause of circumstances that are likely to disrupt the applicants' service overseas.
To demonstrate that an applicant can meet these criteria and thus establish eligibility to be invited to serve as a Volunteer, he/she must provide a notarized letter PRIOR TO NOMINATION from his/her spouse acknowledging that:
- your spouse is aware of your intention to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer for two years or more;
- that you have made satisfactory arrangements to meet all of your financial and legal obligations to your spouse while you serve without salary as a Volunteer; and
- that your spouse consents to your service as a Volunteer, and believes that your separation would not adversely affect your training and service overseas.
This notarized letter must be submitted with a letter from you which lists any financial or legal obligations you have to your spouse and the arrangements you have made, or intend to make, to satisfy them.
Spouses Who Are Legally Separated
Peace Corps Manual Section 201 also states, "In addition to satisfying the above requirements, a married applicant who is legally separated from his or her spouse, must provide Placement with copies of any agreements or other documentation setting forth any legal and financial responsibilities which the parties have to one another during any period of separation." Applicants who are not living with their spouses but who are not legally separated from their spouses, no matter the duration of the separation, must provide the documentation requested above.
Sample SWOS Notarized Letter:
Regional Office Address:
From: ( applicants' names )
Dear Peace Corps Eligibility Specialist,
- I, ( insert name ), am the spouse of Peace Corps applicant, ( insert name ). The following information will clarify the eligibility of my husband/wife for Peace Corps service:
- I am aware of the applicant's intention to serve as a Peace Corps Volunteer for 27 months or longer;
- the applicant has made satisfactory arrangements to meet all financial and legal obligations to his/her spouse while serving without a salary as a Volunteer; and
- I consent to the applicant's service as a Volunteer, and believe that the separation will not adversely affect the applicant's training and service overseas.
The Peace Corps is not able to accept individuals who have ongoing legal or financial responsibilities which they would be unable to honor while serving in the Peace Corps. Because of this policy, persons who have been divorced are required to establish that they do not have any such responsibilities. Peace Corps Manual Section 201, Paragraph 305.2(3) states:
"Applicants who have been divorced must provide copies of all legal documents related to the divorce."
In order to establish legal eligibility for participation in Peace Corps service, applicants who have been divorced must provide the following documentation for each divorce in English regardless of when or where the divorce occurred.
- a copy of the final divorce decree signed by the presiding official.
- copies of any other documents incorporated in the final decree by reference, such as property settlement agreements, marital settlement agreements, etc.
- copies of any court-ordered modifications of the decree and/or its attachments.
All document copies must show signatures. File copies sent to you before the decree or settlement agreement was signed are not acceptable. The copies must be complete and legible. If the decree lists other "one-time obligations," such as cash payments or delivery of other assets, you must certify that these obligations have been fulfilled.
The Legal Eligibility Specialist will review these documents to ascertain if you have any legal obligations, financial or other, which cannot or will not be satisfied before your earliest availability date. If either the decree or its attachments note ongoing obligations, such as alimony payments or child support payments, you must also provide proof that you have made arrangements to fulfill the obligations, and that the arrangements are satisfactory to the person(s) to whom you owe the obligation(s). In the case of a former spouse, this can usually be done by obtaining a signed statement, authenticated by a notary public, from that person along with a letter from the applicant detailing the arrangements. If minor children are involved, the statement should be signed by the individual with legal custody of the minors.
If you no longer have or cannot find a copy of the documents, you can obtain them by writing to the Clerk of the Court in the county where the divorce was decreed. All such judgments are kept on file. Since it may take several weeks for the copies to be sent, please request them right away. If the decree was granted in a foreign country, you should also provide an accurate translation. The Peace Corps reserves the right to require additional documentation or certification in appropriate cases.
Please take the time to read your divorce decree before mailing it. Ensure that all relevant documents are included and that you have arranged to satisfy your obligations. You will not be certified as eligible for invitation until Placement is satisfied that you have done so.
Peace Corps' Manual Section 201 states, "...the applicant must satisfy Placement and the General Counsel that adequate arrangements have been made for the care and support of the dependent(s) during any period of training and Peace Corps service; that such service will not adversely affect the relationship between the applicant and dependent in such a way as to disrupt his or her service; and that he or she is not using Peace Corps service to escape responsibility for the welfare of any dependents under the age of 18."
If you have children under the age of 18, Peace Corps may consider you for invitation to a Peace Corps assignment if you supply a notarized statement, co-signed by you and the person who will be responsible for the well-being of any minor children who are your dependents. The statement should acknowledge:
- that you have made satisfactory arrangements with the co-signer for the care and support of the child during any period of Peace Corps training and service;
- that such service will not adversely affect your relationship with the child in such a way as to disrupt your service; and
- that you are not using Peace Corps service as a means of escaping your responsibility for the welfare of the child.
This statement should be accompanied by a letter from you explaining the arrangements you have made as noted above.
If you have a legal obligation to support a person who is past the age of majority, (e.g. an individual who is legally incompetent or whom you are required under the terms of a divorce decree to support beyond the age of 18, usually while the individual is in college), then a notarized statement similar to the one noted above for minor children is required.
Sample Dependent Notarized Letter:
Placement Eligibility Office
Peace Corps/Placement Office #6452
1111 20th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20526
From: ( applicants' names )
Dear Peace Corps Eligibility Office,
As the parents/guardians of ( child's name ), I am aware of my ( relationship's ) intention to serve in the Peace Corps. In order to determine ( applicant name ) eligibility to serve, this notarized letter fulfills the legal eligibility requirements for Peace Corps service. As the legal guardian, I (we) am (are) aware:
- that (the applicants) have made satisfactory arrangements with the co-signer for the care and support of the child during any period of Peace Corps training and service;
- that such service will not adversely affect (the applicants') relationship with the child in such a way as to disrupt service; and
- that (the applicants') are not using Peace Corps service as a means of escaping responsibility for the welfare of the child.
Legal Guardian's Signature
Volunteers who have outstanding debts under one of the federally administered or guaranteed student loan programs qualify for certain relief during their Peace Corps service. The regulations that authorize this relief are complicated, and different rules apply to each type of loan.
It is your responsibility to verify your eligibility for loan deferment and apply for student loan deferment with your lenders. If you are unsure about your deferment status, call your lending agencies prior to submitting a Peace Corps Application.
YOU must contact your lending institution(s) and request appropriate forms. Take your deferment papers to Staging (orientation) with you; do not send them to the Peace Corps. The Peace Corps cannot verify that you are a volunteer until you arrive at Staging.
Student loans may be deferred for the full period of your Volunteer service, up to 27 months. Your lender may grant you a deferment for the full 27 months, or require you to reapply for a deferment every 12 months. You must contact your lender to determine the length of your deferment. If you extend your service, deferral of up to three years is available, but you must apply for this separately. Your Country Director will certify deferment forms for the second and possibly third years of service. Take extra deferment forms with you if your deferment must be certified annually.
When determining benefits that are available, you must consider each type of loan and the principal and interest components individually. You can defer principal payments on Perkins Loans (National Direct Student Loans [NDSLs]) and Federal Direct Loans (including Federal Consolidation Loans, Stafford Loans, and Guaranteed Student Loans [GSLs]). Private student loans are typically not eligible for deferment or forbearance.
Even though your principal payment is deferred, you must make interest payments on the following unsubsidized loans during your Peace Corps Service: Stafford Loans, Federal Consolidation Loans that include unsubsidized loans, and Federal Direct Loans. You may opt to apply to your lender for forbearance on the interest payment for these loans.
The Department of Education pays the interest during the period of deferment for subsidized Stafford Loans and subsidized Federal Consolidation Loans. The Department of Education does not charge interest during the period of deferment for Perkins Loans and subsidized Federal Direct Loans.
As a Volunteer, you may authorize payments of up to $206.25 per month from your readjustment allowance to cover interest due on your student loans.
Privacy Act Waiver
The Peace Corps strongly recommends signing the Privacy Act Waiver enclosed in the Invitation Kit. The Privacy Act Waiver gives the Peace Corps the ability to discuss and release financial information to a family member or friend that you designate. If questions arise about your student loan in your absence (i.e. request for service verification for deferment or payments made to your loan from your readjustment allowance) it is advantageous to have a local contact to handle these issues. If you do not have a signed Privacy Act Waiver on file with Peace Corps, we will not discuss your student loan or financial issues with anyone other than yourself.
The Peace Corps' Role
The Peace Corps' role in the loan deferment process is limited to certification of your dates and country of service and authorization of deductions from your monthly readjustment allowance. The Peace Corps does not grant or deny deferments of loans.
Loan Types and Benefits
Volunteers qualify for a 15 percent loan cancellation for each of their first two years of service and a 20 percent loan cancellation for their third and fourth years of service. Up to 70 percent of a Perkins Loan may be canceled. It is important to note that a Volunteer must serve one complete year (365 days) in order to qualify for this cancellation benefit. Partial years of service will not qualify.
PLEASE NOTE that training time is included in the year of service that is eligible for the partial Perkins loan cancellation benefit.
- If you consolidate your Perkins loan with other student loans, you will lose the cancellation benefit. Once a Perkins loan is consolidated, it is no longer considered a Perkins loan and therefore, is ineligible for cancellation. If you are looking to combine several student loans, do not include the Perkins loan if you are interested in the cancellation benefit.
- The Department of Education does not charge interest during the deferment period.
- Volunteers qualify for a deferment of principal payments during their Peace Corps service and for six months immediately after their service ends. For Perkins Loans obtained before July 1, 1993, this relief is limited to three years of Peace Corps service, but for loans obtained on or after that date, it is available for the entire period of a Volunteer's service. Stafford Loans Guaranteed Student Loans or GSLs
- Volunteers qualify for a deferment of principal payments for up to three years during Peace Corps service.
- The Department of Education pays interest on subsidized Stafford Loans during the deferment period. Federal Direct Loans
- Volunteers qualify for a deferment of principal payments for up to three years during Peace Corps service.
- The Department of Education does not charge interest on subsidized Federal Direct Loans during the deferment period.
- Volunteers with unsubsidized Federal Direct Loans must pay interest during service or apply to the Department of Education for forbearance.
Federal Consolidation Loans
- Volunteers with Federal Consolidation Loans qualify for a deferment of principal payments for up to three years during service.
- The Department of Education pays interest on subsidized Federal Consolidation Loans.
- Volunteers with Federal Consolidation Loans that include unsubsidized loans must pay interest during the deferment period or apply to their lender.
- If you have consolidated your loans or are thinking about doing so before you leave, it is important to discuss with your lender how this will affect your Peace Corps loan deferment/cancellation benefit. Some loans may not qualify for deferment once consolidated but will instead be placed in a forbearance status where the borrower is still expected to pay interest payments during their service. Be sure to verify all the details with your lender before attending Staging.
If you have any questions concerning your loan deferments, call the Peace Corps' Office of Volunteer And PSC Financial Services at 855.855.1961, ext. 1770, or (202) 692-1770.
The Peace Corps Manual Section 201 states, "The applicant must not have...any financial or other legal obligation which, in the opinion of the Placement Office and the Office of the General Counsel, cannot be satisfied or postponed during the period of Peace Corps service."
If you currently have financial obligations that will be paid prior to a departure, you must provide a statement outlining how you plan to satisfy these obligations prior to beginning service.
If you currently have any financial obligation that will be ongoing during a Peace Corps assignment you must provide a statement outlining how you plan to satisfy these obligations while serving without salary in the Peace Corps.
Any financial obligation must be acknowledged and accounted for.
Required documentation will include:
- A statement which details each of your obligations and the amount owed
- The arrangements which you will make to continue payments while serving without salary as a Peace Corps Volunteer
- The source of the funds you will use
Peace Corps volunteers may use the allocation of up to $206.25/month from the Volunteer readjustment allowance when making plans. This allotment does not begin until approximately the fourth month of service. Arrangements for payments must be made during the first three months of service.
If you plan to have another person (e.g., a parent, sibling) assume responsibility for making payments on a financial obligation, Peace Corps requires a copy of a NOTARIZED letter from that person stating they will maintain the payments during a 27-month Peace Corps service.
Sample Financial Obligations Notarized Letter:
Placement Eligibility Office
Peace Corps/Placement Office #6149
1111 20th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20526
Phone: 202.692.1845 or 855.855.1961, ext. 1845
From: (applicant's name)
Dear Peace Corps Eligibility Office,
I, (insert name), am aware of my ( insert relationship )'s intent to serve in the Peace Corps for 27 months. He/She currently has the following financial obligations that will not be fulfilled prior to his/her departure: (keep all that apply, delete others) student loans, car loan, credit card payment, house mortgage, medical bills, and/or other ( please clarify ).
I, (insert name), will assume financial responsibility for the all/ the aforementioned financial obligations for the duration of (applicant's name) service with the Peace Corps.
Responsible party's signature
Service in the Peace Corps must not interfere with a citizen's commitment to the U.S. Armed Forces.
Individuals on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces are ineligible for invitation to Peace Corps service. In order to establish eligibility, potential applicants currently on active duty must document that they will be transferred out of the armed forces and will not have any military obligations that will disrupt their ability to depart and complete Peace Corps service.
A prospective applicant on active duty can apply to Peace Corps and be nominated. However, an invitation cannot be offered until they provide documentation (DD-214) that they have been transferred out of the active duty armed forces and will not have any military obligations that will disrupt their ability to depart and complete Peace Corps service.
Volunteers can serve in Peace Corps while in Inactive/Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). Most military personnel are required to serve on IRR for a set period of months or years following their active duty. Peace Corps assumes the risk that the volunteer may potentially be called back into active duty in the event of an emergency.
National Guard and Reserves
Applicants serving in the National Guard or the Ready Reserves may be nominated and considered for invitation to an assignment. They must, however, provide a written statement from their commanding officer stating that: "their presence will not be required by their military unit for the duration of their Peace Corps service, except in case of national emergency." This statement should not include any variation or other qualifiers. Since it is often difficult for applicants to obtain such a waiver from their commanding officer, it is suggested that the document be included in the application before a nomination is made. If an applicant is transferred from active duty or reserves into the Inactive/Individual Ready Reserves (IRR), the applicant will be required to provide documentation, indicating that the transfer to inactive status has occurred. Applicants who are currently in IRR or in a control group do not need a letter from their commanding officer.
A DD-214 should be collected from all applicants that were discharged from any branch of U.S. Armed Forces in the last 10 years from the date of the submission of a Peace Corps Application. If an applicant served outside of the last 10 years and indicated on the application that the discharge was "honorable," the DD-214 is not necessary.
A DD-214 is required for all applicants that indicate a discharge type other than "honorable," regardless of when they served. In addition, a written statement explaining the circumstances surrounding the discharge is required.
The existence of an arrest or conviction record will not automatically exclude an applicant from consideration for service in the Peace Corps. When evaluating an applicant’s arrest or conviction information, Peace Corps considers the nature of the offense(s), how long ago the offense(s) occurred, the nature of the position in question, and other relevant facts or indicia of rehabilitation. If an applicant is ultimately rejected for a Peace Corps Volunteer position because of an arrest or conviction in his or her background, the applicant has the opportunity to appeal the decision and/or reapply at a later date.
National Agency Check background investigation
All Peace Corps invitees must undergo a National Agency Check (NAC) background investigation to help determine legal eligibility for service. The NAC is a criminal background investigation conducted by the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The NAC investigation consists of a search of OPM’s Security and Suitability Investigations Index (SII), the Defense Clearance Investigations Index (DCII), a Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) name check, and a FBI National Criminal History fingerprint check. The NAC investigation will reveal all arrests and convictions regardless of disposition (i.e., suspended sentence, deferred judgment, dismissal, not guilty, reduced charge, mistaken identity, or expungement). Therefore it is required that you report your criminal record information regardless of whether the record in your case has been sealed, expunged, or otherwise stricken from the court record. The NAC background investigation is typically initiated after an applicant is invited to serve in a Peace Corps program.
Drug and Alcohol Policy
Applicants charged with, or convicted of, any drug-related offense are not eligible to have their applications considered for Peace Corps service until one year has passed from the date of the offense, arrest, or conviction, whichever is later.
Applicants charged with, or convicted of, public intoxication, Driving Under the Influence (DUI), Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), or who receive a reduced charge of, or conviction for, reckless driving from an initial charge of DUI or DWI, or who have a similar alcohol-related offense in their legal history, are not eligible to have their application considered for Peace Corps service until one year has passed from the date of the offense, arrest, or conviction, whichever is later. This includes arrests and citations.
Any arrest, citation, or other legal incident related to alcohol or illegal drugs that occur during the application process, including up to the day of departure, will also disqualify an applicant. Any applicant who is disqualified for the above reasons may reapply after one year.
Per the Peace Corps manual, "The applicant must not be on parole or probation to any court." This includes unsupervised probation, plea before judgment, deferred sentencing, deferred judgment and any other type of obligation where the applicant is under the guise of the court. In addition, probation includes any legal judgment that dismisses a charge after a period of time during which the applicant fulfills legal obligations (fines, AA classes, community service, etc.) and stays out of trouble. This is normally called a deferred judgment or diversion program. If an applicant is currently under the provisions of a deferred sentence or diversion program, that applicant is on probation and cannot be nominated.
With regards to prior convictions/actions pending, all issues stemming from a legal problem must be completely satisfied before legal clearance can be granted. This includes parole, probation, jail time, fines, community service, and any other court-mandated obligation related to the legal issue.
Previous legal incidents almost never automatically disqualify an applicant. Each individual's legal history will be reviewed in conjunction with the "whole applicant," which will take into account education, work history, applicable skills, language, volunteer experience, flexibility, etc.
Also note that legal information will be verified from the results of the National Agency Check (NAC) investigation completed by the Legal Eligibility Office. The Legal Eligibility Office reserves the right to request official documentation (court documents, police reports, etc.) from the applicant before reviewing an applicant's file.
If you have any questions regarding any of these legal requirements, please feel free to call the Legal Eligibility Specialist at 855.855.1961, ext. 1845, or (202) 692-1845 in the Washington, D.C. area.
Last updated Nov 25 2013