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What you need to know about Peace Corps’ legal clearance process

Sarah Finnegan AskPC blog

So you may have heard that the legal clearance process for the Peace Corps is kind of a big deal. 

Indeed, that’s true, but there are plenty of things you can do to make the process run as smoothly as possible. 

When you submit your application: 

You will be asked about your legal history in the Peace Corps application. This is the best possible place to disclose any and all information about your legal history. And when we say any, we mean any citations, arrests or charges (regardless if the charge was dismissed, sealed or expunged). I know what you may be thinking: “I’m nervous that my legal history will prevent me from moving forward in the application process.” The good news is the majority of incidents are looked at on a case-by-case basis. There is space on the application not only to explain what happened, but also what you learned from the incident. 

Even if you have been told that you don’t need to disclose an expunged case, the Peace Corps is asking you to disclose any legal history, as these charges can show up on a federal background investigation. If you fail to disclose a legal incident that might later appear on your background investigation, you are taking a risk that could lead to your invitation being rescinded. You can be disqualified from serving based solely on non-disclosure, even if the incident you failed to disclose might seem to be a minor one. Placement specialists need to know the complete legal history of a candidate in order to make an informed decision regarding an invitation. 

During the application process: 

During the interview, a placement specialist will ask you directly if there is any new or additional information regarding your legal history that you need to disclose. Take this opportunity to clarify if you have any questions or concerns regarding a legal issue that you mistakenly omitted on your application. So if you forgot about a charge from five years ago when you were filling out your application, do not hesitate to speak up during the interview! 

Following the interview, you will receive fingerprint cards in the mail. These fingerprint cards are used to conduct your background investigation. Pro tip: These should only be completed after you receive an invitation. 

Following an invitation: 

If and when you receive an invitation (congratulations!), the bulk of the legal clearance process takes place. First, you will receive an email with further instructions of how to complete and submit your fingerprint cards along with a form to fill out. The #1 rule with these legal forms is to closely follow directions and be consistent with the information you write down. If you note blue eyes (BLU) on one form but brown eyes (BRO) on another form, we have a problem! Even a small error, such as leaving something blank, can cause a major delay in receiving your legal clearance. Additionally, timely submission is critical, so please be prepared to fill out those forms should you receive an invitation! You can’t leave for Peace Corps service until we get the results of your background investigation. Our legal team will work with you if you have any questions, concerns or updates post-invitation. You will also receive notification once your legal forms have been processed and another notification with the final outcome of your legal clearance. 

The moral of this legal clearance story: Disclose everything, pay attention to details and disclose everything. As always, you can reach out to a recruiter or your placement specialist with additional questions or concerns. We look forward to your application!

Ready to start your Peace Corps journey? Connect with a recruiter today.