Your edge for federal employment
- What is NCE?
- What are the competitive service and excepted service?
- What authority provides NCE for Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps Staff?
- What if I served as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer?
- How does NCE work?
- Is NCE a preference?
- How do I demonstrate NCE?
- How can I find NCE jobs?
- When does NCE expire?
- Can NCE be extended beyond 12 months?
Information for COVID-19 evacuees
- How does the evacuation affect NCE?
- If I reinstate will I get NCE at the end of my service?
- What if I was a Trainee when I was evacuated from service?
- If I reinstate as a Response Volunteer, will I get NCE at the end of my service?
- If I re-enroll will I get NCE at the end of my service?
- Were there any changes to NCE eligibility in 2021?
What is NCE?
The three letters NCE are short-hand for noncompetitive eligibility. NCE is granted to some noncompetitive service federal employees, volunteers, and others by statute, regulation, or Executive Order.
NCE makes it easier for federal agencies to hire returned Volunteers who meet the minimum qualifications of a given position.
NCE is a special hiring status that allows eligible Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs), Peace Corps Response Volunteers (PCRVs), and Peace Corps Staff (who have been granted NCE) the opportunity to apply for and compete for positions in competitive service that are open to those who have served or worked for the Peace Corps. Without NCE, RPCVs, PCRVs, and Peace Corps Staff have the same status as those who are applying from the general public.
To gain a basic understanding of NCE requires an explanation of the different types of Federal service and where Peace Corps fits. (Note: Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer is not Federal employment.)
What are the competitive service and excepted service?
Most jobs in the Federal government are considered part of the competitive service (also referred to as employees with “status”). There are civil service laws established by Congress and regulations established by the Office of Personnel Management that govern the competitive service hiring process.
There are a smaller number of jobs that are noncompetitive (not part of the competitive service) and are excepted from many civil service laws and regulations. The Peace Corps Act requires that all Peace Corps direct hire employees (excluding Experts) are appointed based on the Foreign Service Act as non-career members of the Foreign Service. As such, the Peace Corps is an excepted (or noncompetitive) service agency.
The main thing to understand is that employment in the excepted service does not establish eligibility to apply for positions in the competitive service. If a federal job is only open to competitive service employees, excepted service employees cannot apply. However, NCE is the mechanism that can open this hiring process to Peace Corps employees and volunteers who have acquired NCE.
What authority provides NCE for Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps Staff?
- Executive Order 11103: Provides NCE to Peace Corps Volunteers
- 5 CFR § 315.607: Provides NCE to Peace Corps Staff
- 5 CFR § 315.605: Appointment of former ACTION volunteers
What if I served as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer?
Volunteers who serve a total of 12 months in a 24 month period with Peace Corps Response receive NCE status for employment with the Peace Corps. If you successfully serve for two consecutive years, you can receive NCE for federal employment.
How does NCE work?
Whether a Federal agency decides to consider NCE candidates for competitive service jobs is decided on a case-by-case basis; it is up to the hiring agency. If an agency is willing to accept NCE candidates, it will be made clear on USAjobs.gov. Agencies accepting both competitive and NCE eligible candidates will generally create two lists – a list of competitive service candidates and a list of NCE candidates.
Competitive service candidates are scored and ranked. A list of the ranked candidates is created. The hiring authority has the option to interview candidates from the ranked list and NCE list. The hiring authority interviews and decides who to hire based on who is most competitive.
To answer specific questions regarding NCE, it is best to reach out to the human resources contact identified in the job announcement.
Is NCE a preference?
No, NCE is not a preference. Veterans, on the other hand, do receive preference in federal hiring and, depending on their particular status (disabled or not), generally float to the top of the “selection certificate”.
Federal employees who are displaced through layoffs (CTAP, ICTAP, and RPL) are granted a hiring priority and in some cases must be selected before other candidates.
It is best to think of NCE as a “hiring option". Hiring authorities have the option of hiring from the NCE list.
How do I demonstrate NCE?
For Peace Corps Volunteers
The Description of Service (DOS) document serves as proof of NCE. This is usually attached on the last page before the country director’s signature.
If a Volunteer does not have their DOS, a request can be made through the RPCV Portal. For detailed procedures, please see Certifications of Service.
If the DOS is on file, the Volunteer will receive the document through the RPCV Portal. If the document is not on file, they can request it directly from their post country found at www.peacecorps.gov/countries.
For Peace Corps staff
Peace Corps staff person that has worked a minimum of three years should contact the Office of Human Resources’ Payroll and Benefits inbox. They will receive an email from the Office of Human Resources with their NCE letter.
How can I find NCE jobs?
Visit the RPCV Career Link to view job vacancies that accept NCE:
- Click on the box that reads “ONLY SHOW NONCOMPETITIVE ELIGIBILITY JOBS”.
- A list of NCE vacancies can be reviewed and applications submitted.
- Start a job search (click search).
- On the right-hand menu scroll down and click the Peace Corps AmeriCorps Vista box. This will provide a list of jobs that will accept NCE.
- A list of NCE vacancies can be reviewed and applications submitted. NCE certificates should be included in submissions.
When does NCE expire?
For a Peace Corps Volunteer, NCE is good for one year or 12 months from the date of close of service. For a Peace Corps staff person, NCE is good for three years from the end date of employment with Peace Corps.
Can NCE be extended beyond 12 months?
Executive Order 11103 Sec. 4., provides that the 12 months “may be extended to not more than three years in the case of persons who, following such service, are engaged in military service, in the pursuit of studies at a recognized institution of higher learning, or in other activities which, in the view of the appointing authority, warrant an extension of such period”.
To establish eligibility for an extension be prepared to provide: (1) a DD Form 214 for military service; or (2) a transcript from a recognized institution of higher learning. To meet the third extension criteria, be prepared to provide documentation that the activity warrants an extension. It is up to the hiring authority to determine whether to grant the extension.
The three years cannot be extended in the case of a Peace Corps staff person that earned three years of NCE eligibility.
How does the evacuation affect NCE?
Application of NCE differs for Volunteers, Peace Corps Response Volunteers, and Trainees.
Peace Corps Volunteers
Under Executive Order 11103 signed by the President Kennedy in 1961, certain Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs) qualify for one year of NCE, i.e., to be non-competitively appointed as a career-conditional employee in the competitive civil service. NCE does not mean that RPCVs are entitled to federal employment. Non-competitive eligibility permits, but does not require, an agency to hire non-competitively an RPCV who meets the minimum qualifications for the position. The decision whether to hire an RPCV under non-competitive eligibility is at the discretion of the hiring agency which provides some federal agencies the flexibility to hire you in an expedited manner.
Note: Manual Section (MS) 285, 5.3(a) requires an RPCV to have served for at least 12 months in order to be eligible for an NCE certification. Director Olsen waived the provisions of MS 285, 5.3(a) regarding this 12-month minimum requirement for Volunteers, and authorized Country Directors to certify NCE for those Volunteers whose service ended as a result of the COVID-19 evacuation and who demonstrated the ability to satisfactorily complete the full term of service. Accordingly:
Returned Peace Corps Volunteers whose service ended as a result of the COVID-19 evacuation and who demonstrated the ability to satisfactorily complete the full term of service may be certified by their Country Director for NCE.
Peace Corps Response Volunteers
Under the terms of Executive Order 11103, as well as corresponding Department of Justice guidance, the NCE eligibility rules apply differently to Returned Peace Corps Response Volunteers (“Returned Response Volunteers” or RPCRVs). Although the Peace Corps has implemented the Executive Order with flexibility wherever we are able to do so, Director Olsen is not able to waive its requirements. However, Director Olsen has waived the provisions of MS 285, 6.1(a) regarding the 12-month minimum requirement for Response Volunteers, and has therefore authorized Country Directors to certify NCE for Peace Corps employment only for those Response Volunteers whose service ended as a result of the COVID-19 evacuation and who demonstrated the ability to satisfactorily complete the full term of service. Accordingly:
- Returned Response Volunteers whose service ended as a result of the COVID-19 evacuation are eligible for NCE for Peace Corps employment only, if the CD determines that the PCRV has served satisfactorily.
- Returned Response Volunteers who have satisfactorily completed a term of service of at least two consecutive years may be certified by their Country Director for NCE for federal employment, including Peace Corps employment.
- Returned Response Volunteers who previously served satisfactorily as Peace Corps Volunteers for two years and then were appointed to a Peace Corps Response assignment immediately following their two years of service may be certified by their Country Director for NCE for federal employment.
Trainees, including those evacuated due to COVID-19, are not eligible for NCE.
If I reinstate will I get NCE at the end of my service?
All Peace Corps Volunteers who were evacuated and granted Close of Service (COS) status due to the COVID-19 pandemic and successfully fulfill the requirements of Reinstatement (see Interim Policy Guidance IPS 1-20 and IPS 4-20) will be eligible for NCE certification at the end of the Reinstatement term of service.
What if I was a Trainee when I was evacuated from service?
A trainee who was evacuated due to the COVID-19 pandemic must be sworn in as a Volunteer and meet the requirements of Reinstatement (see IPS 1-20 and IPS 4-20) in order to be eligible for NCE certification.
If I reinstate as a Response Volunteer, will I get NCE at the end of my service?
All Peace Corps Response Volunteers who were evacuated and granted Close of Service (COS) status due to the COVID-19 pandemic and successfully fulfill the requirements of Reinstatement (see Interim Policy Guidance (IPS 1-20 and IPS 4-20) will be eligible for NCE certification for Peace Corps employment only at the end of the Reinstatement term of service.
If I re-enroll will I get NCE at the end of my service?
Re-enrollees will be eligible for NCE certification after successful completion of their re-enrollment term of service (generally two years).
Were any changes to NCE in 2021?
On March 12, 2021, the acting director approved the following issued revisions for Peace Corps staff positions applicable to Volunteers and Peace Corps Response Volunteers granted COS status beginning January 1, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic:
IPS 1-21 Grant of Two Additional Years of Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE) for Peace Corps Staff Positions to Volunteers and Peace Corps Response Volunteers Granted Close of Service (COS) Status From January 1 2020 due to the COVID -19 Pandemic [PDF]