What happens if I turn down a Peace Corps invitation?

By Connor Gregg
March 9, 2022

These are unusual times at the Peace Corps. The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the departure of Peace Corps programs for nearly two years. Volunteers evacuated due to the pandemic (eRPCVs), applicants, and invitees alike have had to maintain an unusually high degree of flexibility and patience as we navigate returning to service as the pandemic continues. While many have eagerly awaited a return to service, many also had to consider other professional opportunities. Ultimately, this poses a unique question for those who’ve wanted to serve in the Peace Corps for a long time: what happens if I must turn down an invitation to serve in the Peace Corps?

Many eRPCVs, applicants, and invitees have waited close to two years to serve, so it’s only natural to assume that some have pursued other professional opportunities like graduate school, joining other public service programs like AmeriCorps, or have secured jobs in their desired career fields. Many have also had developments in their personal lives—marriage, starting a family, or other life circumstances. Even outside the context of a pandemic, we in the Peace Corps Placement Office understand that life happens. Sometimes the invitation you were hoping for months ago doesn’t arrive at the best time. If you are wondering how turning down an invitation affects future opportunities with the Peace Corps, here are some answers to help you in your decision-making process.

  • If I turn down my invitation to serve in the Peace Corps, will it negatively impact me if I decide to apply again in the future?
    • No, it will not. We understand that things change in everyone’s personal and professional lives. Declining an invitation will not count against any future application. However, your placement officer may want to talk with you to make sure the timing is better the next time around.

  • I want to serve, but I have a current commitment that I want to see through. Can I defer my invitation?
    • Peace Corps does not offer deferments because our Volunteers travel as group to their country of service. However, you can discuss your interest in future assignments with your placement officer. We may be able to consider you for a later program. However, a future invitation will not be guaranteed, and may require flexibility as to the country and sector of service.

  • If I decline an invitation to serve in the Peace Corps, will my application be considered for another invitation opportunity for a different program?
    • We may be able to consider you for a different or program or one that departs later. However, another invitation is not guaranteed. Your placement specialist can discuss your updated sector and geographic preferences and your availability dates.

  • What if I am invited to serve in a country that I did not apply to?
    • Critical health and safety factors determine when the Peace Corps will return to each country it serves. Many countries have not opened their borders and are not ready to host Volunteers at this time. Because of this, we ask that applicants maintain a high degree of flexibility with their country preferences and seriously consider postings they did not originally select. Feel free to discuss the realities of serving in other countries with your placement specialist.

  • What if I am invited to serve in a sector that I did not apply to?
    • Similar to our country postings, our programming opportunities may not always be available in the desired time frame. Please consider additional sectors as a possibility in pursuing Peace Corps service. Sometimes working in a new sector opens many new doors and perspectives for a Volunteer. Don’t be afraid to explore positions outside your primary experience area!

  • How do I know if serving in the Peace Corps is the right thing for me, right now?
    • Only an applicant can fully answer this question. It is important to reflect upon your priorities and ensure that you can meet the obligations of a two-year commitment. It may be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the benefits of Peace Corps Service. Feel free to discuss with your placement specialist or connect with a recruiter if you have additional questions.

Serving in the Peace Corps is a serious commitment and the COVID-19 pandemic can make the decision to serve even more complex. The Placement Office hopes to provide evacuees, invitees, and applicants with the necessary tools to make the right decision for themselves.

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