Who can – and who cannot – apply to be a Peace Corps Volunteer?

By Ashley Lenihan
Sept. 2, 2015

One of the great things about the Peace Corps is that we welcome a wide array of applicants with diverse histories, heritages and interests. 

We have two mandatory requirements to be eligible for Volunteer service:

  1. You must be a U.S. citizen.
  2. You must be at least 18 years old.

These are set by federal law in the Peace Corps Act passed by Congress and signed by President John F. Kennedy. If you meet the minimum age and citizenship requirements – and meet or exceed the required qualifications for one of our current openings – we welcome your application to serve! Many people may still wonder whether they are actually eligible to apply to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. In general, most people can apply, but we do have a few policies which you might consider – particularly individuals with association to the intelligence community or military obligations. 

Peace Corps Manual Section 611 sets our policy for individuals with either a personal or familial association to an intelligence agency or intelligence-related work. In order to carry out its mission, the Peace Corps must maintain complete separation from the intelligence activities of the United States government, both in reality and appearance. The only automatic disqualification is any previous employment with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Individuals with previous employment history at the CIA, including contractors and interns, are indefinitely disqualified from Peace Corps Volunteer service. 

Every other association, including military intelligence, is evaluated on a case by case basis. Individuals who worked in the intelligence community may be found ineligible for a minimum of 10 years from the last day they performed such work. You may apply to be a Volunteer before knowing whether or not your intelligence association makes you ineligible. The Placement Legal Eligibility Office and the Peace Corps General Counsel review these cases before the application is moved forward, so you would know your eligibility status very early in the application process. Since these reviews might take a little extra time, we highly recommend any individuals with an intelligence association consider submitting their application at least one month before the application deadline for the programs to which they would like to apply.  

The Peace Corps welcomes applications from veterans, reservists and active duty military personnel who are interested in serving as Volunteers after completing military service. Please keep in mind that the Peace Corps may not interfere with the completion of an obligation to the armed services. After receiving an invitation for Peace Corps service, applicants with reserve obligations are reminded to comply with all requirements to notify their reserve component that they will be unavailable for drills and annual training because of their Peace Corps service. You may also wish to obtain written confirmation of your absence from drills and training prior to departing for Peace Corps service. 

If you still have doubts about your eligibility, speak with a recruiter who can address your specific questions and concerns – and then apply! Our new application is now easier and faster than ever, taking less than an hour to complete and submit. The Placement Legal Eligibility Office begins reviewing cases as soon as all initial application materials have been submitted. A review of your whole application is the only way the Peace Corps can assess your eligibility and qualifications for Volunteer service. 

For additional information on intelligence, military, citizenship and other legal topics, check out our legal information website

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

Ashley Lenihan

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