March 9, 2017

Noncompetitive Eligibility for Federal Employment

Under Executive Order 13750, exchange program alumni who successfully complete the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program, or Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) Program are eligible for 12 months of noncompetitive eligibility (NCE) hiring status within the federal government, with the possibility of extensions if certain criteria are met.

What is Noncompetitive Eligibility (NCE)?

NCE allows U.S. federal government agencies to hire eligible exchange program alumni outside of the formal competitive job announcement process and allows eligible exchange program alumni to compete for certain federal employment jobs that are only open to federal employees.

Does applying through NCE guarantee employment by the federal government?

No, noncompetitive eligibility does not entitle an applicant to a job with the federal government. The applicant must meet qualifications standards and additional requirements for the job, such as a background investigation. The decision to hire eligible candidates is at the discretion of the hiring agency.

Is this effective immediately?

This Executive Order went into effect on November 29, 2016. If you are an alumnus or alumna of one of the three qualifying programs, you are eligible to utilize your NCE status when applying for or soliciting a position within the federal government if you successfully completed your program after November 29, 2015 or as otherwise provided by the E.O. (see question below, “Does this benefit me if I completed my academic exchange program more than a year ago?”).

How do I demonstrate my NCE status?

Starting in spring of 2017, a certificate of achievement will be provided to eligible participants upon successful completion of their programs. This document certifies the start date and validity of noncompetitive eligibility, and activates such status under E.O. 13750. If you need a copy of your certificate of achievement, or completed your grant within an eligible timeframe but before these certificates were issued on completion, please email  To establish your noncompetitive status when applying for a federal job, you should include the certificate of achievement as proof of eligibility for NCE when requested or in the “required documents” area of the application.

Does this benefit me if I completed my exchange program more than a year ago?

Federal agencies may extend the period of eligibility for up to two additional years,  or a total duration of  up to three years in all, if, after your completed program, you:

  • Served in the military.
  • Studied at a recognized institution of higher education.
  • Were involved in another activity, which in the agency’s view, warrants an extension.

If I joined AmeriCorps or Peace Corps after my eligible exchange program, do I get an extension?

No, extensions are not granted for participation in AmeriCorps or Peace Corps.   However, both of these programs themselves provide noncompetitive eligibility status for 12 months following volunteer service. For more information, visit this website:

How do I notify a federal agency that I’m eligible for NCE?

You should attach your certificate of achievement to your application and make sure to mention your noncompetitive eligibility status in your resume. You should also indicate you have NCE when answering qualifying questions on USAJOBS postings.

What grade and series do I fall under when listing my NCE on an application?

Many federal applications require that you enter a grade and series when demonstrating NCE status. As an exchange program alumnus or alumna, you were not a federal employee and therefore do not have a grade or series. You are encouraged to contact the hiring official at the federal agency where you are seeking employment to determine how you should fill out the application if it requires a grade and series in order to claim NCE.

How do I find NCE jobs?

As an NCE-eligible candidate you may work with your career services center on campus, attend career fairs, and utilize online tools such as USAJOBS (the official job site of the United States Federal Government).

Does participation in one of the eligible exchange programs count as “time in service” towards a federal career?


Program-Specific Questions:

Which Fulbright Program alumni are covered under the Executive Order?

The Executive Order only applies to the Fulbright U.S. Student program.  Participants who received the following awards on the U.S. Student program are included:

  • Fulbright U.S. Student Study/Research Awards
  • Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Awards (ETAs)
  • Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Award
  • Fulbright-Fogarty Fellowships in Public Health (U.S. Students only) 

If I received a Gilman Scholarship award while attending a community college, and subsequently pursue a four-year degree, can I utilize my NCE once I complete my studies?

Federal agencies may extend the period of noncompetitive eligibility for up to two additional years, or a duration of three years total, for applicants who studied at a recognized institution of higher education after completing their exchange program.  Note that applicants must begin applying for jobs and be selected before their eligibility expires.