New Executive Order Provides Limited Non-Career Appointees a Pathway to the Competitive Service

Posted: 2:23 pm ET
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On November 29, President Obama signed an executive order that allows the appointment of certain limited non-career appointees into the competitive service.  The E.O says “the head of any agency in the executive branch may appoint in the competitive service an individual who served for at least 48 months of continuous service in the Foreign Service of the Department of State under a Limited Non-Career Appointment under section 309 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, and who passes such examination as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may prescribe.”  It looks like LNAs can be appointed to any civil service position at any agency but does not provide for their appointment into the Foreign Service.

Republished below in full, the original text is available here.

PROVIDING FOR THE APPOINTMENT IN THE COMPETITIVE SERVICE OF CERTAIN EMPLOYEES OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE
BARACK OBAMA
THE WHITE HOUSE
November 29, 2016.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including sections 3301 and 3302 of title 5, United States Code, and section 301 of title 3, United States Code, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Policy. The Federal Government benefits from a workforce that can be recruited from the broadest and deepest pools of qualified candidates for our highly competitive, merit-based positions. The recruitment and retention of workforce participants who serve in the Foreign Service of the Department of State under a Limited Non-Career Appointment under section 309 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, Public Law 96-465 (22 U.S.C. 3949), as amended, are critical to our ability to meet consular staffing levels (now in substantial deficit) and thereby enhance our capacity to meet high national security standards and efficiently process visas in accordance with our policy of “open doors, safe borders.” Program participants undergo a rigorous merit-based evaluation process, which includes a written test and an oral assessment and to which a veteran preference applies, and develop advanced- to superior-level skills in languages and in cultural competence in particular regions, skills that are essential for mission-critical positions throughout the entire Federal workforce.

Accordingly, pursuant to my authority under 5 U.S.C. 3302(1), and in order to achieve a workforce that represents all segments of society as provided in 5 U.S.C. 2301(b)(1), I find that conditions of good administration make necessary an exception to the competitive hiring rules for certain positions in the Federal civil service.

Sec. 2. The head of any agency in the executive branch may appoint in the competitive service an individual who served for at least 48 months of continuous service in the Foreign Service of the Department of State under a Limited Non-Career Appointment under section 309 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, and who passes such examination as the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may prescribe.

Sec. 3. In order to be eligible for noncompetitive appointment to positions under section 2 of this order, such an individual must:

(a) have received a satisfactory or better performance rating (or equivalent) for service under the qualifying Limited Non-Career Appointment; and

(b) exercise the eligibility for noncompetitive appointment within a period of 1 year after completion of the qualifying Limited Non-Career Appointment. Such period may be extended to not more than 3 years in the case of persons who, following such service, are engaged in military service, in the pursuit of studies at an institution of higher learning, or in other activities that, in the view of the appointing authority, warrant an extension of such period. Such period may also be extended to permit the adjudication of a background investigation.

Sec. 4. A person appointed under section 2 of this order shall become a career conditional employee.

Sec. 5. Any law, Executive Order, or regulation that would disqualify an applicant for appointment in the competitive service shall also disqualify a person for appointment under section 2 of this order. Examples of disqualifying criteria include restrictions on employing persons who are not U.S. citizens or nationals, who have violated the anti-nepotism provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act, 5 U.S.C. 2302(b)(7), 3110, who have knowingly and willfully failed to register for Selective Service when required to do so, 5 U.S.C. 3328(a)(2), who do not meet occupational qualifying standards prescribed by OPM, or who do not meet suitability factors prescribed by OPM.

Sec. 6. The Office of Personnel Management is authorized to issue such additional regulations as may be necessary to implement this order. Any individual who meets the terms of this order, however, is eligible for noncompetitive eligibility with or without additional regulations.

Sec. 7. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof, or the status of that department or agency within the Federal Government; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

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@StateDept Now Accepting Applications For Spanish Speaking Visa Officers

Posted: 12:14 am ET
Updated: 9:59 pm PT
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Updated:  The State Department informed us that it has updated a couple items on benefits for the Consular Fellows announcement. Note that the Consular Fellow LNA appointment is for 60 months and that the second payment of the recruitment incentive would take place at the end of the 48 months of consecutive services. See additional details here: https://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/consular-fellows

The State Department is currently accepting applications for Spanish speaking visa officers.  This program is similar to its predecessor, the Consular Adjudicator Limited Non-Career Appointment (CA LNA) program. The initial appointment is for 27 months  60 months. The announcement notes that “Consular Fellows serve on the front lines of a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and are critical to America’s national security. Consular Fellows conduct one-on-one interviews and review supporting documentation to determine if a foreign national meets the requirements for entry into the United States.”

These jobs are so critical to America’s national security that we can only afford to hire people on limited appointments to do this work. Which seems to indicate that the demand for visa services is a temporary surge. It is not. In FY2011, the State Department issued 7,507,939. In FY2015, the State Department issued 10,891,745 visas. The demand for visas continues on an up swing.  The total nonimmigrant visa workload (issuances/refusals) in FY2015 is 14,013,695.

The Consular Fellows Program offers candidates a unique opportunity to serve their country, utilize their foreign language skills, and develop valuable skills and experience that will serve them well in follow-on professions.

Foreign Service Consular Fellows serve in U.S. embassies and consulates overseas alongside Foreign Service Officers, other U.S. agency personnel, and locally-employed staff. Using their language skills in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, or French, their primary duty is to adjudicate visas for foreign nationals. Duties and responsibilities are similar to those of entry-level career Foreign Service Officers. While at post, Consular Fellows are members of the embassy or consulate community and receive many of the same benefits that career Foreign Service members receive, such as housing and educational allowances for eligible family members. View a more detailed description of the type of work involved and benefits provided.

Consular Fellows are hired via limited non-career appointments (LNAs)*. The initial appointment is for 27 months, and may be extended up to a maximum of five years, depending on satisfactory performance and the needs of the Service. Consular Fellows may terminate their appointment at any time with 30 days’ notice. However, if they choose to do so before completing a total of 12 months of service at post, they are obligated to repay certain costs associated with their travel, transportation, and other relocation allowances, unless the termination is triggered by circumstances beyond their control, as deemed by the U.S. Department of State.

New hires who commit to a four-year service agreement will be eligible to receive a recruitment incentive of up to 10% of their basic salary.  This incentive would be paid in two installments: one upon completion of the first two-year assignment, and the second at the end of the second two-year assignment (48 months of service). In addition, Consular Fellows may be eligible to participate in the U.S. Department of State’s Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) at any post in which they serve when they sign an initial three-year service agreement.  For more information on the program, click here.

These are paid, non-career positions. The Consular Fellows program, similar to its predecessor, the Consular Adjudicator Limited Non-Career Appointment (CA LNA) program, is not an alternate entry method to the Foreign Service or the U.S. Department of State, i.e. this service does not lead to onward employment at the U.S. Department of State or with the U.S. government. Consular Fellows are welcome to apply to become Foreign Service Specialists, Foreign Service Generalists, or Civil Service employees, but they must complete the standard application and assessment processes.

If you have additional questions about the Consular Fellows Program, please visit the Consular Fellows forum or post a message.

According to careers.state.gov, beginning in the fall of 2016, all candidates for the Consular Fellows Program for Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese Mandarin, Arabic, Russian, and French will apply online and will be directed to a testing site near them to take an online test. Candidates who score sufficiently well on the online test will then be asked to take a telephone test in one of the six languages above. If they reach the required proficiency level, they will be invited to an oral assessment in Washington, D.C. or in San Francisco.

 Read more here.

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