As a general rule, an individual must be a U.S. citizen or National of the United States in order to be employed in the Federal government. In certain circumstances non-citizens may be hired if approved by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

Executive Order 11935, issued September 2, 1976, restricts the employment of non-citizens into competitive service positions. The executive order amended Civil Service Rule VII (5 CFR 7.4) to provide that no person shall be admitted to competitive examination or be given an appointment in the competitive service unless such person is a citizen or national of the United States. Rule VII further provides that the OPM may authorize the appointment of non-citizens to positions in the competitive service in specific cases when necessary to promote the efficiency of the service. The authority to do so is found in 5 CFR §338.101, which states that appointments of non-citizens may be made in rare cases under the provisions of §316.601, “appointment without competitive examination in rare cases”. Generally, this means that OPM may approve hiring a non-citizen in the absence of qualified citizens. In such cases, the individual is given an excepted appointment under Schedule A, authorized by 5 CFR 213.3102(bb). The employee does not acquire competitive civil service status and may not be promoted or reassigned to another position in the competitive service except under the same conditions under which initially hired: the absence of qualified citizens.

Appointments of non-citizens in those circumstances are always subject to the immigration laws which require employers to hire only individuals who are lawfully admitted for permanent residence or otherwise authorized to be employed. (The regulations implementing these requirements of the immigration laws are found in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 274a.)

The requirement for United States citizenship in Executive Order 11935 does not apply to individuals appointed to positions in the excepted service and the Senior Executive Service. Also, the general rule prohibiting hiring non-citizens does not apply to overseas positions. Rule VII (5 CFR 8.4) provides that persons who are not citizens of the United states may be recruited overseas and appointed to overseas positions. This restriction also does not apply to Nonappropriated Funds (NAF) positions.

Content last reviewed: 6/5/2006-TWD

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This page was last revised: 6/5/2006