OPM broadened an authority for agencies to non-competitively hire former federal employees into competitive service positions, by extending that authority to those seeking to come back at a higher grade than the one they left.

A notice in Tuesday’s (June 8) Federal Register said the change, to be effective July 8, will “help agencies to recruit former federal employees who have developed more enhanced or higher-level skill-sets than they had when they left government to apply for agency vacancies at grade levels appropriate to their current knowledge, skills, and abilities.”


Under pre-existing policy, an agency could hire a former employee without competition only into a position at no higher and with no higher promotion potential than the position the person previously held.

“The intended effect of this hiring authority is to broaden the choices available to agencies when filling vacant positions and to promote a workforce in which individuals who have developed their competencies through extended service in the federal government and individuals who have developed their competencies in the private or non-profit sectors can enhance each other’s strengths by sharing knowledge and perspectives,” OPM said.

The entitlement applies for life except that it is limited to three years after leaving with only “career conditional” status—that is, with less than three years of federal service. Also continuing are requirements that the person must have been separated for at least one year, must have been rated as at least “fully successful” in the former position, and must meet qualification requirements for the new position.

The notice finalizes, with few changes, rules initially proposed in late 2019.

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2021 Federal Employees Handbook