Glossary of Federal Service Terms

CAREER APPOINTMENT — Competitive service permanent appointment given to an employee who has completed 3 substantially continuous, creditable years of federal service. In special cases (such as Administrative Law Judges), career appointment may be given to a person at the time he or she is hired from a civil service register.


CERTIFICATE — A list of eligibles taken from a register and submitted to an appointing officer for employment consideration or an agency office with delegated examining authority, submits certificates to appointing officers.


CHANGE TO LOWER GRADE— Personnel action that moves an employee, while serving continuously in the same agency, to (1) a position at a lower grade when both the old and new positions are under the General Schedule or under the same type graded wage schedule, or (2) to a position with a lower rate of basic pay when both the old and the new positions are under the same type upgraded wage schedule or in a different pay-method category.


CIVILIAN POSITION — A civilian office or position (including a temporary or part-time or intermittent position), appointive or elective, in the legislative, executive, or judicial branch of the Federal Government (including each corporation owned or controlled by the Federal Government and including no appropriated fund instrumentalities under the jurisdiction of the Armed Forces) or in the Government of the District of Columbia.


COMPETITIVE POSITION — A position in the competitive service.


COMPETITIVE SERVICE — All civilian positions in the Federal Government that are not specifically excepted from the civil service laws by or pursuant to statute, by the President, or by the OPM under Rule VI, and that are not in the Senior Executive Service.


COMPETITIVE STATUS — Competitive status is a person's basic eligibility for assignment (e.g., by transfer, promotion, reassignment, demotion, or reinstatement) to a position in the competitive service without having to compete with members of the general public in an open competitive examination. When a vacancy announcement indicates that status candidates are eligible to apply, career employees and career-conditional employees who have served at least 90 days after competitive appointment may apply. Once acquired, status belongs to the individual, not to a position.


CREDITABLE MILITARY SERVICE — Total number of years and months of military service that is creditable for annual leave accrual purposes.


CREDITABLE SERVICE — Federal Government employment (civilian or uniformed service) that meets requirements for a particular type of appointment or benefit, such as leave accrual or reduction in force retention.


DELEGATED EXAMINING — Applies to external hiring; meaning that USCIS is seeking to recruit applicants outside of the current federal workforce.


DUTY STATION — The city/town, county, and state in which the employee works. For most employees, this will be the location of the employee's work site.


EFFECTIVE DATE — The date on which a personnel action takes place and on which the employee's official assignment begins.


EOD (ENTRY ON DUTY) — The process by which a person completes the necessary paperwork and is sworn in as an employee.


EX-SERVICE PERSON — A person who was separated from active duty performed in peacetime or wartime. (A person on active duty may be an ex-serviceperson because of separation from previous active duty.)


EXCEPTED POSITION — A position in the excepted service.


EXCEPTED SERVICE — Unclassified service, unclassified Civil Service or positions outside the competitive service and the senior executive service. Excepted service positions have been excepted from the requirements of the competitive service by law.


GRADE — A level of work or range of difficulty, responsibility and qualification requirements.


MERIT STAFFING PROGRAM — The system under which agencies consider an employee for vacant positions on the basis of personal merit. Vacant positions are usually filled through competition with applicants being evaluated and ranked for the position on the basis of their experience, education, skills and performance record.


PAY PLAN — The pay system or pay schedule under which the employee's rate of basic pay is determined, e.g., General Schedule (GS), Executive Schedule (EX), and Leader under the Federal Wage System (WL).


PREFERENCE (VETERANS' PREFERENCE) — An employee's category of entitlement to preference in the federal service based on active military service that was terminated honorably:

  • 5-point preference is the preference granted to a preference-eligible Veteran who does not meet the criteria for one of the types of 10-point preferences listed above. 10-point (disability) preference is the preference to which a disabled Veteran is entitled.
  • 10-point (compensable disability) preference is the preference to which a disabled Veteran is entitled if he or she has a compensable service-connected disability rating of 10-percent or more.
  • 10-point (30% compensable disability) preference is the preference to which a disabled Veteran is entitled if he or she is entitled to a 10-point preference due to a compensable service-connected disability of 30 percent or more.
  • 10-point (other) preference is the preference granted to the widow/widower or mother of a deceased Veteran or to the spouse or mother of a disabled Veteran. It is called "derived preference" because it is derived from the military service of someone else – a Veteran who is not using it for preference. When the disabled Veteran does use the service for preference, then the spouse or mother is no longer entitled to preference. 


PREFERENCE ELIGIBLE — Veterans, spouses, widows, or mothers who meet the definition of "preference eligible" in 5 U.S.C. 2108. Preference eligibles are entitled to have 5 or 10 points added to their earned score on a civil service examination (see 5 U.S.C. 3309). They are also accorded a higher retention standing in the event of a reduction in force (see 5 U.S.C. 3502). Preference does not apply, however, to in-service placement actions such as promotions.


PROBATIONARY PERIOD — The first year of service of employee who is given a career or career-conditional appointment under 5 CFR part 315. During this period, the agency determines the fitness of the employee, and the employee has no appeal rights.


SPECIAL HIRING AUTHORITY - Special hiring authorities are used to fill a position by reaching out to potential applicants of a specific type. Examples: VEOA, VRA, Federal Career Intern Program, Schedule A, Schedule B, Schedule C.


STATUS EMPLOYEE — One who has completed the probationary period under the career-conditional employment system. Also known as an employee with competitive status.


TEMPORARY APPOINTMENT — An appointment made for a limited period of time and with a specific not-to-exceed (NTE) date determined by the authority under which the appointment is made.


TENURE — The period of time an employee may reasonably expect to serve under his or her current appointment. Tenure is governed by the type of appointment under which an employee is currently serving, without regard to whether the employee has competitive status or whether the employee's appointment is to a competitive service position or an excepted service position.


TENURE GROUPS — Categories of employees ranked in priority order for retention during reduction in force.


TERM APPOINTMENT — Appointment to a position that will last more than one year but not more than four years and that is of a project nature where the job will terminate upon completion of the project.


TIME–AFTER–COMPETITIVE–APPOINTMENT RESTRICTION — The provision that states 3 months must elapse after an employee's latest non-temporary competitive appointment before he or she may be (1) promoted or reassigned, or transferred to a different line of work or to a different geographical area, or (2) transferred to or reinstated to a higher grade or different line of work in the competitive service.


TOUR OF DUTY — The hours of a day (daily tour of duty) and the days of an administrative workweek (weekly tour of duty) that are scheduled in advance and during which an employee is required to perform work on a regularly recurring basis.


VETERAN — A person who was separated covered by the Federal Wage System and their pay with an honorable discharge or under honorable conditions from active duty in the Armed Forces performed during one of the periods described in 5 U.S.C. 2108.


WORK SCHEDULE — The time basis on which an employee is paid. A work schedule may be full-time, part-time, or intermittent.


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