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Junior Professional Officer (JPO) & Associate Expert (AE) Programs - Frequently Asked Questions

Program Information

In what international organizations does the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration support JPOs and AEs?

The State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) funds and participates in the selection and placement of Junior Professional Officers (JPOs) with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Associate Experts (AEs) with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). To learn about other employment opportunities with international organizations available to U.S. citizens, please see www.state.gov/p/io/empl.

How do the JPO and AE programs differ?

These staffing programs are affiliated with different organizations (JPOs with UNHCR, AEs with IOM), and thus the work of JPOs and AEs reflects the unique mandate of each agency. Their application and selection processes also vary slightly. In most other respects, however, the basic program principles are similar. Where applicable, JPO and AE program variations are highlighted below.

Do JPOs and AEs work for the U.S. Government?

Though sponsored by the U.S. Government and funded by PRM, once selected, American JPOs are employees of UNHCR and AEs of IOM.

What type of work do JPOs and AEs do?

UNHCR JPOs: JPOs, under the supervision of UNHCR officials, have an opportunity to obtain training in and exposure to UNHCR's humanitarian work and to assist in the protection and care of refugees. Job responsibilities vary by assignment but positions sponsored by PRM often entail refugee protection, repatriation or resettlement activities.

IOM AEs: AEs gain exposure to IOM's work in providing humanitarian assistance to vulnerable migrants and helping to ensure the orderly and humane management of migration. The responsibilities of PRM-sponsored AEs vary by assignment but may entail providing assistance to victims of human trafficking or technical advice and services to governments and/or migrants on migration management issues.

What type of training do JPOs and AEs receive?

Usually, newly recruited JPOs and AEs receive a 3 to 4 day orientation at UNHCR or IOM headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, before traveling to their respective duty stations. In addition, JPOs and AEs often attend workshops, seminars and other relevant training throughout their assignment.

Where do JPOs and AEs serve?

UNHCR JPOs: PRM currently supports JPOs in many places throughout the world where refugee populations are found, frequently in hardship locations. Recent American JPOs have served in Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Burundi, Chad, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Kenya, Malaysia, Montenegro, Nepal, Republic of Congo, Russia, Sierra leone, Tanzania and Thailand, for example. PRM-sponsored JPOs may also serve at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva on an exceptional basis.

IOM AEs: While AEs may serve anywhere in the world where IOM operates, PRM tends to support AE positions in developing countries or countries with economies in transition. Recent PRM-sponsored AEs have served in Costa Rica, Indonesia and Senegal.

How long do JPOs and AEs serve?

It is expected that JPOs and AEs will serve a complete 2-year term (JPOs and AEs are assigned for an initial period of 1 year, then extended for a second year, subject to their satisfactory performance). In very special circumstances, PRM may sponsor a JPO or AE for a third year.

How many new JPO and AE positions does PRM fill each year?

UNHCR JPOs: The number of new JPO positions sponsored annually by PRM varies from year to year but is typically in the range of 6 to 10 new posts.

IOM AEs: PRM usually sponsors 1 new AE position annually.

What compensation and benefits do JPOs and AEs receive?

JPOs and AEs supported through PRM enter into service with UNHCR or IOM at the P-2 Step 1 level on the UN scale. In 2008, the basic net salary for a first year JPO or AE without dependents was $43,663. Depending on the post, a JPO or AE is often entitled to additional compensation which could include a post adjustment multiplier and a mobility and hardship allowance. JPOs and AEs are also entitled to a standard entitlement and benefits package offered by their respective employers.

What permanent employment opportunities do the JPO and AE programs provide?

JPOs and AEs are not guaranteed continued employment with UNHCR or IOM after their program completion. However, experience as a JPO or AE does improve an individual's chances of securing follow-on employment, and many JPOs and AEs successfully compete for permanent positions in UNHCR and IOM, as well as in other international agencies.

Application & Selection Process

Must I be a U.S. Citizen to apply?

Yes, U.S. citizenship is required to participate in the JPO and AE programs sponsored by PRM. Legal permanent residents are not eligible to apply. If you are not a U.S. citizen, please see the UNHCR and IOM websites at www.UNHCR.org and www.IOM.int  for information about JPO and AE opportunities sponsored by other countries and organizations.

Is there an age requirement to apply to these programs?

The JPO and AE programs are entry-level professional positions, so candidates with the appropriate level of experience typically are in their late-20s to early-30s. However, there is no specific age requirement to apply and all applicants possessing the relevant experience are considered.

What qualifications should an applicant have?

JPO and AE program selection is very competitive. Qualifications for JPO and AE positions vary by assignment, but a graduate degree in a relevant discipline (i.e. often, but not limited to, international relations, law, human rights, forced migration, international migration, development, or humanitarian assistance) and a strong working knowledge of a second UN language (French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, or Russian) in addition to English are highly desirable. Competitive applicants generally possess three or more years of work experience in a developing country. Previous overseas experience working with refugees and/or vulnerable migrants is especially valuable. Familiarity with the UN system and/or IOM is also an asset. Applicants with a Bachelor's degree may be competitive if they have multiple years of overseas experience, especially in refugee- or migration-related work. All candidates must have the ability to establish and maintain good working relationships in cross-cultural settings and be willing to live and/or serve in hardship locations as required.

How do I apply?

Once PRM decides to support a JPO or AE position, the JPO or AE job description and qualifications (terms of reference) are posted on the PRM website along with the application deadline. The JPO & AE email distribution list is immediately notified of the vacancy. If you would like to be notified when new JPO and AE vacancies are announced, please send an email with the subject line “JPO & AE subscription request” to JPOcoordinator@state.gov.

UNHCR JPOs: All applicants must complete a United Nations Personal History form (UN P-11) and submit it electronically to the PRM JPO & AE Program Coordinator by the deadline indicated on the JPO vacancy announcement. Given that applications must be submitted electronically, PRM will accept a UN P-11 form without a signature. If desired, you may also submit a resume, curriculum vitae and a letter of interest. Please specify the position for which you are applying in the subject line of the email (i.e., Associate Protection Officer – Conakry, Guinea). You must send a separate email with the appropriate application for each position for which you are qualified and wish to be considered. All applications must be emailed to JPOCoordinator@state.gov.  

IOM AEs: Interested candidates with the required qualifications should submit their applications on-line via the IOM e-Recruitment system at http://www.iom.int/jahia/Jahia/pid/165.  In order for an application to be considered valid, IOM only accepts online profiles duly filled in and submitted with a cover letter (not more than one page) specifying the motivation for the applications. 

May I apply for more than one open JPO and/or AE position at a time?

Yes, you may apply for multiple positions at a time. You must send a separate email and submit an application for every position for which you are qualified and wish to be considered. Applying for more than one opening at a time will not harm your chances of selection, as your qualifications will be reviewed against the unique requirements for each position.

Is there a deadline for submitting applications?

Yes.  Applications typically are accepted for 3 weeks after a JPO or AE position is posted on PRM's website. The application deadline is clearly noted on individual JPO and AE vacancy announcements.

What is the selection process?

UNHCR JPOs: Once the deadline has passed, PRM reviews all applications and contacts the most qualified candidates for interviews. Based on candidate interviews and reference checks, PRM forwards a short-list of 3 to 4 finalists to UNHCR. UNHCR may or may not interview all finalists before making a decision. PRM notifies successful candidates of their selection by UNHCR. Once the offer of employment is accepted, all other applicants are informed via email by PRM that the position has been filled. It often takes a minimum of 2 to 3 months from the time a JPO opening is posted until a candidate is selected.

IOM AEs: Once a vacancy announcement closes, PRM reviews all applicant resumes and forwards a short-list of the 6 to 8 most qualified candidates to IOM. IOM interviews all candidates and conducts reference checks before a final decision is made. PRM notifies successful candidates of their selection by IOM. Once the offer of employment is accepted, all other applicants are informed via email by PRM that the position has been filled. It often takes a minimum of 2 to 3 months from the time an AE opening is posted until a candidate is selected.

What if I have other questions?

General program inquiries should be sent to the PRM JPO & AE Coordinator at JPOcoordinator@state.gov and will be answered as promptly as possible.

How do I sign up to receive program updates?

Interested individuals may receive periodic JPO and AE program updates and vacancy announcement notifications via email by sending an email request with the subject line “JPO & AE Subscription Request” to JPOcoordinator@state.gov.

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