Below are the rules for rank (rate) retention for prior service members enlisting in the United States Coast Guard.
Enlistment of an applicant who was discharged or released from active duty in pay grade E-3 or below must be approved by Coast Guard Recruiting Center.
If an applicant is enlisting or reenlisting in pay grade E-4 or above, he/she may not have more than 14 years of prior active service. This restriction does not apply to Coast Guard members reenlisting within 24 hours of release.
If an applicant is enlisting or reenlisting in the Coast Guard in pay grade E-3 or below, he/she may not have more than six years of prior active service.
The enlistment of prior service personnel will normally not be effected in a pay grade higher than that held on last separation from regular active duty.
The Open Rates List
The Open Rate List (ORL) is a list of rates for which the Coast Guard has immediate openings that prior-service personnel having those skills may fill. The ORL is maintained and periodically updated by CGPC-epm. The ORL in effect on the date of enlistment is the official authority. Coast Guard Recruiting Center will consider good-faith applications when the rate was removed from the ORL during processing.
Prior Service Coast Guard Petty Officers
A former Coast Guard Petty Officer may be authorized Seaman/Fireman with designators if his/her rate is on the Open Rate List. If his/her rate is not listed on the Open Rate List, Seaman/Fireman without designator may be authorized. A former Coast Guard active duty Petty Officer who reenlists as an undesignated non-rate and desires to advance in his/her former rating may submit a request to Commander, Coast Guard Personnel Command, Advancements and Evaluations Branch (CGPC-epm-1) for advancement after completing six months active duty in his/her current enlistment if considered qualified by his/her commanding officer. If advancement is authorized, the member will be placed on the Class "A" School list of his/her former rating. When his/her name is selected to attend school, CGPC-epm will authorize advancement to Petty Officer Third Class; the member does not actually attend Class "A" School.
Reserve Members (Any Branch)
If a reserve member has a single continuous period of six months or more of active service in pay grade E-3 or above, documented on a Report of Separation (DD-214), he/she may be enlisted as an E-3.
If reserve member has served less than six months active duty, but can document satisfactory service in his/her reserve unit for more than one year, he/she may be enlisted as an E-2.
Prior Service (Any Branch)
Prior service personnel from any Armed Forces component may be eligible to enlist under the Open Rate List. At the time of separation from active duty, the applicant must have held the rate listed on the ORL or a comparable Military Occupational Specialty (MOS). There must be less than five years since separation from active duty, and the applicant cannot have more than 14 years total active duty.
If an applicant is enlisting under the Open Rate List, he/she may be enlisted in the rate authorized by Chief, Enlisted Personnel Management Division, Coast Guard Personnel Command (CGPC-epm).
If the applicant does not hold a specialty at the time of separation that is included on the ORL, they enlist at the paygrade of E-1, regardless of rank/rate they held at the time of separation.
Coast Guard Reservists
In addition to the general criteria above, the following limitations apply for Coast Guard Reservists: duty must be within five years of enlistment unless the applicant joined the reserve within five years of separation. If the applicant joined the reserve within five years of separation, then the applicant must have left active duty within eight years. RK, RP and RYs who are E-4 may be enlisted as E-3 for E-4 Open Rate List openings.