Working Inside an Embassy or Consulate

  • United States embassies and consulates may hire family members of U.S. direct-hire employees assigned to an overseas Mission provided they have a need and the available budget.  Employment opportunities can differ significantly from post to post due to a variety of factors such as the needs of the mission, budget, size, etc.  Most positions filled by family members provide administrative support, with a small percentage of positions having responsibilities comparable to Foreign Service entry-level officer or specialist positions. Considerations such as citizenship, ability to obtain a clearance, language skills, qualifications, and nepotism may affect a family member’s employment options.

Information for Family Members Assigned to a U.S. Overseas Mission

Family Member Employment Strategies at Post

Preparing for Overseas Employment

When preparing for your overseas assignment there are steps you can take to ensure you will maximize your options and be better prepared. Take the time to learn who is eligible to apply for an advertised position, and under what authority they may be hired. It is important to note that employment for family members depends on the post’s need and available budget. Given the limited number of positions inside overseas missions, family members should remember that employment is never guaranteed. FLO’s Family Member Employment Report provides a breakdown on worldwide and regional employment statistics.

Key Contacts at Post

Family members interested in applying for positions within an embassy or consulate at their post of assignment should contact the Community Liaison Office Coordinator (CLO) or the Human Resources Officer (HRO) at post. They can provide information on current job vacancy announcements. Additionally, family members can contact the Global Employment Advisor assigned to their post for employment coaching.

The Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC)

To more quickly mobilize family members to fill available positions in missions overseas, the U.S. Department of State developed the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC). The FSFRC will also facilitate the retention of security clearances, and public trust determinations for non-sensitive positions, in order to minimize the delays when family members move from post to post. Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) should apply at the next open enrollment vacancy announcement as soon as they are eligible to apply.

Family Member Employment Report (FAMER)

The FAMER provides a snapshot of family member employment at post and includes the number of family members employed both inside and outside the Mission. The FAMER is published twice a year, as is The Worldwide Family Member Employment Overview, and serves as a research tool for the bidding season for family members interested in working. The FAMER is available to Department of State employees via OpenNet and to employees of other agencies assigned under Chief of Mission authority by emailing FLOAskEmployment@state.gov. Please include the name of the direct hire employee, agency, and post of assignment in the email.

Credentialing of Foreign Degrees for a United States Government Application

When applying for federal employment opportunities, education credentials from a foreign university will need to be verified for education equivalency. More information can be found at Credentialing of Foreign degrees for a United State Government Application.

Security Clearances

Many, but not all, positions held by family members overseas require a security clearance. Family members often ask if they can obtain a Top Secret or Secret clearance in advance but federal guidelines do not permit this.  An investigation for a security clearance cannot be initiated until a conditional offer of employment for a position requiring a security clearance has been made.  If an investigation for a clearance has been initiated, it is very important that family members respond to inquiries from Diplomatic Security in a timely manner.

Family members should also understand that there is no specific timeframe for obtaining a security clearance.  Factors such as initial investigations, significant foreign influence or preference, recent naturalization, international travel and/or residency can all lead to longer investigation times.  (The National Security Adjudicative Guidelines are summarized in 12 FAM 233.2)

Family members who have been recently naturalized as U.S. citizens should be aware that U.S. citizenship does not guarantee a security clearance and that most naturalized spouses will need to spend some time living and working in the U.S. to further establish ties so that an investigation for a security clearance can be undertaken in the future.  Non-sensitive/low-risk public trust positions at post may be filled by non-U.S. citizens.

Hiring Preference

The Department of State is the primary employer at overseas missions and recognizes the following hiring preference (see family member definition in 3 FAM 7121):

  1. AEFMs / USEFMs who are also preference-eligible U.S. Veterans
  2. AEFMs / USEFMs who are not preference-eligible U.S. Veterans
  3. Foreign Service Generalists and Specialists on Leave Without Pay (LWOP) and Civil Service employees with re-employment rights.

Vacancy announcements at overseas missions clearly identify what audiences may apply for a position (e.g. internal candidates only, U.S. Citizens only, All candidates).

It is essential that all applicants understand and accurately describe their status on the application. Failure to do so may result in a determination that the applicant is not eligible for a hiring preference.

Hiring Mechanisms

Four basic hiring mechanisms are used overseas to hire family members in a manner unique to the U.S. Government. Since all the federal agencies at post intersect and have unique needs, the hiring mechanism is not only dependent on the applicant’s family member definition (in 3 FAM 7121) but on the hiring agency as well.

FMA – Family Member Appointment

This Department of State hiring mechanism is used to employ Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) as defined in 3 FAM 7121. The FMA allows AEFMs working in positions at U.S. embassies and consulates to earn certain benefits including life and health insurance, retirement, and Thrift Savings Plan eligibility. The FMA is a five-year limited, non-career appointment.

Once AEFMs have worked a minimum of 52 weeks in an overseas FMA or TEMP qualifying position (although it does not have to be 52 consecutive weeks of employment), they may qualify for Non-Competitive Eligibility (NCE). Executive Order 12721 enables certain EFMs to be appointed non-competitively to the Civil Service once they return to the U.S. Those individuals may be appointed to any federal occupation and grade level for which they are qualified.

TEMP – Temporary Appointment

This Department of State hiring mechanism is used for appointments not to exceed one year and can be renewed in increments not to exceed one year. A TEMP appointment is appropriate only when the job itself is not ongoing and is of short duration. Additionally, the TEMP appointment is used to hire Foreign Service and Civil Service employees in Leave Without Pay (LWOP) status.  Those eligible to be hired under the TEMP Appointment must be U.S. citizen spouses or domestic partners (as defined in 3 FAM 1610). These individuals must also be on orders accompanying a career Foreign Service or Civil Service employee or uniformed service member at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad and under Chief of Mission authority.

PSA – Personal Services Agreement

This Department of State hiring mechanism is used to hire non-U.S. citizen Eligible Family Members (EFM), Members of Household (MOH), EFM students for the Overseas Seasonal Hire Program (OSHP), and for other federal agencies under which the Department of State has a memorandum to manage their hiring  (e.g. DHS, DOJ, HHS) . The PSA does not confer retirement benefits or U.S. Government service credit.

PSC – Personal Service Contract

This hiring mechanism is used by USAID, Peace Corps, and other federal agencies authorized to use it. The PSC is subject to government contracting authorities and does not confer retirement benefits or U.S. government service credit.

Note: The preceding information is a thumbnail sketch. Federal hiring mechanisms are complex and may have different implications depending on the employment history of the individual. Please consult a Human Resources Officer and the complete regulations in 3 FAM 8200.

Centralized Hiring Programs

In addition to the positions advertised at post, the Department of State has three employment programs that have centrally-managed hiring in coordination with post.  These programs can be an additional employment option for family members who meet the eligibility requirements and are assigned to an overseas post with an eligible position.

Consular Affairs – Appointment Eligible Family Member (CA-AEFM) Program

The CA-AEFM Program, coordinated by the Bureau of Consular Affairs, provides opportunities for AEFMs to fill entry-level Consular positions at selected posts. Candidates must successfully pass the current Board of Examiners (BEX) assessment process used to qualify for a Consular position. Once certified, AEFMs can then apply for CA positions on a post-by-post basis.

Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP)

EPAP provides AEFMs with employment opportunities with responsibilities comparable to Foreign Service entry-level positions in such areas as: Economics, Facilities Management, Financial Management, General Services, Human Resources, Information Management, Medical, Management, Political, and Public Diplomacy.

Professional Associates Program (Hard-to-Fill)

Similar to EPAP, the Professional Associates Program provides employment opportunities with responsibilities comparable to Foreign Service mid-level positions. These positions are designated Hard-to-Fill (HTF) and are routinely opened to Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFMs) and Department of State Civil Service employees. The annual Hard-to-Fill / Professional Associates Program is announced each spring by a Department of State cable.

Overseas Seasonal Hire Program

The Overseas Seasonal Hire Program (OSHP) provides job opportunities for eligible* high school and college students of U.S. government employees assigned to an overseas post under Chief of Mission authority. OSHP employees perform clerical and administrative support duties during the transfer season and other times during the year as determined by post. If your post has an OSHP, job opportunities for eligible* students may be available, depending upon post’s budget.

*Eligibility generally applies to unmarried Eligible Family Member (defined in 3 FAM 7120) children who are at least 16 years of age, registered as full-time or part-time students, on the travel orders of a sponsoring employee (defined in 3 FAM 7120), and/or undertaking travel for which a U.S. government employee is authorized to receive an Education Travel Allowance as set forth in DSSR 280 if that child were to undertake study at a school away from post. Please see your Human Resources Office at post for more details about eligibility.

Nepotism

Direct hire employees assigned to an overseas mission should be familiar with nepotism regulations as they pertain to the employment of their spouse or other household members.  Employees and family members should be aware of the guidelines concerning nepotism in relation to both the supervisory relationship and advocacy.

The Office of Overseas Employment (HR/OE) sets the policy for local hire EFM employment and processes nepotism reviews when necessary. The details of regulatory policy and procedures governing nepotism are in 3 FAM 8310 and 3 FAH-1 H-8310.

Training

Functional training, including the Basic Consular course, is available to U.S. Citizen family members of U.S. Government direct-hire personnel with an overseas assignment. This training is offered to family members on a space available basis and must be funded by the employee sponsor’s agency.

Additionally, there are other training opportunities available for family members.

The Transition Center at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) also offers Life Skills courses and webinars designed to assist family members with overseas life, including employment.

Government Agencies with Offices Overseas

In addition to the Department of State, there may be other federal agencies co-located under the embassy or consulate. These agencies may include other Foreign Affairs agencies such as the U.S Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture- Foreign Agricultural Service. Non-Foreign Affairs Agencies may include the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and  the Department of Defense among others.

U.S. Department of State

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