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Outside The Mission Employment

  • Any employment activity outside of the embassy or consulate to include the local economy, telework, self-employment, or teaching.

  • Whether you want to work for an NGO or start a home-based business, the resources below will provide the guidance you need to get started.

Outside the Mission Employment Information:

Working Outside an Embassy or Consulate

Many Foreign Service family members have professional skills and qualifications that may be better suited for employment outside of the embassy or consulate when they are assigned overseas. The experience of working overseas outside of the embassy or consulate can provide challenging and unique opportunities for family members who wish to maintain or broaden their professional skills.  Family members are encouraged to explore all their options when moving overseas. Most employment options for working outside the embassy or consulate fall into two categories: working on the local economy, or pursuing a portable career.

Working on the local economy means physically working in an office of a private sector company, non-government organization, or volunteering for an organization in the host country. The host country must have an established Bilateral Work Agreement (BWA) or de facto work arrangement in order to pursue this option.

A portable career is taken from post to post and is not always dependent on a BWA. There are numerous avenues for pursuing this option including consulting, self-employment, telework, teaching, etc.

Employment outside an embassy or consulate may provide family members the freedom to continue in a chosen field and/or the opportunity to pursue a new field. Employment opportunities, eligibility, compensation, and taxes will likely vary depending on the country of assignment and in some cases may be significantly different than comparable employment in the United States.

Programs and Resources for Local Economy Overseas
  • Global Employment Initiative (GEI) – GEI is not a job placement service; instead it supports family members in their job search by providing resources, guidance, and facilitating skills development. Currently, there are 20 Global Employment Advisors (GEAs) covering over 200 countries worldwide, creating a worldwide network of job search and career transition professionals who understand the challenges of working overseas.
  • Bilateral Work Agreements / de facto Work Arrangements – Foreign Service family members seeking employment on the local economy overseas, whether interested in international business, teaching at a local school, or freelancing, need to be aware of the work permit regulations in their host country.
  • EFM Employment Outside the Mission Action Memo [264 KB] – Per Department of State regulations, once a job offer is received, family members must notify the principal Administrative Officer at post before acceptance of intended outside employment. Submit this memo to the human resources office at post.
Foreign Earned Income and Taxes

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion: According to the IRS, the foreign earned income exclusion, the foreign housing exclusion, and the foreign housing deduction are based on foreign earned income. For this purpose, foreign earned income is income you receive for services you perform in a foreign country during a period your tax home is in a foreign country and during which you meet either the bona fide residence test or the physical presence test. For more information on this exclusion and these tests, please go to the IRS Foreign Earned Income Exclusion page.

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) produces a comprehensive and detailed tax guide specifically geared for members of the Foreign Service, whether serving at home or abroad (AFSA membership required).

Working on the Local Economy

Many Foreign Service family members have professional skills that are better suited for a position outside of the embassy or consulate. The experience of working overseas on the local economy can provide challenging and unique opportunities for family members who wish to maintain or broaden their professional skills. Employment opportunities, requirements, compensation, and taxes will likely vary depending on the country, and in some cases may be significantly different than comparable employment in the US. There are advantages and disadvantages to every employment decision, we encourage family members to analyze the options carefully to ensure the employment direction is the right fit.


General Sites

Strategic Volunteering

Volunteering strategically means recognizing that volunteering is an exchange. While you are sharing your time and talent with no expectation of remuneration, you can gain relevant work experience, develop critical career skills and build a network that will later assist you in your job search!

Crucial to doing this successfully is the reflection and planning involved in selecting the right volunteer opportunity for you. Take the time to explore the skills you will need in your future dream job and find a volunteer position that will allow you to develop these skills.

10 Reasons to Volunteer
  1. Fill employment gaps in your resume (call it pro bono work).
  2. Create contacts and network to secure a paid position.
  3. Learn new skills that may include improving local language ability.
  4. Learn about an occupation or industry that is of interest.
  5. Maintain current professional skills.
  6. Make your own schedule, including how many hours you want to work.
  7. Build confidence by gaining additional professional experience and leadership skills.
  8. Think about the volunteer opportunity as part of your two, five and ten year employment plan.
  9. Receive a sense of accomplishment.
  10. Contribute to meaningful projects in a more flexible way.
Questions to Ask
  • Can I legally volunteer in the country I live in? Host country laws on volunteering/pro bono work/interning differ and can be gray. Some countries may not allow you to help at a for-profit firm. Do your research ahead of time. Check with the Community Liaison Office Coordinator (CLO), the Human Resources Officer (HRO), and the country’s permit regulations. Request Chief of Mission approval [264 KB] through the HR office at post.
  • Do you want volunteering to be an extension of a previous paid position or a departure from it?
  • Which skills do you want to use? Does this position use these skills?
  • What skills do you want to learn? Will this position allow you to gain these skills?
  • Determine how many hours you want to work and the duration. Does your level organization’s mission?
  • If you want to meet key contacts in this industry, does this position allow for this?
  • When you visit the organization, do you like the culture? Do the volunteers and paid workers seem content?
  • If you want to meet like-minded individuals, can you find them at the organization?
  • Which sort of population do you want to help? Children? The elderly? Teenagers? Will you be passionate about the subject area to make the volunteering worthwhile?
  • It is always prudent to inform the Chief of Mission of any activity engaged in on the local economy, including volunteering. This should happen before engaging in any significant volunteer activity.
  • Be professional if you want to generate networking contacts, references or a potential job offer.
  • If you can’t find a volunteer activity or position that interests you, work to create a position with an organization that you like with expat groups, international schools, American Chamber of Commerce or religious organizations.
  • Don’t forget to demonstrate any new skills gained or applied on your resume and remember the federal government takes volunteer work into consideration when qualifying candidates for positions. Negotiate a useful title to convey certain skills that can be useful on a resume.
  • Utilize the CLO and other family members for ideas and contacts.
  • Be realistic as to what you can commit to, taking into consideration security, transportation and possible child care challenges.
  • Microvolunteering is volunteering your time in bite sized chunks, from your own home, on demand and on your own terms.
  • Get as much information as you can about the scope of work, deadlines and other details.
  • Be prepared to supply your own software.
  • Report to your contact regularly. Develop a relationship rather than simply submitting a finished product.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your ideas and take initiative with the client.
 Volunteering Online

Consider volunteering online for an organization you have interest in. Start your research with these sites:

Overseas Resources

Portable Career Resources:

Creating a portable employment option that can move from post to post can be a significant long-term employment benefit.  Based on the most recent Worldwide Family Member Employment Overview, most family members are pursuing portable careers in self-employment, telework, and teaching. Finding a portable career can be tough and you have to do your research in order to find one that works for you. Whatever you want to pursue, below you will find the resources you need to get you started.


Self-employment is often talked about in a number of ways and using a number of different terms, including home-based business or entrepreneurship, but generally speaking; it simply means that someone is using their knowledge, skills and interests to sell a product or service for which they earn money. Self-employment offers variety, flexibility, and mobility and allows EFMs to live a mobile and flexible lifestyle that meets their clients’ needs.

 What do self-employed entrepreneurs and world explorers have in common?

They’re both a lot like EFMs. Read the article What do entrepreneurs and world explorers have in common?  to find out why EFMs are perfectly poised to become self-employed entrepreneurs.

Self-Employment Options

The options for EFMs who are interested in self-employment are as varied as the EFM community itself. The business idea can be one that is intended to operate for years, or it can be a one-time idea designed to address a specific, short-term need. The work schedule can be full-time, or a flexible schedule that allows for greater work-life balance. There is no one, single definition that works for everyone: the goal is to create a self-employment option that best meets your needs and matches your skillset and interests.

Having your own business is a great way to always have employment at each post that is flexible and portable.


Private Sector

Telework can be an excellent option for family members moving abroad and seeking to continue with a current employer and for those who wish to remain in a given field while at a distance from an employer or clients. However, telework while overseas raises issues about work authorization and taxation that are dependent on foreign law that should be resolved before a family member embarks on telework abroad. Please refer to our Telework page for more info.


Listings of private entities on this page are provided as a convenience and should not be construed as an endorsement by the U.S. Department State or the U.S. government of the entity, its views or the products or services it provides. The order in which names appear has no significance, and the links may be removed at any time at the discretion of the Department.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future