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Important

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.

Family members who work on the local economy without authorization are probably working illegally and may be putting themselves and their missions at risk. The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires individuals who receive privileges and immunities from the receiving state to respect the laws and regulations. Likewise, 3 FAM 4125(a)(1) provides that family members can work on the local economy only when doing so would be consistent with local law. This provision implements 22 U.S.C. § 2699(b), which provides in part that family members of Foreign Service Officers (FSO) may accept employment in a foreign country unless such employment would violate US or local law. It is critical for Eligible Family Members (EFM) to seek Chief of Mission approval whenever a family member considers working outside the mission.

Bilateral Work Agreements

Historically, Foreign Service family members have been limited to working within the Mission or volunteering while at post due to their diplomatic or consular status. To increase family members’ employment opportunities bilateral work agreements (treaties) are established between the United States and an individual country. These work agreements enable accredited spouses and dependent children of U.S. Government employees assigned to official duty at an Embassy or Consulate in one of these countries to seek employment on the local economy. Same-sex spouses and partners should contact post HR to learn if they are eligible for work permits.

The Office of Treaty Affairs maintains copies of treaties and other international acts. Bilateral Work Agreements available in the “Treaties and Other International Acts Series” are linked below. The Office of Treaty Affairs website has guidance on locating Bilateral Work Agreement text not linked below.

Countries A-F

1 Limited number of family members permitted to work

2 Offer of employment required

3 Restricted employment fields

4 NATO dependents also included

5 NATO dependents included by de facto arrangement

Only valid 5 years from 8/2/2021 – 8/1/2026

Countries G-N

1 Limited number of family members permitted to work

2 Offer of employment required

3 Restricted employment fields

4 NATO dependents also included

5 NATO dependents included by de facto arrangement

Only valid 5 years from 8/2/2021 – 8/1/2026

Countries O-Z

1 Limited number of family members permitted to work

2 Offer of employment required

3 Restricted employment fields

4 NATO dependents also included

5 NATO dependents included by de facto arrangement

Only valid 5 years from 8/2/2021 – 8/1/2026

De Facto Reciprocal Work Arrangements

On the basis of de facto reciprocity established by precedent, accredited spouses and dependent children of U.S. Government employees assigned to official duty at an Embassy or Consulate in the following countries may apply through specified channels for a permit to work.

  • BANGLADESH
  • BELIZE
  • BURKINA FASO
  • BURUNDI
  • CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
  • CHILE
  • COTE D’IVOIRE
  • DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
  • EGYPT
  • ESWATINI
  • GUINEA
  • HAITI
  • HONG KONG
  • JAPAN
  • JORDAN
  • LEBANON
  • LESOTHO
  • MAURITANIA
  • MEXICO
  • MICRONESIA
  • NIGER
  • PAPUA NEW GUINEA
  • PARAGUAY
  • SINGAPORE
  • SEYCHELLES
  • SOUTH AFRICA
  • SOUTH KOREA
  • SUDAN
  • SURINAME
  • TAIWAN
  • TOGO
  • TUNISIA
  • UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future