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Working Inside an Embassy or Consulate

  • United States embassies and consulates may hire family members of U.S. direct-hire employees (see definition 3 FAM 7120) 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 profile of the mission, size, budget, etc. Most positions available to family members are in administrative support, with a small percentage of roles offering expanded responsibilities. Citizenship of the family member, recent naturalization, ability to obtain a clearance, language skills, qualifications, and nepotism may affect their 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 that 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.

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 and upcoming job vacancy announcements. Additionally, family members should consider contacting the Global Employment Advisor (GEA) assigned to their post for employment coaching.

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 the Community Liaison Office Coordinator (CLO) at post, FSI’s Transition Center via the website Post Info To Go – External or by emailing Please include the name of the direct hire employee, agency, and post of assignment in the email. See our Guide to Reading the FAMER.

Evaluation 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 on our Evaluation of Foreign Degrees for a United State Government Application webpage.

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 facilitates 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 one of the quarterly open enrollment vacancy announcements as soon as they are eligible to apply.

Security Clearances

Most, 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 (DS) in a timely manner.

Family members should also understand that there is no specific timeframe for obtaining a security clearance which will affect a candidate’s start date for employment.  Factors such as initial investigations, significant foreign influence or preference, recent naturalization, and 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 must be aware that the duration of time living and working outside the U.S. may impact the ties they have to the U.S. and therefore influence the result of the investigation.  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, all interested applicants/all sources).

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 not only depends 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 (LNA) appointment.

Once AEFMs have completed 52 weeks of creditable service, or 2,087 hours, in a FMA or TEMP Appointment overseas (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 U.S Agency for International Development (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.

Electronic Recruitment Application (ERA) Guide

The Electronic Recruitment Application (ERA) system is used by Missions worldwide for vacancy announcements. Family members can search for and apply to vacancies online through the ERA link found on the Embassy or consulate websites of every post. Email, fax, or paper applications are no longer accepted for most positions. Candidates are required to follow all submission guidelines and instructions carefully; failure to follow the guidelines and instructions may result in disqualification. For tips on how to use ERA, please see the ERA applicant video  and user guide .

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.

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

The CA-AEFM Program, coordinated by the Bureaus of Global Talent Management (GTM) and Consular Affairs, provides opportunities for AEFMs to fill entry-level Consular positions at selected posts. Candidates must successfully pass the Board of Examiners (BEX) assessment process used to qualify for a Consular position. Once certified, CA-AEFMs are eligible to be hired and assigned to Consular Professional positions at the sponsoring employee’s assigned post.

Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP)

EPAP provides AEFMs with Professional Associate employment opportunities in such areas as: Economics, Facilities Management, Financial Management, General Services, Human Resources, Information Management, Medical, Management, Office 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 AEFMs and Department of State Civil Service employees. The annual Professional Associates Program/Hard-to-Fill 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 contact your Human Resources Office at post for more details about eligibility.


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 (GTM/OE) sets the policy for local hire EFM employment and processes anti-nepotism reviews (ANR) when necessary. The details of regulatory policy and procedures governing nepotism are in 3 FAM 8310.


Training through the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) may be available to 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, and not all classes are open to family members.

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 (DOD), among others.

U.S. Department of State

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