Adding a Family Member to your Orders
Before you and your spouse, partner or child can take advantage of all that the Foreign Service lifestyle has to offer, you will first need to follow a number of Department of State procedures to add your spouse, partner or child to your orders. Other agencies should contact their Human Resources office for guidance.
Note: The Same-Sex Domestic Partner (SSDP) program, which extended benefits and/or allowances for declared SSDPs of Foreign Service employees serving overseas, ends September 30, 2018. Learn more.
Adding a Spouse and Partner
- For All Cases
- Employee Marries an American Spouse
- Employee Marries a Foreign National Spouse
- Employee Partners with Same-Sex American or Foreign National Spouse
- Employee Marries or Partners with American Foreign Service Employee (Tandem Employees)
Adding Other Family Members
The Medical Examination
- Spouses or same-sex domestic partners on orders must have a medical clearance. Medical Clearance Form DS-1843 (and DS-1622 for children under 12, if adding children to orders) must be completed and submitted to the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. (202-663-1779). Please note: MED cannot process either of these forms, nor can the employee and/or spouse/partner make an appointment in MED's exam clinic until Human Resources submits the FS Residence and Dependent Report (OF-126) to Medical Records. The medical examination must be performed in the Office of Medical Services Exam Clinic in Washington, D.C. However, a private physician may conduct the exam if one lives more than 50 miles from Washington, D.C. To use a private physician, written authorization (DS-3069) from MED (or the Health Unit at post) must be obtained.
- Tourist Passports: If the spouse or same-sex domestic partner is an American citizen, passport and visa applications can be processed through the nearest Passport Office. Applications for tourist passports may be submitted at the same time as diplomatic passports.
- Diplomatic Passports: Diplomatic passports are only issued to American citizens. If the spouse or same-sex domestic partner is an American citizen, after he/she is added to official travel orders, the HR Assignment Technician will send the Request for Passport Services (DS-1640) to the Department of State Passport Office. The spouse/partner must then complete a passport application. He/she will also need to present proof of citizenship and photos. Please see the Department of State’s Consular Affairs intranet site, under Passports and Customer Service or email CA-PPT-SIA-DiplomaticTravel@state.gov. As of June 19, 2009, the Department of State extended the full range of legally available benefits and allowances to declared same-sex domestic partners of members of the Foreign Service sent to serve abroad (3 FAM 1610). The Department will also work with foreign governments to provide same-sex domestic partners, to the extent possible, with diplomatic visas, privileges and immunities, and authorization to work on the local economy. If a foreign government denies a diplomatic visa to a domestic partner, the Department will authorize the employee to receive Involuntary Separate Maintenance Allowance (ISMA), to help defray the cost of maintaining a separate household during that assignment (Department of State Regulation (DSSR) 264.2).
- Foreign-born Same-Sex Domestic Partners Holding Non-U.S. Passports: If the new same-sex domestic partner is not an American citizen, he/she may be able to enter the U.S. on a J-1 visa. In February 2011, the Department of State designated the Bureau of Human Resources as an Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 visa) sponsor for a government visitor program under which non-US-citizen same-sex domestic partners (SSDP) of members of the Foreign Service may be eligible to come to the United States during their partners' domestic assignments. The Office of Career Development and Assignments in the Bureau of Human Resources (HR/CDA) administers the program. Under this program, an eligible SSDP will enter the U.S. on a J-1 visa. To apply for a J-1 visa, the SSDP must first obtain a Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status. To obtain Form DS-2019, the Foreign Service employee must request an application form by email from the responsible officer in HR/CDA and return it along with a copy of Form DS-7669, Affidavit Pursuant to Declaring Domestic Partner Relationship, to the responsible officer (scanned copy is sufficient). The application must confirm that the SSDP carries appropriate health insurance. Upon receipt of the required documents and confirmation of eligibility, HR/CDA will issue a Form DS-2019 through SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) and send it via FEDEX to the SSDP participant. The SSDP must provide Form DS-2019, along with other required visa application forms, when applying for the J-1 visa. Unmarried dependent children under the age of 21 of an eligible non-U.S.-citizen SSDP may apply for a J-2 visa. Other adult dependents are not eligible under this program but may apply for other visas, depending on their purpose of travel. U.S. citizen dependents do not need visas.
- The spouse/partner does not need a security clearance to be added to the employee's orders.
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
- For information on life-changing events such as marriage, go to TSP’s Changes in Your Family Status: Marriage webpage or call toll-free (877) 968-3778.
- Once the spouse/partner is added to the orders, he/she can purchase an airline ticket to travel to post, which will be paid for by the United States Government. For Department of State reservations and ticketing, contact Carlson Wagonlit during the hours of 7:30 am and 5:30 pm, Monday – Friday, (866) 654-5593. The new spouse/partner is authorized 200 pounds of Unaccompanied Air Baggage (UAB) and can add personal effects to the employee’s Household Effects (HHE) and storage allowance, as long as the combined total of the storage weight and the 7,200 pounds of HHE do not exceed 18,000 pounds.
Employee Marries an American Spouse
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- Note: Marriage to or establishment of a domestic partnership with a United States citizen requires no special coordination or notification. An employee is not required to notify his or her agency of cohabitation with a United States citizen, except permission is required for any cohabitant to occupy United States Government-provided housing as outlined in 3 FAM 4180. An employee’s intent to marry, cohabitate with, or establish a domestic partnership with a United States citizen who is also a citizen of one or more foreign nations must be reported as if the individual were solely a foreign national.
- Amending Orders: To add a spouse to orders, the employee must send an updated Foreign Service Residence and Dependency Report (OF-126), an original copy of the marriage certificate, and a completed medical clearance to their HR Assignment Technician. As soon as the HR Assignment Technician receives all the necessary documents, he/she can amend the orders. In addition, please note procedures outlined in 3 FAM 4190, “Marriage Requirements of an Employee to a Foreign National or to a U.S. Citizen” and 12 FAM 275, “Reporting Cohabitation with and/or Intent to Marry a Foreign National” or contact HR/CDA.
- Health Insurance: Employees with "self only" enrollment must complete a new Health Benefits Election Form (SF-2809) within 60 days after the marriage to add the new spouse. If the employee is not enrolled, they must wait until the annual open season to elect new enrollment. Contact FEHB@state.gov or call (202) 261-8160.
Employee Marries a Foreign National Spouse
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Note: Failure of an employee to provide the required notification of marriage to, cohabitation with, or establishment of a domestic partnership with a foreign national may result in an investigation, immediate suspension (which may result in a proposal for revocation) of the employee’s security clearance, and/or other disciplinary actions. Employees contemplating a tour of duty to a critical human intelligence threat (HUMINT) post must ensure Diplomatic Security is apprised of these relationships to allow vetting of the foreign national and an adjudication of his/her impact on the impending assignment.
In the United States: Foreign Service employees assigned domestically must inform the Office of Continuity Counseling, SA-3 Suite 4100, (202) 663-0786, in writing of their intent to marry, establish a domestic partnership with, or cohabitate with a foreign national. Within three days of receipt of such notification, the Continuity Counselor will counsel the employee and prepare a counseling memorandum documenting the conversation in accordance with 12 FAM 275. Once completed, HR/CDA/CC will initiate the Office of Personnel Management’s e-QIP option and upon completion the appropriate forms will be submitted to Diplomatic Security.
Overseas: Foreign Service employees serving abroad must notify the Ambassador or Principal Officer at his/her post of assignment in writing of their intent to marry, cohabitate with, or establish a domestic partnership with a foreign national. Ordinarily, this is done through the Management or Human Resources office. The DCM or Administrative Officer should counsel the employee and prepare a counseling memorandum of conversation in accordance with 3 FAM 4190.
Amending Orders: To add a spouse to orders, the employee must send an updated Foreign Service Residence and Dependency Report (OF-126), an original copy of the marriage certificate, and a completed medical clearance to their HR Assignment Technician. As soon as the HR Assignment Technician receives all the necessary documents, he/she can amend the orders. In addition, please note procedures outlined in 3 FAM 4190, “Marriage Requirements of an Employee to a Foreign National or to a U.S. Citizen” and 12 FAM 275, “Reporting Cohabitation with and/or Intent to Marry a Foreign National” or contact HR/CDA.
Health Insurance: Employees with "self only" enrollment must complete a new Health Benefits Election Form (SF-2809) within 60 days after the marriage to add the new spouse. If the employee is not enrolled, they must wait until the annual open season to elect new enrollment. Contact FEHB@state.gov or call (202) 261-8160.
Employee Partners with Same-Sex American or Foreign National Spouse
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- Same-Sex Domestic Partner (SSDP) Program: The SSDP program, which extended benefits and/or allowances for declared SSDPs of Foreign Service employees serving overseas, ends September 30, 2018. Read the cable, Same-sex Domestic Partner Program Ends September 30, 2018, for detailed information on the phasing out of this program. For information outlining the program, its history, and the phasing out process, read Changes to the Same-Sex Domestic Partner (SSDP) Program.
- Foreign National Spouse: If the partner is not a U.S. citizen, procedures are outlined in 12 FAM 275, Reporting Cohabitation with and/or Intent to Marry a Foreign National.
Employee Marries or Partners with American Foreign Service Employee (Tandem Employees)
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- Tandem Status: When a Department of State Foreign Service employee marries or enters into a same-sex domestic partnership with another Department of State Foreign Service employee, the couple is considered a "tandem." Each employee is independent of the other, i.e., each member of a tandem couple maintains his/her own separate orders and entitlements (except housing). Married tandems are entitled to only one residence while serving overseas. In this scenario, each employee fills out his/her own Foreign Service Residence and Dependency Report (OF-126) and indicates that he/she is part of a tandem couple, listing his/her "tandem" spouse/partner. This information is then entered into each employee's Employee Profile.
- Leave without Pay: In the eventuality that one member of the tandem opts for Leave without Pay (LWOP), the employee on LWOP is added to his/her spouse/partner's orders for that time period.
- Health Insurance: If both spouses/partners are federal employees, one may enroll for "self and family" or each may enroll for "self only". Check with Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) for additional information. Contact FEHB@state.gov or call (202) 261-8160.
- Other Resources: The Bureau of Human Resources Office of Career Development and Assignments (HR/CDA) can provide detailed information for tandems.
The Family Liaison Office (FLO) in Washington, D.C. can help direct your new spouse/partner to programs available in Washington, including employment advising, education and youth services, and help with personal concerns. FLO also handles the expeditious naturalization portfolio for Department of State foreign-born spouses. FLO is also the home office for the Community Liaison Office (CLO) Program overseas. If you are currently at post, or heading to post, your new spouse/partner should check in with the CLO. For the name of your CLO, contact the Family Liaison Office. For more information about FLO, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 647-1076.
The Transition Center at the Foreign Service Institute offers the Overseas Briefing Center and the Transition Center Training. Both programs provide a variety of support to Foreign Service spouses/partners. For more information on course schedules and OBC hours of operation see www.state.gov/m/fsi/tc or (703) 302-7277
Employee Services Center (ESC):
The Employee Services Center (ESC) is the primary check-in and check-out point for all transferring and in-transit Foreign Service personnel. Employees should update their information with the ESC when adding a spouse/partner to their orders, specifically data related to:
- Locator and Emergency Next of Kin Information;
- Mail holding and forwarding;
- Handling of death cases for both Foreign Service and Civil Service personnel, including notification of next of kin, and liaison between the Department and surviving families;
- Next of Kin emergency notifications in support of crisis and Task Force Operations, and post evacuations.
For further information on post transfer check-in and check-out procedures, consultations, and other available services, see the ESC brochure Information for Foreign Service Personnel, located on the Department’s intranet site.
Employee Services Center
2201 C Street, NW, Room 1252
Washington, DC 20520
Tel: (202) 647-3432 or (202) 647-3433
Fax: (202) 647-1429
Office of Medical Services
Exam Clinic, SA-1
2401 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20522
Phone: (202) 663-1779
Harry S Truman Building
Phone: (202) 485-8200
Passport Special Issuance Agency
SA-17A, (South Entrance)
600 19th Street N.W., Suite 3.200
Washington, D.C. 20006
Phone: (202) 485-8200
The Associates of the American Foreign Service (AAFSW): The Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW) is a non-profit organization that represents Foreign Service spouses, employees and retirees. Founded in 1960, AAFSW is an independent advocate for its membership, giving members a stronger voice when working on common concerns, and a chance to enjoy shared interests. Visit their website at AAFSW's website to connect to the Foreign-born Spouse Network, babysitting co-ops, Livelines e-group, and many other support programs for the Foreign Service community.
Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA): GLIFAA serves as a support network and resource of information for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender employees and their families. Contact GLIFFA at email@example.com.
Information provided by the Family Liaison Office
Contact the Family Liaison Office