What is Foreign Service Home Leave?
Home Leave is provided to employees by order of Congress to ensure that Foreign Service employees have the opportunity to spend significant periods of time in the United States while pursuing careers overseas. Home leave accrues at the rate of 15 workdays per calendar year while on overseas assignment, and may be used at the end of a two or three-year assignment abroad, or at the midpoint of a three- or four-year tour. In addition to providing paid home leave, the U.S. government will also pay for you and your family to travel to your home leave address in the United States.
While Foreign Service employees accrue 15 days of homeleave per year, they are authorized homeleave following a two-year assignment, a three-year assignment, or at mid-point of a three or four-year assignment. For example, after a two-year assignment, you may be authorized 30 (business) days of home leave. You may, of course, use your accrued annual leave for personal trips.
A Foreign Service employee is eligible for Home Leave after a minimum of 18 months of service overseas (excluding any time spent in the U.S.) and must take Home Leave after 36 months of overseas service (again excluding any time spent in the U.S.). As PAB said, this normally translates to HL after a two or three year assignment or halfway through a four year posting. While the USG pays for your (and family members') travel to your HL address, you do not receive per diem during that time.
The Home Leave days you accrue are federal workdays, so weekends and Federal Holidays do not count against your HL. All HL must be taken in the United States. You cannot use it for vacations in foreign countries. You may be able to take annual leave, instead, for trips outside of the U.S.
You are required to have a home leave address in the United States. It can be anywhere in the U.S. Many people, who no longer have a personal residence in the U.S., select the address of a family member--for example, someone they would visit while on home leave. While you will receive your salary during home leave, the Department of State does not pay for housing during home leave.
Also note that while many of us accumulate HL days beyond what we are able to use, when you retire or resign you are not compensated in any way for those days. You do not "cash them out" nor are they added to your time in service.
Keywords: Foreign Service