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Frequently Asked Questions

Students: Language Proficiency Definitions

Language Proficiency Definitions
Proficiency Code Speaking Definitions Reading Definitions
0 – No Practical Proficiency No practical speaking proficiency. No practical reading proficiency.
1 – Elementary Proficiency Able to satisfy routine travel needs and minimum courtesy requirements Able to read some personal and place names, street signs, office and shop designations, numbers and isolated words and phrases
2 – Limited Working Proficiency Able to satisfy routine social demands and limited work requirements Able to read simple prose, in a form equivalent to typescript or printing, on subjects within a familiar context
3 – Minimum Professional Proficiency Able to speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on practical, social, and professional topics Able to read standard newspaper items addressed to the general reader, routine correspondence, reports, and technical materials in the individual’s special field.
4 – Full Professional Proficiency Able to use the language fluently and accurately on all levels pertinent to professional needs. Able to read all styles and forms of the language pertinent to professional needs.
5 – Native or Bilingual Proficiency Equivalent to that of an educated native speaker. Equivalent to that of an educated native.

Please download the Student Internship Brochure (pdf) for more information regarding the Student Internship Application Process.

You can search and download U.S. Department of State forms at https://eforms.state.gov/, including DS-4017, DS-1950, and DS-7601.

  1. Will the salary matching take into account only “salary” or will it take into account bonuses/commissions as well?

    Only salary is taken into consideration. Any bonus or commission is not factored in.

  2. What pay table is used for matching? What about danger pay if posted to a hardship post?

    The Foreign Service Salary Table – Overseas is used. There is no additional locality pay factored in.
    To access the FS Pay Table Overseas, please go to http://www.state.gov/m/dghr/pay/.
    The first thing you see listed in the Base salary table. Skip that. Then scroll down past the listing of locality rates. Then you will find the FS Salary Table Overseas.

    The overseas FS salary table pertains to all overseas posts. However, in dangerous posts, there is a danger pay differential on top of this (percentage). In many hardship posts, there is an additional hardship allowance (amount various on the degree of hardship). In locations where the cost of living is higher than it is in Washington, D.C., a COLA (cost of living allowance) is usually authorized.

    You can also check out the Department of State Allowances website that has information about the hardship, danger, and cost of living allowances for each post. The URL is http://aoprals.state.gov/

  3. If a Foreign Service employee is going overseas, will the employee have to pay all the living expenses? What is covered and what is not?

    As a Foreign Service Officer or Specialist, you are a federal employee, and you will pay applicable US federal and state taxes. The Department will pay to ship your personal belongings and pay for travel for you and authorized family members to post. You will receive government leased housing or a housing allowance if you are at a post with no USG owned or leased housing. Tuition for your children to attend international schools at post (or at boarding school, if appropriate local schools are not available) is covered. All other living expenses are your responsibility.

No, but there are a number of shops and restaurants nearby at which candidates can make purchases during their lunch break.

We will provide water and access to a water fountain throughout the day. Coffee should be purchased before the 7:00 am assessment start time. Candidates may bring beverages and snacks to the Assessment Center reception area. Candidates are expected to clean up after themselves. Food and drink are not allowed in the Case Management (Written) Exercise room.

There is refrigerator space available for candidates who wish to bring their lunch, as well as number of lunch options located nearby. The lunch break is typically 45 minutes long.

Yes, you will be asked to put your badge away with the rest of your belongings on the day of the test. We do this to ensure that all candidates are treated equally on the assessment day. Some external candidates might see the badge and believe it will provide an advantage. This policy is in no way meant to ignore your service to the Department. The assessors will see your service in their review of your file.

You will not be allowed to use ANY electronic devices, including cell phones or smart watches, while in the Assessment Center. You will be allowed to use electronics when you are outside of the Assessment Center (for example, when you are on your lunch break). You will be allowed to take non-smart watches into your testing area, but stopwatches or smart watches are not allowed; the assessors will time you when required. You can read printed materials while on breaks that you spend in the Assessment Center, so feel free to bring printed books, magazines, notes, etc.

No, we do not provide earplugs. Candidates are free to bring and use their own.

Any items that you bring with you must fit in a container no larger than a backpack. All items must be able to pass through an x-ray machine. There is no place to store luggage or items that cannot be x-rayed. There is a secure room in which candidates can put store their small bag and hang up coats.

Candidates may not use their own writing materials, nor can they take much with them into their assessment exercises. We will provide the resources you need to take the assessment. You can take the following items into your assessment exercises: medication, lip balm, glasses, breath mints/hard candy, tissue, earplugs. The Program Assistant may ask to see these items before you are permitted to have them in the testing areas. You cannot take purses or bags with you into the assessment exercises; you will be asked to leave them in a secure location in the reception area.

Signing the NDA means that candidates are not allowed to discuss the specifics of the assessment with others at any point during or after the Oral Assessment. While you may share general observations about the process, you may not share specific testing material or questions as the material is restricted property of the US government and disclosure within or outside of the Assessment Center is prohibited. A breach of the Non-Disclosure Agreement may result in the termination of a candidacy.

No. Candidates who pass the Oral Assessment will be asked to complete required online security forms through e-QIP to begin their security clearance process. Successful candidates will receive detailed instructions on how to access e-QIP after passing the OA.

Currently, our policy is to allow candidates to take their medications into the testing area if necessary. There are also sufficient breaks in the day to take care of medical needs. If you have notable medical needs to which you will need to attend throughout the testing day, we urge you to inform us of these medical issues before the day of your assessment. You may need to contact ReasonableAccommodations@state.gov if you believe your medical needs warrant some kind of special accommodation. The Program Assistants may ask to see any items you take into the testing area.

A lactation room is available at the Assessment Center, and all candidates receive sufficient break periods that lactation is possible. Please inform the Program Assistant at the start of the assessment day.

Please e-mail ReasonableAccommodations@state.gov at least three weeks before your scheduled oral assessment and provide us with your contact information, a brief description of your disability, and the accommodation requested. We will contact you within the following week.

All candidates who qualify to take an Oral Assessment through the FSOT process are entitled to one Oral Assessment per FSOT candidacy. Candidates must wait approximately 12 months between FSOT applications. Those candidates who qualify to take an Oral Assessment through processes other than the FSOT may take the FSOA a second time, but must wait six months between Oral Assessments.

No. Each candidate must make their own appointment. Assessing on the same day and location as a friend or relative is strongly discouraged.

If you are already at the assessment center, waiting for the assessment to begin, let a Program Assistant know immediately. Once you begin the first exercise of your assessment, you will not be able to reschedule your assessment. If you have not arrived at the assessment center yet, please email reschedule@state.gov to let us know. We will work with you to find an alternate date, but we cannot guarantee an alternative Oral Assessment date.

No. Oral Assessments are conducted only in Washington D.C. and, budget permitting, San Francisco, CA.

We strongly encourage candidates to think carefully before scheduling a date for the Oral Assessment, since changes are only permitted in genuine emergencies, such as a serious illness or military deployment. If after scheduling you cannot, for emergency reasons only, keep your scheduled assessment date, please contact reschedule@state.gov in advance of the appointment. We will work with you to find an alternate date, but we cannot guarantee an alternative Oral Assessment date.

No. Each candidate is allowed to make one Oral Assessment appointment only.

Yes, it is possible to have more than one active candidacy. However, if a candidate accepts a job offer from the Department in one career track while he or she is on an additional register or registers, the signature of a Letter of Offer will close any other candidacies still active or pending with the Foreign Service. Limited Non-Career Appointments are not considered career positions and accepting an LNA position will not terminate other candidacies.

As noted in the FSOA invitation letter, candidates are guaranteed an appointment only within the dates associated with their Foreign Service Officer Test cohort. While the invitation is valid for 12 months, if a candidate does not schedule an Oral Assessment for one of the dates offered as part of their FSOT cohort we cannot guarantee an alternative assessment date. Candidates may contact reschedule@state.gov to have their name placed on a waiting list, and if an assessment date becomes available, the candidate will be contacted. Please note that candidates on the waiting list are offered rescheduling on a first come, first serve basis.

No.

The Oral Assessment is offered in Washington, DC and, budget permitting, twice a year in San Francisco, CA. We do not conduct oral assessments outside the United States.

The Department of State’s Careers website has a lot of information; once candidates have thoroughly reviewed that, they may wish to contact the Diplomat in Residence responsible for their geographic area (full information on the Diplomats in Residence Program, including contact details, is available on the Careers website).

The Department of State hires based on the needs of the Foreign Service and the available budget. It is not possible to predict the proportion of successful, hired candidates based on career track.

Because so many applicants take the Foreign Service Officer Test more than one time, individual feedback would constitute an unfair advantage and cannot be provided.

Yes.

Assuming no serious security or medical issues arise, candidates who take the Foreign Service Officer Test can expect that the minimum time from the test date to final clearance will be about eight months, but it can often be months longer. Offers to those on the hiring register will depend on budget and hiring authority for the Foreign Service Generalist positions.

You may take a break, but the timer will continue to run. Once you start the test there are no scheduled breaks during the approximately 180 minutes of testing time.

All the sections are timed and you will need to pace yourself.

It pays to guess, eliminate any obvious wrong answers, and get a good night’s sleep.

You will need a valid federal or state government-issued photo ID, such as a driver’s license, passport, or military ID. No other items will be permitted in the room where the test is delivered, so you should limit what you bring to the center.

You should report to the testing center at least 30 minutes before the time shown on your confirmation email. If you report to the center more than 15 minutes later than the time stated on your confirmation email, you may not be admitted.

Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO), a leader in designing employee selection instruments, prepares the test questions. The questions are reviewed and approved by Foreign Service Officers.

Pearson VUE does not have access to results from any tests administered under the previous FSOT contractor (ACT) and prior to June 2014. The Department of State does not maintain these results, either. We strongly recommended that candidates print out or digitally save a copy of test results or other documents related to this process for future reference.

An FSOT score is valid only for the period in which the testing occurred. For example, if a candidate passed the FSOT and was invited to submit Personal Narratives but chose not to do so, then that would be the end of the process. The candidate would have to re-take the FSOT 12 months later to start the process over again.

Candidates should first check their “Junk Mail” folder (or equivalent). Candidates can also log in to their Pearson VUE account to see if test results are available. If a candidate still cannot find the results, please contact Pearson VUE Customer Care.

QEP results are announced approximately two months after the close of the testing window. Pearson VUE will send candidates an email when the results are posted, directing candidates to log in and check their accounts for these results. You can also log in and check your Pearson VUE account to see if your results are available.

All candidates who pass the FSOT and submit Personal Narratives are considered by the Qualifications Evaluation Panels. The QEPs look at the “total candidate” to rank order all the candidates in a given career track. The number of candidates invited to the Oral Assessment depends on the Department of State’s anticipated hiring needs and budget.

Candidates may request a re-score of their FSOT essay, for a fee. The fee to re-evaluate the written essay section of the FSOT is $30. Please note that the re-score may or may not result in a change to the original score. In cases in which the essay re-score results in a new score of “6” or higher the candidate’s status will be changed to that of passing the essay and the candidacy moved forward to the Personal Narrative/QEP stage. In cases where the essay re-score results in a new score lower than “6,” the candidate’s status will be changed to that of non-passing and the candidacy will be terminated. The second score is your final score. Copies of the written essay will not be released or provided to candidates. The results of re-scoring will be reported in writing two to three weeks after the request is received.

Candidates may request a re-score of their FSOT, for a fee. The Test’s three multiple-choice sections will be re-scored by hand for a fee of $30. Copies of the multiple choice answer sheets will not be released or provided to examinees. The results of re-scoring will be reported in writing 3-5 days after the request is received.

There are no exceptions to the Personal Narratives due date. Candidates are reminded to add Pearson VUE to their safe senders list. Neither Pearson VUE nor the Department of State can be responsible for technical issues related to your email system or Internet Service Provider’s junk mail filters.

FSOT results are released approximately two weeks after the close of the testing window. Candidates should first check their “Junk Mail” folder (or equivalent). Candidates can also log into their Pearson VUE account to see if test results are available.

From time to time the State Department includes additional test material on the FSOT, increasing the standard test time from 180 minutes to 210 minutes in length. The additional test material is for research purposes and is not scored.

Please contact Pearson VUE Customer Care to pay a no-show fee.

Candidates may change, modify, or cancel appointments up to the close of the registration window through their Pearson VUE account. After the close of the registration window, there is no way to change or modify an appointment.
If you have an extenuating circumstance and are suddenly unable to make your appointment and need to cancel after the close of the registration window, please contact Pearson VUE Customer Care. Please be aware that you will need to provide sufficient documentation to support your claim that you are unable to make it to your scheduled appointment.

If a specific educational institution is not listed, please use “OTHER” and “Other Domestic”.

Each Embassy or Consulate determines whether it has the resources available to offer the FSOT shortly before each of the three annual test windows (October, February and June). A list of Embassies and Consulates who will offer the FSOT for a given test is posted to https://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/officer/test-process approximately four days prior to the opening of each test window.

The FSOT is offered in October, February, and June at the following Pearson Professional Centers: Melbourne and Sydney (Australia); Sao Paulo (Brazil); Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, and Vancouver (Canada); Paris (France); Frankfurt (Germany); Athens (Greece); Osaka and Tokyo (Japan); Seoul (Korea, South); Mexico City (Mexico); Manila (Philippines); Singapore City (Singapore); Johannesburg (South Africa); Madrid (Spain); Taipei (Taiwan); Bangkok (Thailand); Istanbul (Turkey); and London (United Kingdom).
The Embassies and Consulates that will offer the FSOT change with each test window. A list of Embassies and Consulates who will offer the FSOT for a given test is posted to https://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/officer/test-process approximately four days prior to the opening of each test window.

You may change contact information online by going into your profile and editing the information.

Once an application has been submitted, candidates are unable to make any changes to it during that particular test cycle. This includes changes to career track.

As long as you are otherwise eligible – have taken the FSOT no more than once in the last 12 months – you will be able to submit a new application during the five-week registration period and change your career track. If you do not take the FSOT during that testing window, the application expires. You will be able to submit a new application during the next registration period.

No. The 12 month wait applies only to candidates who sat for any portion of the test. Candidates who cancelled or otherwise missed their appointments may apply to re-test in the next test window, provided they have paid any applicable no-show fees.

Please recall that registration for each FSOT is a unique event, occurring approximately five weeks before the actual test dates. Candidates should first ensure that they are attempting to apply within this registration window.
If you took the FSOT exam within the last 12 months, you are not eligible to register until after this timeframe has passed.
If you seem to be experiencing technical problems or are unable to login, the registration window has already opened, and you last took the test 12 or more months ago, please contact Pearson VUE Customer Care for assistance.

Please contact Pearson VUE through the following site to discuss a reasonable accommodation request: https://home.pearsonvue.com/test-taker/Test-accommodations.aspx.

No. You will only be able to register when you are eligible to take the FSOT, i.e. once every 12 months. For example, if you take the October 2016 FSOT, your first eligibility to retest will be the October 2017 FSOT.

There is no limit on the number of times an individual may sit for the FSOT. However, one must wait 12 months between each test.

There is no fee to sit for the FSOT. However, should a candidate fail to appear for the FSOT and/or not cancel a previously-scheduled appointment less than 48 hours prior to the appointment, the candidate will be assessed a $72 no-show fee.

The FSOT is offered three times each year, in February, June, and October.

First you will need to create an account on the Pearson VUE website (www.pearsonvue.com/fsot) . You will then be able to log in to your account and initiate STEP 1: Apply to become a Foreign Service Officer.

The following languages qualify for .17 language bonus points if you pass the telephone test administered by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) or its designated contractor at a speaking level of 3:

Albanian Amharic Armenian – East Azerbaijani Bengali
Bulgarian Burmese Cambodian – Khmer Chinese Cantonese Czech
Danish Dutch/Flemish Estonian Finnish French
Georgian German Greek Haitian Creole Hausa
Hebrew Hungarian Icelandic Indonesian Italian
Japanese Kazakh Kinyarwanda/Rwanda Kyrgyz Lao
Latvian Lithuanian Macedonian Malay Mongolian
Nepali/Nepalese Norwegian Panjabi/Punjabi Persian – Tajiki Pilipino/Tagalog
Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Serbo-Croatian (All variants)
Singhalese Slovak Slovenian Somali Spanish
Swahili/Kiswahili Swedish Tamil Telugu Thai
Tibetan Turkish Turkmen Ukrainian Uzbek
Vietnamese – Std.        

The following languages qualify for additional bonus points if you pass the telephone test administered by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) or its designated contractor with a speaking level of 2:

Arabic – Any variety Chinese – Mandarin Hindi Korean Pashto
Persian – Afghan (Dari) Persian – Iranian (Farsi) Urdu    

Dimensions scored in this exercise: Planning and Organization, Working with Others, Judgment, Information Integration and Analysis, Resourcefulness, and Written Communication.

Consular Fellows are afforded salary matching within the appropriate hiring grade, up to step 14.

Candidates may choose either traditional or simplified Chinese characters for the reading portion of the assessment. There is no use of pinyin in the test.

Language tests will be given as part of the assessment process. There will first be a phone test, which will be required of anyone being considered for an invitation to take the oral assessment. Those who pass the oral assessment will be given a second, more extensive, language test in person.

Basic duties may include the following: Consular Fellows work side by side with officers. They may conduct visa interviews, for both Immigrant and Non-Immigrant visas; assist in providing passport and other services to American citizens residing in the consular district; and other duties as assigned by the Section manager.

The oral assessment for Consular Fellows consists of three parts: a writing exercise; an interview; and an on-line test.

The Department of State will place competitively qualified U.S. citizens into Foreign Service Limited Non-Career Appointments (LNA) in country-specific posts with high workloads. These employees will be fully professional members of consulate and embassy teams. Limited appointments, however, cannot serve as special access or alternate entry to the career Foreign Service or the Department of State, i.e., they do not lead automatically to onward employment at the Department of State or with the U.S. government. LNAs are welcome to apply to become Foreign Service Specialists or Generalists or Civil Service employees, but they must meet the applicable qualifications and complete the standard application and assessment processes. Service time and benefits earned as a Consular Adjudicator can be credited in any subsequent federal employment.

Interns may be assigned to do research on political, economic, environmental or other issues. They may write reports and correspondence; assist with citizens’ services or visa work; or use their expertise in information systems, procurement, or budget and fiscal operations. Some may help to organize a conference or a visit of high-level officials. Some interns write news stories, work on web pages, or help produce electronic journals. Others may be involved in educational and cultural exchange activities. Interns also help in the recruiting of U.S. speakers and specialists for overseas programs.

Abroad, every effort is made to provide housing at no cost to interns, but circumstances may vary from post to post, so this cannot be guaranteed. Housing is not provided in the Washington, D.C., area. Arrangements and associated costs are the responsibility of the interns. A listing of housing alternatives in Washington, D.C. is mailed with the selection package.

Yes. Interns selected for internships abroad must provide proof of medical insurance coverage, to include medical evacuation and repatriation of remains, to the Student Programs Office or bureau coordinator prior to departure.

The Department is looking for students with a broad range of majors, including Business or Public Administration, Social Work, Economics, Information Management, Journalism, and the Biological and Physical Sciences, as well as those majors more traditionally identified with international affairs.

Students tentatively selected for the internship program must undergo a background investigation and receive either a Secret or Top Secret security clearance (pdf, 47kb). The clearance process takes approximately 60-120 days to complete from the time the forms are received by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS). Investigations may take substantially longer than 120 days if you have had extensive travel, education, residence and/or employment overseas; or if you have dual citizenship, foreign contacts, immediate family or relatives who are not citizens of the United States and/or a foreign born spouse, or if there is a security, suitability, or medical issue to resolve. These issues could include a current or past history of drugs or alcohol abuse, as well as a recent history of financial/credit problems.

No, not all posts are able to participate in the program, and participation may vary year to year. Because it is difficult to anticipate the needs of our embassies and consulates, you should apply to those posts that are of interest to you. Posts that are deemed dangerous (designated for danger pay) do not host interns.

Unofficial transcripts are accepted during the application process. However, if you are selected for an internship, you will be required to provide an official transcript prior to beginning your internship.

The U.S. Department of State Internship Program (unpaid), for students with a minimum of 60 credit hours or greater, provides the opportunity to work in U.S. Embassies throughout the world, as well as in various bureaus located in Washington, D.C. and at Department offices spread around the United States.

Each year, the U.S. Department of State assigns experienced Foreign Service Officers to the position of Diplomat in Residence (DIR) at certain colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Pathways Program: includes three paid Civil Service internship programs located in Washington, D.C.

The President’s recent Executive Order rescinded and revoked the Federal Career Intern Program (at the Department of State, we called it the Career Entry Program, aka CEP). It was superseded by the Pathways program. Go to the Pathways Program section under INTERN.

We have developed a resource to help you match your interests and goals to the ideal programs, internships, or fellowships for you.

The Department of State Student Programs are for students who are U.S. citizens. Non-U.S. citizens may apply for the programs that are made available through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), at exchanges.state.gov.

We have profiled some students who participated in the Department of State’s Student Programs. Each of their experiences is as unique as the individuals themselves.

The U.S. Department of State Internship Program (unpaid), for students with a minimum of 60 credit hours or greater, provides the opportunity to work in U.S. Embassies throughout the world, as well as in various bureaus located in Washington, D.C. and at Department offices spread around the United States.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has a program for the repayment of student loans. By law, the maximum any federal agency can award is $10,000 a year, or $60,000 over a lifetime. In each of the first three years of our program, the Department approved payments of $4,700. In return, an employee must agree to remain with the paying agency for at least three years.

Almost all Civil Service positions in the U.S. Department of State require at least a Secret security clearance, and many require Top Secret clearance. The clearance process considers such factors as registration for the Selective Service; failure to repay a U.S. government-guaranteed student loan; past problems with credit or bankruptcy; failure to meet tax obligations; unsatisfactory employment records; violations of the law, drug or alcohol abuse; or less-than-honorable discharge from the armed forces.

No. A written test is not required for Civil Service employment with the Department of State.

Each year, the U.S. Department of State assigns experienced Foreign Service Officers to the position of Diplomat in Residence (DIR) at certain colleges and universities throughout the United States.

For all open Civil Service positions, please visit the Available Jobs page, and expand the Civil Service section. To apply for any civil service position, please click on the vacancy announcement of your choice to go to USAJobs and start the online application process.

There are hundreds of career possibilities within the U.S. Department of State. No matter which one you choose, you’ll be able to make a difference in the world while contributing to the mission of supporting the foreign policy of the United States of America. To help you decide, we have divided our many Civil Service positions into six broad areas: Operations; IT, Engineering, and Security; Professional and Analytical Careers; Office Support Professionals; Finance and Accounting; and Executives. Please visit the Civil Service Job Category page for more information.

View the current pay schedule on the main Department of State site.

Temporary and term appointments are used to fill positions when a continuing need for the job to be filled (e.g., special projects). Neither type of appointment is permanent, so they do not give the employee civil service status.

There are 55 Bureaus and Offices that make up the domestic organizational components of the Department of State. For a complete list, view our Bureaus list, or go to the main Department of State website http://www.state.gov/.

There is an extensive list of benefits available for Civil Service employees, including child care, health and life insurance and a matched retirement plan. View the complete list of Civil Service benefits.

You can obtain proof of your prior Federal employment by writing the Federal Records Center, National Archives and Records Administration, 111 Winnebago Street, St. Louis, Missouri 63118. Inquiries should include your full name under which you were formerly employed, social security number, date of birth and, to the extent known, names and addresses of former Federal agencies and dates of employment.

There may be opportunities available for Civil Service employees overseas. These positions are usually filled by career Foreign Service employees, but when appropriate bidders are not identified they may be deemed “Hard to Fill” and opened to Civil Service bidders on excursion tours. At that time, the vacancies filled through a competitive process.

Under Executive Order 11935, only United States citizens and nationals may compete for competitive jobs. Agencies are permitted to hire non-citizens only when there are no qualified citizens available.

Officers: Applicants who are successful in the Oral Assessment will be asked to submit forms for the Top Secret security clearance required for appointment to the Foreign Service. The clearance process investigates the candidate’s background and, prior to issuing a security clearance, considers such factors as: registration for the Selective Service; failure to repay a U.S. Government-guaranteed student loan; past problems with credit or bankruptcy; failure to meet tax obligations; unsatisfactory employment records; violations of the law; misrepresentation in the Registration Process; drug or alcohol abuse; a criminal record; extensive travel; education; residence and/or employment overseas; dual citizenship; foreign contacts; immediate family or relatives who are not citizens of the United States and/or a foreign born spouse; and/ or a less- than-honorable discharge from the armed forces.

If you were born a male after December 31, 1959, and are at least 18 years of age, civil service employment law (5 U.S.C. 3328) requires that you must be registered with the Selective Service System, unless you meet certain exemptions under Selective Service law. If you are required to register but knowingly and willfully fail to do so, you are ineligible for appointment by executive agencies of the Federal Government. If you are unsure of your registration status, or if want further details on exemptions to the registration requirement, you can check the Selective Service System website at: http://www.sss.gov.

Candidates who do not receive security or suitability clearances are ineligible for appointment. Potential candidates who have any serious issues which could prevent them from receiving their clearances should give some thought to the likelihood of their being found ineligible before starting this process. These investigations are conducted by the Department of State in cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies.

All security and suitability clearances are handled on a case-by-case basis. Obtaining a clearance depends on the severity and duration of an incident as well as how much time as has passed since it occurred.

The Department of State is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation.

Upon completion of the background investigation, a Suitability Review Panel will examine a candidate’s completed file (except medical records) to determine suitability for employment with the Foreign Service. In evaluating suitability, the Suitability Review Panel takes into consideration the factors such as misconduct in prior employment; criminal, dishonest, or disgraceful conduct; misrepresentation, including deception or fraud in the application process; repeated or habitual use to excess of intoxicating beverages; abuse of narcotics or controlled substances; reasonable doubt as to loyalty to the U.S. Government; conduct which clearly shows poor judgment and/or lack of discretion; and financial irresponsibility, including a history of not meeting financial obligations or an inability to satisfy debts.

If your Top Secret clearance was granted by the Department of State, then you won’t need a new one. However, if it was issued by another agency, we’ll need to verify the duration and level of clearance to determine if we need to update the background investigation and issue our own clearance. In either case, your entire file will be reviewed to determine your suitability for appointment to the Foreign Service before you are offered a job. Even if your current Top Secret security clearance is still valid, depending on when it was issued you will need to submit an updated SF-86 form for the purpose of providing current data for the Suitability Review Panel’s review.

Students tentatively selected for the internship program must undergo a background investigation and receive either a Secret or Top Secret security clearance (pdf, 47kb). The clearance process takes approximately 60-120 days to complete from the time the forms are received by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS). Investigations may take substantially longer than 120 days if you have had extensive travel, education, residence and/or employment overseas; or if you have dual citizenship, foreign contacts, immediate family or relatives who are not citizens of the United States and/or a foreign born spouse, or if there is a security, suitability, or medical issue to resolve. These issues could include a current or past history of drugs or alcohol abuse, as well as a recent history of financial/credit problems.

If you don’t want your current employer contacted, you need to advise the security investigator. They are not supposed to contact your current employer unless you say that they may, since this is a common — and obviously legitimate — concern.

Security and suitability clearances are adjudicated by looking at the candidate’s entire profile and history (including court records). If you are interested in joining the Civil or Foreign Service, you should at least take the first step by registering to take the Foreign Service Officer Test, applying for a Foreign Service Specialist vacancy, or submitting your application for a Civil Service position on USAJobs.

A security clearance can take anywhere from a couple months to more than a year depending on the complexity of the required investigation. Candidates who hold dual citizenship, have had extensive travel, education, residence and/or employment overseas, or who have foreign contacts, a foreign-born spouse, immediate family members or relatives who are not citizens of the United States, should be aware that the clearance process will take longer to complete.

The requirement for pre-employment in the Foreign Service is that the applicant must be medically cleared for “worldwide assignment.” Family members do not need to receive a medical clearance for the candidate to receive a job offer. They must, however, be medically cleared before traveling overseas to accompany an employee on assignment at U.S. Government expense. These medical standards are more rigorous than those of most other professions as some overseas posts may be remote, unhealthy, or have limited medical support.

For any child who has special education needs, the Individual Education Program must be forwarded to Medical Clearances for further evaluation through MED’s Employee Consultation Services. Due to the special education needs, your child likely is not worldwide available and would have the limited, Class 2, medical clearance. This means that approval of an overseas post from Medical Clearances will be necessary prior to your child’s inclusion on your travel orders.

There may be adequate health services, including a laboratory, locally where you could obtain the necessary care. Depending on the frequency of the follow up you require, you may also wish to consult your personal health care provider in the U.S. while on leave, or at a reputable medical facility outside of the U.S.

Accepting employment in the Foreign Service for worldwide assignment means that the Department may send an employee to any assignment in the world without regard to the ability of family members to accompany the employee. Although in many cases it may be possible to locate an assignment where all family members can reside, there is no guarantee of this and, if the family members’ medical clearance does not change, the same problem will repeat itself with each assignment throughout a career.

A full medical report from the oncologist is required to establish the type of follow-up that is needed. If, after five years, medication for breast cancer is no longer required and the only follow-up care is an annual mammogram, there is a good possibility that the condition would not limit a medical clearance.

The Office of Medical Clearances would carefully evaluate the type and frequency of monitoring required before making a clearance decision. There are numerous Department of State posts where there are no cardiologists, indeed no physicians at all. In this case, the Office of Medical Clearances would review the medical history based on current information from the patient’s physician regarding the stability of the condition, medications, and frequency of required follow up.

The State Department does not pay for travel to obtain follow up treatment for any medical condition. Employees may be able to combine some medical travel with government paid leave such as R&R (Rest and Recuperation) or Home Leave. These paid trips, however, would not be frequent enough to cover the need for medical travel described in the above scenario.

Management Officers do oversee many of the specialists, but not all. Office Management Specialists, Diplomatic Security specialties, Information Resource Offices and Regional English Language Officers are some of the exceptions, and report directly to other officers.

No. The hiring process is different for Foreign Service Specialists. For more information, visit the Seven Steps to Becoming a Foreign Service Specialist page on careers.stat.gov.

There is an initial orientation lasting three weeks followed by additional specialized training lasting up to 17 weeks, depending on the job specialty.

Pearson VUE sends out results notifications advising candidates to check their accounts for score reports no later than three weeks after the close of the testing window. Even if candidates do not receive an email directing them to retrieve their online score reports from Pearson VUE they can log into their accounts to retrieve them.

Since many applicants take the Foreign Service Officer Test more than once, individual feedback would constitute an unfair advantage and cannot be provided. Candidates are encouraged to review the 13 dimensions used to assess Foreign Service Officer candidates in order to gain insights into the hiring process.

There are no precise hiring targets, but with the Department’s budget decreasing or at best leveling, hiring in 2014 and 2015 will more likely mirror the attrition hiring patterns of 2013 rather than the robust growth of the Diplomacy 3.0 period in 2009-2011.

Yes. You need to contact Pearson VUE by phone to request re-scoring the test within 45 days of the release of the results. The answer documents for all three multiple-choice sections will be re-scored by hand for a fee of $30. There is a separate $30 fee to re-evaluate the written essay section of the FSOT. Re-score fees are payable by credit card. Copies of the written essay or multiple choice answer sheets will not be released or provided to examinees. The results of re-scoring the multiple choice sections will be available in your account about one (1) week after you make the request; essay re-score results may take as long as five weeks.

You may change your e-mail address by logging into your Pearson VUE account and updating that information.

You may change your mailing address by logging into your Pearson VUE account and updating that information.

The Department needs career track information for workforce planning purposes, and to accurately assess a candidate’s background and qualifications throughout the selection process. Candidates are urged to research and consider carefully the options before they choose.

The Foreign Service is made up of five different career tracks. At the beginning of the hiring process, you must choose a track. The tracks are Consular, Economic, Management, Political, and Public Diplomacy. You can get more details about each career track by going to the Officer Career Track page. To assist you with your decision, we developed a questionnaire to help you match your interests to the career track that may be right for you.

There are mentoring processes. You can locate the Diplomat in Residence who is nearest you and contact that person by phone or e-mail. They will be happy to discuss your questions with you. Once you join an A-100 class you will have a formal Career Counselor as well as an assigned mentor from a group of volunteer mentors. You’ll get lots of advice and guidance throughout your career.

Political officers get to know local political leaders, journalists, and labor leaders, as well as federal, state, and local government officials. If a political officer reads a controversial article in the local press one morning, the officer might call a local contact, discuss the contact’s views on the controversy, and spend the afternoon putting together a report for the political section chief or Washington.

Since the State Department determines where you will be assigned during your first two postings your positions prior to tenure aren’t “unstructured.” The positions that entry level Officers are assigned to are designed to give them the necessary career track experience to move them toward tenure.

Consular Officers are specifically responsible for protecting and assisting American citizens abroad as well as visa adjudication (both non-immigrant and immigrant visas). Other officers in the post generally do not get involved in those areas except as duty officer, unless emergencies arise or policy issues crop up.

It is not unusual throughout a 20-30 year career that an officer will develop a regional specialty.

Upon completion of the medical clearance and the background investigation, a Suitability Review Panel is convened for each candidate. The Panel examines a candidate’s total record (except medical files) to determine suitability for employment with the Foreign Service. In evaluating suitability, the Panel considers among other points: misconduct in prior employment; criminal or dishonest conduct; misrepresentation in the application process; use to excess of intoxicating beverages; trafficking in or abuse of narcotics or controlled substances; doubt as to loyalty to the U.S. Government; conduct which clearly shows poor judgment; and lack of financial responsibility, including a history of not filing tax returns or meeting financial obligations.

Spouses (including legally married same-sex spouses), and children under age 21, and, in rare cases, dependent parents may accompany Foreign Service employees abroad at Government expense. However, even though family members are not required to be medically cleared before an offer of employment is extended, family members must be medically cleared before traveling overseas at U.S. Government expense to accompany Foreign Service Officers on assignment. This means employees could be assigned overseas unaccompanied by those family members who do not have medical clearances.

Both Foreign Service Specialists and Generalists are direct-hire career employees of the Department of State.

It depends on your family status and size (i.e., single, married, single with kids, etc.) It also depends on whether the post is a limited- or full-shipment post. You should always bring things that will make your home overseas your personal home. Contact the Family Liaison Office prior to departure. You can also check the Family Life forum for more information.

You have lots of opportunity to enjoy the local culture – compare it to the time you have available right now when you go home after work. The host country is your home – after work every day and on weekends. You are a U.S. government representative at all times – but you are also a resident, a tourist, a member of society, much as you would be in the U.S.

Yes, certainly. They might opt to bring their own car, or they might buy one from a departing colleague when they arrive at post. There are a number of possibilities. Just keep in mind though that you are limited sometimes by certain restrictions – right-hand drive cars, sometimes limitations on retractable headlights, emissions, etc. All of this information about a particular country is readily available to you as part of the assignment bidding process so you can be well informed.

Yes. Each overseas post and American Embassy has an Orientation Program for all new arrivals at post. New arrivals are also assigned a “sponsor,” an official sponsor at work, as well as a community sponsor who matches the new employee’s interests and family composition.

Employment opportunities for spouses, including legally married, same-sex spouses, vary by country of assignment. The Department’s Family Liaison Office maintains a listing of job opportunities at most posts and may be contacted directly once an assignment is known. The Department also has a growing number of “tandem couples” in which both spouses work for a foreign affairs agency of the U.S. government.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has implemented a program for the repayment of student loans under certain conditions. By law, the maximum any federal agency can award is $10,000 a year, or $60,000 over a lifetime. In return, an employee must agree to remain with the paying agency for at least three years. The State Department implemented the Student Loan Repayment Program in 2002 and though the amount varies from year-to-year in 2015 qualified employees received payments of $8,000.

Each year, the U.S. Department of State assigns experienced Foreign Service Officers to the position of Diplomat in Residence (DIR) at certain colleges and universities throughout the United States. Their primary responsibility is to serve as an information resource for individuals considering a career in the Foreign Service.

Your 3 weeks at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) will likely be followed by 2 weeks of SEO-specific “orientation,” followed then by transfer directly into your assigned domestic office. When it comes time you will be notified when your further SEO training will occur.

View the current pay schedule on the main Department of State site.

Home Leave is provided to employees by order of Congress to ensure that Foreign Service employees maintain close ties to 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 employees and family members to travel to a home leave address in the United States.

For information about FSOT (Foreign Service Officer Test) dates and deadlines, please visit the Officer Selection Process page, and choose Step #3: Take the Foreign Service Officer Test.

The appointment process to become a Foreign Service Officer requires strong commitment. Occasionally, candidates request deferral of their candidacies. Active or reserve military personnel, U.S. government civilian employees, Peace Corps Volunteers, and candidates on Fulbright grants serving abroad and spouses of Foreign Service employees currently assigned abroad may request deferrals for the period of their overseas service, up to a maximum of two years.

After entering the Foreign Service, a candidate may subsequently reapply for other career tracks and/or use the processes available internally to Foreign Service personnel to change career tracks without prejudice. All first-tour candidates serving abroad, however, must complete a minimum of one year at post to be released from the requirement to repay the cost of leaving post early.

Yes. A candidate may qualify for more than one career track and be on more than one Hiring Register at a time. For example, applicants may qualify for more than one specialist career track or they may qualify for a specialist career track as well as a generalist career track. If a candidate accepts a job offer from the Department in one career track while on another Register, any other offers active or pending with the Foreign Service will be closed effective the date that the Letter of Offer is signed.

The Department of State is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation.

Hiring under a CR depends on the specific language and appropriations the CR authorizes. Normally, a CR allows spending at about 80% of the previous year’s budget and only for continuing activities, not new ones. So hiring is possible but limited. Q: Will there be any leniency for people on the register who get the notice two weeks (or some really short amount of time) before class date start, who simply cannot do such short notice?

There are a good number of Foreign Service Officers and Specialists in the Reserves or National Guard, and military leave is granted so that Reservists and members of the National Guard can fulfill their obligations. For detailed information on military leave and how it works, please click here and select 3 FAM 3440: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/85088.pdf.

Yes. The Department of State encourages all interested candidates who meet the age qualifications to apply. The only requirement is that FSOs must have entered an A-100 class before their 60th birthday. Qualifying, preference-eligible veterans may be appointed from the rank-ordered Hiring Register at any time before they turn 65.

Candidates who decline two appointment offers will be removed from the Register even if the 18-month eligibility period has not expired. Since hiring is based on the needs of the Department at a given time, there is no guarantee a candidate who declines an initial offer will receive a second one.

The Foreign Service is looking for employees who represent the depth and breadth of the United States, and we expect new hires will bring unique skills and life experiences not shared by other candidates. Those who come to the Foreign Service with decades of experience will have opportunities to share that experience, but they should not expect to be treated differently than Entry-Level Officers many years their junior. It can be a challenge, but the mix of new officers can greatly enrich teams at posts, and most of these second- and third-career new hires find the experience richly rewarding.

Qualifying, active military duty candidates may request unrestricted additional time to schedule the Oral Assessment after passing the QEP. Candidates must notify BEX when they are discharged from the military and reschedule an Oral Assessment within the next six months.

There are many possibilities, depending on the size of a post. If you go to a large post, you might serve as a General Services Officer or a Human Resources Officer. If you go to a small post, you might be in charge of all management issues.

It takes from one week to several months to complete a suitability determination. The length of time depends on the issues involved in each candidate’s file and the need for the Panel to obtain additional information in order to reach a decision that both conforms to the standards outlined in the Foreign Affairs Manual and is fair to the candidate.

As public servants, Foreign Service Officers and Specialists must publicly defend U.S. government policy, despite personal reservations. There is an internal channel through which an employee may present dissenting views on specific foreign policy issues. If an officer cannot publicly defend official U.S. policy, he or she has the option to resign.

There is no set educational level or foreign language skill required to become a Foreign Service Officer. Some Foreign Service Specialist positions do have degree requirements.

Foreign Service personnel can express their preference for postings, but must be willing to serve worldwide according to the needs of the Service.

While knowing a foreign language is not a requirement to be considered for the Foreign Service, demonstrated proficiency in a language will enhance a candidate’s competitiveness on the Register by giving a slight increase in points. Any language points added to a candidate’s Oral Assessment score are based on the results of testing conducted by the Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute.

Foreign Service candidates who can document creditable veterans’ service by submitting form DD 214 or other certification will be eligible to receive additional points on the Hiring Register: 0.175 for a five-point standing and 0.35 for a 10-point standing. In all cases points are awarded once a candidate has passed the Oral Assessment. Instructions on how to claim these points are provided at that time. Qualifying, preference-eligible veterans may be appointed from the rank-ordered Hiring Register at any time before they turn 65. If appointed between the ages of 60 to 65, a qualifying, preference-eligible veteran may serve five years prior to being mandatorily retired.

Only U.S. citizens may apply for an appointment to the career Foreign Service. A candidate must be a U.S. citizen on the date an FSOT registration package is submitted (for generalists), or upon applying to fill a vacancy announcement (for specialists).