FS: SOP 134D1


Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) Notice No. 134D1

(This SOP replaces and supersedes SOP No. 99 dated 11/01/00 and SOP 134D, dated 5/29/09.)

SUBJECT: Salary Review Procedures for Foreign Service Entry Level Officer and Specialist Career Candidates

PURPOSE: To provide a fair and transparent review of salary appeals by Entry Level Officer and Specialist Career Candidates.


Salaries in the federal service are not negotiated packages, but are set by schedule, and published standards and qualifications determine a new hire’s place on that schedule. Salaries for entry level Foreign Service Officer and Specialist Career Candidates are determined at the time of appointment by the Office of Recruitment, Evaluation and Employment (HR/REE), according to guidelines set forth in the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) outlining the process for setting entry grade and salary standards (SOP 134A for generalists, 134B for specialists and 134C for Diplomatic Security Special Agents). The Registrar in HR/REE confirms an offer of employment in a letter to the individual candidate, and states the entry level salary offered. The Registrar also informs the candidate where to view both the SOP that determines his/her initial salary and this SOP on salary review procedures. By signing an acceptance of the offer, the candidate agrees to this salary determination.

Up until the offer is accepted, candidates who have obtained additional experience or education since their initial application, or have other new information they want the Registrar to consider, may forward documentation to that effect to the Registrar for consideration in determining entry-level salary. Qualifying work experience can be considered up to the day the Registrar sent the first offer of employment to the candidate. The Registrar reviews the documentation and either confirms or amends the initial offer to the candidate.

As used in this SOP, “qualifying experience” can be in any field, but does not include clerical or wage-grade work, or any other work not usually requiring a bachelor’s or higher degree. The employee’s primary duty must be, or must have been, the performance of work requiring advanced knowledge, defined as work which is predominantly intellectual in character and which includes work requiring the consistent exercise of discretion and judgment. Advanced knowledge must be in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction. Acquisition of a foreign language is not in itself treated as advanced knowledge. Additionally, credit for supervisory oversight is awarded only where management or supervision is a part of an individual’s official job duties. Volunteer work not meeting these conditions will not be credited. Work performed by active duty U.S. military commissioned officers is considered “qualifying experience”; work performed by U.S. military personnel who are not commissioned officers is not considered “qualifying experience” unless it meets the above definition of ”qualifying experience.”

If, at the time the confirmed or amended offer is received by a candidate, he/she believes that the starting salary has been set at an incorrect level, the candidate may request a review by the Salary Review Committee (SRC). Both generalist and specialist candidates may request a review. All requests for review of the entry-level salary must be sent to the Registrar in writing, either by letter or by e-mail, and should be addressed to the Staff Director of the Board of Examiners. The request must include appropriate documentation, cite the relevant section of the SOP, and explain specifically why the candidate believes the Registrar erred in determining the correct starting salary. If the Staff Director determines that the candidate has failed to provide a sufficiently specific explanation of the error the candidate believes occurred, the request will be returned to the candidate and will not be forwarded to the SRC. In such cases the candidate will have up to 5 working days to resubmit the request. If the Staff Director determines that a resubmitted request still does not meet the requirement for an explanation of the error the candidate believes occurred, the initial salary offer will apply.

Salary review requests should be received by the Registrar within 14 calendar days, but in no case more than 30 calendar days, from the date of receipt of the email from the Registrar confirming or amending the offer of appointment or, in the case of a candidate who cannot be contacted by email, the date of receipt of the letter from the Registrar confirming or amending the offer of appointment.

Note: The SRC will not consider newly provided information concerning work experience or education that substantially changes information provided in the initial application signed by the applicant.



The purpose of the SRC is to review the determination of entry-level salary made by the Registrar in response to a salary review request submitted in compliance with the above timeline and procedures. The review of the initial entry-level salary determination by the SRC is final.


The Staff Director of the Board of Examiners appoints the SRC. It is composed of a Chair and at least four other members. The Chair and all members are assessors assigned to the Board of Examiners. Committee membership should reflect conal diversity to the maximum extent possible. In the case of specialist candidates, the Chair may expand the committee ad hoc to include a subject matter expert (i.e., Foreign Service Specialist) in the candidate’s chosen specialty.

SRC Procedure

The Chair routes the request for review to two SRC members. If the request comes from a Foreign Service Specialist, the Chair ensures that the file includes the appropriate vacancy announcement, which has the information that governs entry level determinations.

Each member viewing a case does so independently. S/he prepares and signs a worksheet by which s/he calculates what the appropriate entry-level salary should be in terms of the applicable SOP or vacancy announcement.

After the second member reviews the file, s/he opens the first member’s envelope. If his/her findings concur with the first member’s findings, s/he prepares a Decision Memorandum from the Chair to the Staff Director. If the two members do not concur, they meet to try to come to a consensus. If they cannot come to a consensus, the Chair will review the case, discuss it with the other two members, and make the final determination.

Once the SRC has developed its findings, the Chair reports the findings to the Staff Director in a Decision Memorandum prepared by the second member, and prepares a letter from the Staff Director to the employee explaining those findings. The Chair ensures that the employee’s file has the appropriate record of the decision, and forwards it to the Registrar’s Office for appropriate action. The Registrar notifies the candidate of the decision in writing (e-mail is acceptable) and retains any correspondence in the candidate’s file.

Members must not review cases in which they have direct and personal knowledge of the employee or candidate.