Foreign Service Officer Benefits
Allowances and Incentives

There are five general types of allowances and incentives: foreign travel per diem allowances, cost of living allowances, recruitment and retention incentives, quarters allowances, and other allowances. For detailed information, please click here.

Annual Leave

Vacation/Personal Leave; maximum ceiling or limitation of accrual is 30 days per leave year for employees assigned to the US; maximum ceiling or limitation of accrual is 45 days per leave year for employees assigned overseas.

  • 4 hours per pay period or 13 days per leave year for less than 3 years of federal service
  • 6 hours per pay period or 20 days per leave year after 3 years of federal service but less than 15 years
  • 8 hours per pay period or 26 days per leave year after 15 years of federal service
Child Care Center

The Department sponsors two on-site child care centers: Columbia Plaza or State Department Annex-1, across the street from the Harry S. Truman Building between 21st and 23rd Streets NW in Washington, D.C., and the Foreign Service Institute’s Child Care Center on-campus in Arlington, VA. Both centers provide excellent curriculum-based programs for infants through pre-school and the “Diplotots” Center, located at SA-1, also offers kindergarten.

Child Care Subsidy Program

A child care subsidy program is available to U.S.-based Department employees meeting certain criteria. This independent program provides child care subsidy assistance for employees whose total family income does not exceed $68,000. Families who meet this and other legislative requirements may be able to receive from 20% to 50% of their total child care expenses.

Credit Union and Fitness Facility

and a host of other on-site services such as a U.S. Post Office barber/beauty shops, dry cleaner and gift/card shops.

Employee Consultation Service

Staffed by licensed clinical social workers to provide counseling and referrals for personal and family concerns.

Employee Recreation Association

Discount tickets to movies and sporting events.

Family Medical Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 provides Federal employees with an entitlement of up to 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for the following purposes:

  • The birth of a son or daughter of the employee and the care of the newborn
  • The placement of a child with an employee for adoption or foster care
  • The care of a child, spouse or parent of the employee with a serious health condition
  • A serious health condition of the employee that makes an employee unable to perform the major functions of the job
Health Benefit Plans

Choice of extensive array of Federal Employment Health Benefit Plans, with costs shared by the Government. Employees are eligible to enroll in a wide variety of health insurance plans, including fee-for-service plans and health maintenance organizations. The employee’s portion is paid through payroll deductions.

IQ: INFORMATION QUEST

A counseling, education and referral service to help employees manage personal and professional responsibilities (e.g., adoption, adult care).

Life Insurance

Foreign Service Officers are eligible to participate in the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance plan (FEGLI). The FEGLI plan offers low rates that are paid through payroll deductions. The U.S. Government pays one-third of the cost of this insurance.

Participation in the FEGLI plan is voluntary. The plan is intended as a form of immediate protection against financial hardship or loss in the event of death. It is not offered as a form of term life insurance with a cash value, such as might be purchased through private insurance agents.

Long Term Care Insurance

Long Term Care Insurance is offered and carries into your retirement.

Paid Holidays
  • New Year’s Day (January 1)
  • Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Third Monday in January)
  • Washington’s Birthday (Third Monday in February)
  • Memorial Day (Last Monday in May)
  • Independence Day (July 4)
  • Labor Day (First Monday in September)
  • Columbus Day (Second Monday in October)
  • Veterans Day (November 11)
  • Thanksgiving Day (Fourth Thursday in November)
  • Christmas Day (December 25)

(In addition to the above holidays, the U.S. Government also observes some local holidays celebrated at overseas posts of assignment.)

Salary Determination for Foreign Service Officers

Click here for the current FS pay schedule. Initial salaries are determined using the Table marked “Overseas.”

The Board of Examiners and the staff of the Office of Recruitment, Examination, and Employment (HR/REE) determine a Foreign Service Officer Career Candidate’s entry salary. In accordance with 22 C.F.R.11.1(g)(iii) and 3 FAM 2216.2-7, the Board of Examiners finds that there is a need in the Foreign Service for candidates with the special experience and skills listed in the FP-5 and FP-4 education and/or experience section. Salaries are set through a two-part process.

Part I – Determine grade and step based on education and/or experience.

Education and/or Experience Grade/Step
BACHELOR’S DEGREE and no professional experience, or FP-6, Step 5
No college degree and six or fewer years’ professional experience.

Candidates with a Bachelor’s degree receive one additional step for each year of professional experience. For example, a candidate with a Bachelor’s degree plus five years of professional experience receives FP-6, Step 10.

Candidates without a college degree but with more than six years of professional experience receive one additional step for each year of professional experience above six years. For example, a candidate without a college degree with 11 years of professional experience receives FP-6, Step 10.

Education and/or Experience Grade/Step
MASTER’S DEGREE OR LAW DEGREE (JD), or FP-5, Step 5
Bachelor’s degree and minimum of six years’ professional experience, or
No college degree and minimum of 12 years’ professional experience.

Candidates with a Master’s degree or a law degree (JD) receive one additional step for each year of professional experience. For example, a candidate with a Master’s or law degree (JD) with five years of professional experience receives FP-5, Step 10.

Candidates with a Bachelor’s degree receive one additional step for each year of professional experience above six years. For example, a Bachelor’s degree plus 10 years of professional experience receives FP-5, Step 9.

Candidates without a college degree receive one additional step for each year of professional experience above 12 years. For example, a candidate without a degree with 17 years of experience receives FP-5, Step 10.

Education and/or Experience Grade/Step
DOCTORATE and no professional experience, or FP-4, Step 5
Master’s or law degree (JD) and minimum of six years’ professional experience, or
Bachelor’s degree and minimum of 12 years’ professional experience, or
No college degree and minimum of 18 years’ professional experience.

Candidates with a Master’s degree or a law degree (JD) receive one additional step for each year of professional experience above six years. For example, a candidate with a Master’s or law degree (JD) with eleven years of professional experience receives FP-4, Step 10.

Candidates with a Bachelor’s degree receive one additional step for each year of professional experience above twelve years. For example, a Bachelor’s degree plus 15 years of professional experience receives FP-4, Step 8.

Candidates without a college degree receive one additional step for each year of professional experience above 18 years. For example, a candidate without a degree with 23 years of experience receives FP-4, Step 10.

Part II – Attempt to match salary for those who lose money in joining the Foreign Service.

Once grade and step are determined, based on education and experience in Part I, the candidate’s current salary is examined to see if he/she will lose money by joining the Foreign Service. If so, the starting salary should be raised to the step in the grade for which the candidate is qualified that is closest to the current salary. If the current salary falls between two steps, the higher of the two steps is the starting salary. If the current salary is too high to be matched in the class for which qualified, Step 14 of that class is the starting salary.

Federal civilian employees currently receiving DC locality pay will be allowed to include DC locality pay as part of their “current salary.” Federal civilian employees who do not currently receive DC locality pay will not be allowed to include locality pay as part of their “current salary.”

NOTES:

“Current salary” means salary earned for at least 90 days prior to appointment as a Foreign Service Career Candidate. Candidates must submit proof of the “current salary;” for example: a copy of 90 days’ worth of earnings statements; SF-50 Notification of Personnel Action (for federal civilian employees only); a statement on letterhead from the Human Resources Office of their most recent employer; or other appropriate documentation.

For those in the private sector, “current salary” also means that there must not have been a break in service of more than 45 calendar days between the candidate’s most recent employment and appointment as a Foreign Service Career Candidate. For federal civilian employees, there must not have been a break in service of more than three calendar days between their civilian employment and appointment to the Foreign Service (in accordance with government-wide regulations).

For a more detailed explanation on determining entry grades, salary standards, and salary review procedures, please visit Foreign Service Entry Salaries.

Sick Leave

Accrued at a rate of 4 hours per pay period, 13 days per leave year.

Student Loan Repayment Program

The Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) is administered for the Department by the Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Employee Relations. The program was authorized by law in 1990, was implemented by the Department of State in 2002, and has been funded annually since implementation. The SLRP may benefit career Civil Service (CS) employees if they encumber mission critical occupational series positions, Foreign Service (FS) employees assigned abroad to extreme hardship and/or danger pay eligible posts, and eligible Consular Fellow (CF) applicants serving on time-limited appointments. The SLRP is not an entitlement, and eligibility is not available to all State Department employees.

It is imperative that employees familiarize themselves with all program requirements and Service Agreement conditions prior to applying for SLRP eligibility. Once onboard, information can be found on the Department’s Intranet SLRP page. Individual queries may also be sent via unclassified e-mail to SLRP@state.gov.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (Student Loan Forgiveness)

This legislation is being administered by the U.S. Department of Education’s Direct Loans. Individuals interested in a career in public service, who also have significant federally insured student loan debt, may be interested in researching eligibility at https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service. It is possible for employees to qualify for the Department’s SLRP and after ten years of specific public service have the balance of their federally insured loan(s) forgiven.

Thrift Savings Plan (equivalent to 401(k) with Government matching)

Foreign Service Officers may participate in the Thrift Savings Plan, a long-term savings and investment program for federal employees designed to provide retirement income.

Voluntary Leave Transfer Program

A federal program that enables one federal civilian employee to transfer annual leave to another federal employee who faces a personal medical emergency or a medical emergency of a family member.