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U.S. Department of State

Leave and Allowances

Many potential Foreign Service Officers are concerned about whether they will have the time or the resources to visit their families and friends in the United States while they are posted overseas. This section addresses the issue of time away from the job. It also explains some of the allowances provided to Foreign Service Officers to ensure that they can meet the expenses associated with moving and living overseas. 


The Foreign Service provides its employees with three basic types of leave: annual leave, sick leave, and home leave. Information regarding each type of leave follows:

Annual Leave allows employees to take an annual vacation and to take time off for personal and emergency purposes. Foreign Service Officers accrue annual leave based upon their years of service, as follows:

Less than 3 years of service

13 days

Between 3 and 15 years of service

20 days

More than 15 years of service

26 days

Sick Leave may be granted when an employee is unable to perform his or her duties due to sickness, injury, or pregnancy.  Sick leave may also be utilized to obtain medical, dental, oroptical care. Sick leave accrues at a rate of 13 days per year.

Home Leave is provided to Foreign Service Officers by order of the Congress to ensure that Foreign Service personnel have the opportunity to spend time in the United States while pursuing careers overseas. Home leave accrues at the rate of 15 workdays per year spent on overseas assignment. In addition to providing paid home leave, the U.S. Government also will pay for travel of the officer and his or her family to the officer's home in the United States. 

Federal Holidays

In addition to the various types of leave described above, Foreign Service Officers are entitled to all Federal Holidays. The Department of State currently observes the following Federal holidays:

New Year's Day
Martin Luther King's Birthday
President's Day
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Labor Day
Columbus Day
Veteran's Day
Thanksgiving Day
Christmas Day

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


The U.S. government provides many allowances to ease the financial difficulties associated with frequent moves around the world. A sample of these allowances follows.

Advances of Pay are granted to Foreign Service Officers transferring from one post to another. Under this program, officers may receive up to three months of pay in advance to meet the financial burdens associated with transferring from one post to another. Advances of pay are interest-free, and are repaid through payroll deductions over a period of several months. 

Post Allowances are paid to Foreign Service Officers serving in posts where the cost-of-living is significantly higher than in Washington, D.C.

Post Differential is additional compensation, of up to 25% of base pay, paid to employees assigned to hardship posts where extraordinarily difficult conditions exist. Employees posted to exceptionally dangerous posts may receive additional danger pay of up to 25% of base pay.

Moving Around the World

Most Foreign Service Officers spend approximately 60% of their careers overseas. For this reason, issues such as travel to post, transportation of household effects, and housing overseas are important.


The United States government pays the travel expenses incurred by Foreign Service Officers and their dependents when traveling to overseas assignments. The government also will pay for one overseas round-trip ticket each year per dependent attending high school or college in the United States. Furthermore, the government will provide one round-trip ticket per year to children of  separated parents when one of the parents is stationed overseas with the Foreign Service.


Housing for Foreign Service Officers varies around the world.  In many overseas posts, Foreign Service Officers live in accommodations that are either owned or leased by United States government. Often, these accommodations are furnished. Foreign Service Officers who live in government-sponsored housing do not pay rent, nor do they pay for basic utilities, except for personal telephone service.

At overseas posts where the government neither owns nor leases accommodations, Foreign Service Officers are given a Living Quarters Allowance. This allowance is intended to cover the average costs of rent, heat, electricity, and water in the city where the post is located.

Foreign Service Officers assigned to Washington, D.C., are responsible for locating and paying for their own accommodations. A limited supplement to defray costs is provided to incoming officers and officers returning from overseas assignments. 

Shipment And Storage Of Effects

Throughout a Foreign Service Officer's career, the United States government will either ship or store an officer's household effects, up to a certain weight limit. As a general rule, Foreign Service Officers are entitled to a combined shipping and storage allowance of 18,000 pounds net. As quarters overseas in many cases are not as large as those i the U.S., continuing storage of those effects not shipped to post will be stored at government expense.

If an officer is assigned to government furnished quarters, he or she may ship up to 7,200 pounds of household effects to post at government expense. The government will pay for the storage of the remainder of the officer's furniture and effects as long as the combined total of what is being shipped and what is being stored does not exceed 18,000 pounds.

If an officer does not receive government furnished housing, he or she may ship up to 18,000 pounds to post at government expense. If the officer does not ship the full 18,000 pounds to post, the government will pay for the storage of the effects that are not sent to post up to a total of 18,000 pounds.

Officers assigned to certain designated hardship posts where the acquisition of basic foodstuffs and dry goods is difficult or impossible will be granted a consumables shipment allowance in addition to their normal shipping allowance. The purpose of this allowance is to allow the officer to ship certain goods unobtainable at post.

Finally, the U.S. government will pay for the shipment of one privately owned car to and from overseas posts, subject to certain restrictions.

The Office of Employee Relations (PER/ER/EP) is the policy authority for all issues with regard to leave. Please direct any specific questions to them.

The Department of State is committed to equal opportunity and fair and equitable treatment for all without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, sexual orientation, disabling condition, political affiliation, marital status, or prior statutory, constitutionally protected activity.

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