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Leave and Allowances

Many potential Foreign Service Specialists 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 Specialists 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 Specialists accrue annual leave based upon their years of service. Additional information is contained in the following chart.

Years of Service

Annual Leave

Less than 3

13 days

Between 3 and 15

20 days

More than 15

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, or optical care. Sick leave accrues at a rate of 13 days per year.

Home Leave is provided to Foreign Service Specialists by order of the Congress to ensure that Foreign Service personnel 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 year spent on overseas assignment. In addition to providing paid home leave, the U.S. government will also pay for travel of the specialist and his or her family to the specialist's home in the United States.

Federal Holidays

Foreign Service Specialists are also entitled to all Federal Holidays. The Department of State currently observes the following Federal Holidays:

New Year's Day
Martin Luther King's Birthday
Presidents' Day
Memorial Day
Independence Day
Labor Day
Columbus Day
Veterans' 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 Specialists transferring from one post to another. Under this program, specialists 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 Specialists 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 Specialists spend 60% or more 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 Specialists and their dependents when traveling to or from overseas assignments. The government also will pay for one round-trip ticket overseas per 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 Specialists varies around the world. In many overseas posts, Foreign Service Specialists live in accommodations that are either owned or leased by the United States government. Often, these accommodations are furnished. Foreign Service Specialists who live in government-sponsored housing do not pay rent, nor do they pay for basic utilities, except for telephone costs.

At overseas posts where the government neither owns nor leases accommodations, Foreign Service Specialists 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 Specialists 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 specialists and specialists returning from overseas assignments.


Throughout a Foreign Service Specialist's career, the United States government will either ship or store a specialist's household effects, up to a certain weight limit. As a general rule, Foreign Service Specialists are entitled to a combined shipping and storage allowance of 18,000 pounds.

If a specialist 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 specialist'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 a specialist does not receive government furnished housing, he or she may ship up to 18,000 pounds to post at government expense. If the specialist 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 that amount.

Specialists assigned to hardship posts where the acquisition of basic foodstuffs and dry goods is difficult or impossible to purchase will be granted a consumables shipment allowance in addition to their normal shipping allowance. The purpose of the consumables allowance is to allow the specialist to ship any consumable goods that will be unobtainable at their post.

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

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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