The Family Liaison Office (FLO) established the Global Employment Initiative (GEI) to help family members explore employment and professional development options while posted overseas. The program employs Global Employment Advisors (GEAs) to provide on-site and virtual job coaching sessions, training workshops, and career development services at no cost to family members.

GEI is not a job placement service. Instead, the GEAs support family members in their job search by providing resources, guidance, and facilitating skills development. Currently, there are 16 GEAs covering over 200 posts, creating a worldwide network of job search and career transition professionals who understand the challenges of working overseas.

The following services are offered at post via webinars and one-on-one meetings both in person and by telephone:

  • Preparation of culturally appropriate resumes
  • Tips and practice for interviews
  • Cross-cultural issues as they relate to the workplace
  • Networking guidance
  • Advice on both inside and outside the mission employment
  • Self-employment, telework, and strategic volunteer options
  • Long-term career planning

For additional information or to contact the GEA covering a specific post, email to GEI@state.gov.

Important issues to keep in mind regarding employment on the local economy:

  • Chief of Mission approval - Any family member who accepts a position on the local economy must obtain a work permit (where applicable) and notify and receive approval from the Chief of Mission before they can start work. Family members can use the Chief of Mission Approval Memo template.
  • Cultural awareness – Each region has different behavioral customs, dress codes, and hierarchical dynamics in the workplace, and each country will have different resume requirements. Family members should be aware of the cultural norms before sending out their resumes and scheduling interviews.
  • Language requirements - Jobs on the local economy in the host country may require family members to speak, read, and/or write in the local language.
  • Local salary levels - In many countries, local salaries are lower than U.S. salaries. Family members should consider this before they search for jobs outside the Mission.
  • Local taxes - Family members might be required to pay local taxes.
  • Security concerns - Family members should consider the safety of their environment and take proper precautions. (For example, if safety is an issue when commuting to work, it might not be wise to work on the local economy.)

Work Permits: Bilateral Work Agreements and De Facto Arrangements

Foreign Service family members seeking employment on the local economy overseas need to be aware of the work permit regulations in their host country. Eligible Family Members (EFMs) can apply for a work permit upon arrival at post and HR will assist with the application process. Under most bilateral work agreements (BWA), EFMs do not need to have an offer of employment. However, requirements for work permits may vary based upon the specific BWA with the country of assignment. Visit FLO's Bilateral Work Agreements page for more information.

In countries where bilateral work agreements do not exist, family members may be able to obtain work permits through a de facto work arrangement. Unlike BWAs, de facto work arrangements are not official agreements and EFMs are typically required to have an offer of employment prior to requesting a work permit. Be mindful as these arrangements can change or cease at any time.

What are the implications of working on the local economy in the absence of a BWA or a de facto arrangement?

Most governments require foreigners to obtain work authorization, so if a BWA or de facto arrangement is not available; it is unlikely that EFMs will be able to work legally. Family members who work on the local economy without authorization are probably working illegally and putting themselves and their missions at risk. Most importantly, EFMs who don’t enjoy criminal immunity could be criminally prosecuted for working without authorization and possibly for tax evasion as well. Working without authorization could also result in the departure of the entire family from post. It is critical for EFMs to seek Chief of Mission approval whenever a family member considers working outside the mission.

This material is specific to Foreign Service employees and their families.