United States Foreign Service

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The United States Foreign Service is a personnel system in the U.S. government established under the Foreign Service Act. It is used by the U.S. Department of State and other Foreign Affairs agencies for positions that require service abroad. Appointments in the Foreign Service are Excepted Service appointments, and therefore exempt from certain requirements of the Competitive Service. As part of the Diplomatic Service, members of the Foreign Service advocate American foreign policy, protect American citizens, and promote American business interests throughout the world. There are 20,588 persons employed in the Foreign Service.

Foreign Service members represent America; analyze and report on political, economic, and social trends in the host country; and respond to the needs of American citizens abroad. They are part of the Diplomatic Service and serve in Washington, DC and at nearly 265 U.S. embassies, consulates and other diplomatic missions around the world. Members of the Foreign Service include Senior Foreign Service (SFS), Foreign Service officers (FS), Foreign Service personnel (FP), Foreign Service nationals (FSN), and other categories.

Examples of functions performed by members of the Foreign Service include:

  • Medical
  • Security
  • Management
  • Consular
  • Public diplomacy
  • Political
  • Economic
  • Science and Technology

In addition to diplomatic postings, members of the Foreign Service can also serve in domestic positions. Members of the Senior Foreign Service, like the military, have ranks: new members are called counselors. Some move up to minister-counselor; typically less than ten percent move up to career minister, and a very small number become career ambassadors.

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