Chapter Manual


What Is AFSA? | Historical Overview | Organization and Structure | Governing Board | Professional Staff | AFSA Overseas | AFSA Bylaws


Governing Board
According to the Bylaws of the Association, the authority and responsibility for the governance of the Association rests with the Governing Board. Elected for a two year term, the Board consists of a floating number of members made up of active and retired Foreign Service personnel (based on one per thousand members or fraction thereof). Board members are elected by their individual constituencies.

AFSA's Labor Management staff supports the Governing Board and the Standing Committees in carrying out AFSA's responsibilities as exclusive bargaining agent for Foreign Service personnel in State, AID, FAS, FCS, APHIS and USAGM. This includes negotiations, monitoring agreements and taking necessary legal and other action to enforce compliance and protect employee rights and benefits as well as assisting members with grievances in investigations and EEO matters.

Other AFSA committees include the FSJ Editorial Board, which is responsible for the content of the Journal; the Scholarship Committee, which sets policy guidelines for the Scholarship Programs; the Elections Committee, which organizes and conducts all AFSA elections; and the Awards and Plaques Committee.

Headquarters Staff
You may find the finance and accounting staff, professional programs staff, membership staff, marketing/outreach/communications staff, The Foreign Service Journal staff, as well as the legislative affairs and scholarships directors at AFSA headquarters at 2101 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20037 (phone (202) 338-4045; fax (202) 338-6820; email:

The Labor Management Office is located in the Department of State building, Room 2805 (phone (202) 647-8160; fax (202) 647-0265; email:

The USAID office is located at Ronald Reagan Building, Room 3.09-D, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20523 (phone (202) 712-1941; fax: (202) 216-3710; email:

The Commerce office is located at 14th & Constitution Ave NW #2121, Washington DC 20230 (phone (202) 482-4334; fax (202) 501-2726; email: 


AFSA is an international organization, with chapters in most countries and informal groups in many bureaus and offices. These groups are led by Post Representatives, active duty Foreign Service employees who donate their time to assist fellow employees with management-related problems and professional concerns, and to pass on to AFSA the views of its members in all the Foreign Affairs agencies.

How to Form a Chapter 
Chapters may be formed at Foreign Service posts on the initiative of any interested member(s). However, in order to actively participate in post management negotiations, AFSA Post Representatives must be certified by their employing agency. After members have chosen a new Post Representative, the new Rep must notify AFSA Washington, which will then forward the individual's name to the agency's labor management office for certification.

Regulations Governing AFSA Chapters
Members may organize chapters, in accordance with the AFSA bylaws, to carry out the purposes of the Association. Chapter charters may be reviewed by the AFSA Governing Board and questions regarding chapter organization and procedures should be referred to AFSA Washington. This manual contains one example of a Chapter Charter, but charters may vary from post to post depending on size and participation.

Communication between AFSA and its Chapters
AFSA and its chapters abroad are authorized the use of pouch and cable facilities for the purpose of maintaining communication relating to labor management business. Chapters may also communicate membership information to AFSA Washington via cable, pouch, email, APO/FPO/DPO, fax or telephone.

Typical Chapter Activities
Here are just some of the issues AFSA chapters and representatives have been engaged in:
Housing: orderly and just allocation, and housing board policy.
Security Problems: especially physical security and protection against terrorist attacks. 
Commissary associations and commissary management.
Job descriptions and greater responsibilities for secretaries.

Post Representative Responsibilities
The Post Rep represents both the collective and individual interests of the Foreign Service personnel at post in dealing with post management. You may do that by:
Transmitting to your colleagues AFSA's advisories on developments affecting their career opportunities and conditions of employment.
Forwarding to AFSA proposals, complaints or criticisms originating with the AFSA members at post.
Building AFSA's membership.
Accompanying employees at investigations and formal meetings.

Ideas for Membership Recruitment
Every year, AFSA's Member Services Department targets each major element of our membership for a concentrated membership drive. This usually involves specially tailored mailings, but may require the help of Post Representatives to answer general membership related questions and follow up.

Because Foreign Service personnel change assignments regularly, chapters naturally experience some ebb and flow of membership numbers. We encourage Post Representatives to conduct their own membership drives during the year (particularly after summer transfer season), and we will provide printed support materials and current post membership rosters.

The most important element in recruitment is personal contact. AFSA recruitment is an ongoing process based on five principal arguments:
Membership in AFSA is a necessary element of true professionalism.
AFSA offers important material benefits (daily media digest, individual counseling/labor-management assistance, The Foreign Service Journal, and a variety of merchandise and periodical discounts).
AFSA speaks for the interests of the Foreign Service in legislative and administrative matters in Washington.
AFSA is the authorized channel for representation of employees' interests (i.e. negotiating conditions of employment, grievance guidance, legal counseling).
AFSA provides one on one counseling and representation to members in grievances, discipline and EEO cases and investigations.


Starting a Chapter | Responsibilities of the Post Rep | Selecting a Post Rep | Checklist for Incoming Post Reps | Checklist for Outgoing Post Reps | Communications at Posts | Model Charter | Management Officials and Confidential Employees | Post Rep's Authority to Meet with Post Management


It is AFSA's goal to have a local chapter in every Foreign Service post overseas. The chartering process is simple.

Any AFSA member may convene a meeting. AFSA Washington can supply a post membership list, but since these are often out of date, anyone who can establish that they are AFSA members (for example, by presenting their address label from a recent issue of the Foreign Service Journal) should be allowed to attend and vote.

Adopt a charter. The AFSA Chapter Manual shows a model charter; any changes necessary for your post can be made at the time of adoption.

Elect a Post Representative from the bargaining unit (e.g., excludes management officials). At large or widely dispersed missions, members may select separate Post Reps to represent different agencies. For example, one Post Rep for USAID and one for State, FAS, USAGM, APHIS and FCS.

The Post Rep should notify AFSA Headquarters that the chapter has been formed at give the name(s) of the Post Rep(s).


  1. Act as the AFSA point of initial contact for post members experiencing particular difficulties which may lead to a grievance action.
  2. Distribute throughout the bargaining unit any information of general interest that AFSA headquarters sends to post.
  3. Forward to AFSA any proposals, complaints, or criticisms originating with the bargaining unit members at your post.
  4. Represent the members of the AFSA bargaining unit in dealing with post management on matters of general interest.
  5. Act as the AFSA point of initial contact for employees contacted by Diplomatic Security or the office of the Inspector General and serve as note taker in DS or OIG interviews.
  6. Maintain current membership lists and periodically forward to AFSA headquarters.

Note: AFSA Post Reps are permitted to use a reasonable amount of official time in carrying out their responsibilities as Post Rep.


The Post Representatives are AFSA's leaders overseas. The Post Rep is:
" the distributor of any information AFSA headquarters sends to post; 
" the conduit through which members at post can make their needs and concerns known to AFSA personnel in Washington;
" the liaison between the bargaining unit and post management.

The Foreign Service Act requires that the Post Rep be a member of the bargaining unit -- that is, a Foreign Service employee of State, AID, USAGM, FAS, APHIS or FCS not serving in a management or confidential position.

AFSA Reps may be selected in a variety of ways, depending on circumstances at post:

  1. If there is no current AFSA Rep, any AFSA member or the Management officer may issue a call for elections.
  2. At posts where there are few AFSA members, the outgoing Rep may simply ask another member to take his/her place.
  3. At other posts, the current Rep should call a meeting to elect a replacement. Depending on the situation at post a) Nominations and elections may be held at the same meeting. b) Nominations may be received by letter, phone, or email, the results posted for inspection, and the election held at a meeting. c) Nominations and debate might take place at one meeting, with the election at a later date. If the election is hotly contested, the balloting might be secret, but usually a show of hands is acceptable.
  4. At very large or widely dispersed posts, the members may need more than one Rep. They may select someone from each agency (State, AID, USAGM, FAS, APHIS, FCS) to act just for that agency. In such a case there are, in effect, separate elections for each agency, and members vote only in the election for their agency.

In all cases, an AFSA Rep must be:

  • A Foreign Service employee of the Department of State, Agency for International Development, the Foreign Agricultural Service, the US & Foreign Commercial Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or the U.S. Agency for Global Media.
  • A member in good standing of AFSA
  • In the bargaining unit (not serving as a management official or confidential employee)

AFSA Washington can supply a post membership list, but since there are often out of date, anyone who can establish that they are AFSA members (for example, by presenting their address label from a recent issue of The Foreign Service Journal) should be allowed to attend and vote.

Once a post rep has been selected, submit his/her name to AFSA by sending an email to AFSA will then verify that the new post rep is eligible to serve as a post rep and will forward the person's name to the appropriate labor management office for approval. Once the new post rep has been approved by their agency, the agency will send a confirmation to post's Admin Counselor, confirming that the new post rep has been certified. AFSA will follow up by sending the new post rep an official certificate.


  1. Notify AFSA Washington of your election as AFSA Post Rep. You may do so by sending an email to Please be sure to include your Internet e-mail address. If your predecessor did not give you a copy of those AFSA Chapter Manual, AFSA application brochures, and change of address cards, notify the AFSA membership office so those materials may be sent to you.
  2. Debrief the outgoing Rep with regard to current issues at post and ongoing grievance cases.
  3. When you receive your welcome letter from AFSA Washington, inform post management of the change in Reps. Also announce your new position in the post newsletter or on post bulletin boards.
  4. AFSA will send you a post membership list. Update (with current addresses, when available) and return it to AFSA headquarters.
  5. Visit AFSA's website at to become familiar with the information resources on that site.
  6. Maintain an AFSA file, including roster of members at post, AFSA applications, change of address cards, recent AFSANET messages and back issues of The Foreign Service Journal.


As soon as you know you are going to be ending your tenure as Post Rep, you need to arrange for the selection of the new Rep. The following is a suggested timetable (but see "Selecting a Post Rep" above for alternate scenarios based on special circumstances):

Minus six weeks

  1. Call or email AFSA Washington for a current membership list.
  2. Notify members of the coming change. (You may need to post a public notice as well so that you can reach members who may not be on the list).

Minus four weeks

  1. Schedule a meeting for nominations and discussion.
  2. Review your AFSA files. Include notes on current grievance cases and hot issues at post. Discard any outdated material.
  3. Set files aside so they don't get packed.

Minus two weeks: Hold an election.

One week after the election

  1. Make sure that post notifies AFSA Washington about the new Post Rep.
  2. Brief the new Rep on current issues and cases.


One of the most important duties of the Post Representative is to act as a conduit for communications between members at post and AFSA headquarters in Washington. It is important that people in the field be able to stay current with activities which may affect their conditions of employment, and it is equally important that the AFSA governing board and staff be made aware of the needs and concerns of all Foreign Service employees.

Communications from Washington may arrive via AFSANET messages; in the AFSA News section of The Foreign Service Journal; and through letters, telephone, fax or individual emails. Unless the message specifies otherwise, we encourage the Post Rep to distribute the information as widely as possible among Foreign Service people at post.

Following guidance from L/Ethics, two types of AFSA items should not be forwarded to colleagues at post: CFC solicitations, and any communication that violates the Hatch Act or the Anti-Lobbying Act. Regarding the latter, you may send such items while not on official duty, as you would not be using government time, and your forwarding of such a message is strictly informational and part of your duties as the AFSA post representative.

Following are some of the options which may be available for message distribution, depending on circumstances:
Photocopy and circulate AFSANET messages through the inter-office mail system. Email AFSANET messages to members.

While it is important that members get news of events in Washington which may affect their careers or conditions of employment, it is equally important that AFSA headquarters know about the needs and concerns of people at post. Post Reps can contact headquarters via an email to or at the following:

Labor-Management (for matters involving agency/employee relations)
AFSA, HST 2805
Washington, DC 20520
Phone: (202) 647-8160
Fax: (202) 647-0265

AFSA headquarters (for membership, The Foreign Service Journal, and other information)
AFSA, 2101 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: (202) 338-4045
Fax: (202) 338-6820

E-mail addresses for Vice Presidents:


AFSA ___________________ CHAPTER

Article I - Name
The chapter shall be known as the AFSA/ (post) chapter. AFSA/ (post) shall serve as the representative of the American Foreign Service Association and shall promote and advance the interests of that Association in general, and those of its members and other Foreign Service personnel who reside in (post) .

Article II - Chapter Objectives
The chapter shall:

  1. Serve as a vehicle for communicating to the parent organization, the American Foreign Service Association, the attitudes and recommendations of its members concerning issues pertinent to AFSA objectives, and grievances which affect chapter members.
  2. Identify and address itself to issues and grievances which are especially pertinent to assignment in (post) of AFSA members and of Foreign Service personnel in general.
  3. Identify and address itself to questions relating to the professional aspects of a Foreign Service career at all levels and in all specialties.

Article III - Membership
The chapter shall consist of all active members of the American Foreign Service Association who reside in (post) . Active membership in the Association will be considered the sole requirement of membership in the chapter. The expansion of AFSA membership shall be of primary concern to the chapter.

Meetings of the chapter shall be open to all members of the official American community in (post) regardless of affiliation with AFSA. The chapter shall hold meetings at least once every six months, with five working days advance notice to all members, and at such other times as may be deemed necessary and appropriate by the chapter officers.

A quorum shall consist of _____% of the AFSA members of the chapter present at the post. A majority vote of members voting at any meeting shall be sufficient to reach a decision except as provided in Article VII. The Chairman or presiding officer shall not vote except in case of a tie.

Article IV - Officers
The chapter officers shall be chosen by the chapter members at a general meeting and shall serve for a period of one year. The officers shall be the AFSA Representative, the Members' Interest and Grievance Committee Chairman, and the Secretary. A separate nomination and election may be held for each position. A majority of the votes cast shall be required for election. Vacancies due to transfer or disability may be filled by a majority vote of the Executive Committee.

AFSA Representative - The Representative shall be the chief executive officer of the chapter and shall preside at chapter meetings. He or she shall be an ex-officio member of all committees, shall have general and active management of the business of the chapter, and shall see that all resolutions of the chapter are carried out. He or she shall act as the official representative and spokesman for the chapter.

Members' Interest and Grievance Committee Chairman - The Members' Interest and Grievance Committee Chairman shall be in charge of that committee and assist the AFSA Representative in the latter's duties. In the absence or disability of the AFSA Representative, he or she shall perform the functions and exercise the authority of the AFSA Representative.

Secretary - The Secretary shall assist the AFSA Representative and shall perform such other duties as may be required by the chapter. He or she shall attend and record the minutes of all meetings of the chapter; shall perform such correspondence as may be required by the chapter; and shall maintain an account book of funds received and expended.

Article V - Executive Committee
The officers of the chapter shall comprise the Executive Committee and shall appoint chapter members to those other committees as may be deemed necessary. Each such committee shall have a key person in charge, who will report directly to the Executive Committee. Examples of committees are:
A membership committee to recruit new members, maintain membership lists and collects dues.
A grievance and members' interest committee to assist in local FS grievances and determine members' interests and forward them to proper AFSA personnel.
A recreation committee to develop local recreational activities for Foreign Service personnel.

Article VI - Adoption of Charter
This charter shall take effect when approved by two-thirds of members present at a meeting called for that purpose.

Article VII - Amendments
The charter may be altered, amended, or added to only at a general meeting of the chapter. Notice of such a meeting, containing a full statement of the proposed amendment shall, be given two weeks prior to the meeting. Amendments shall take effect when approved by a two-thirds majority of members present and voting at such a meeting.


Employees currently serving in positions designated as "management officials" or "confidential employees" are excluded from the bargaining units in the Department of State, AID, USAGM, FAS, APHIS and FCS for which AFSA is the exclusive representative. Also excluded from the bargaining units are employees engaged in personnel work in other than a purely clerical capacity. Those employees therefore cannot serve as the designated AFSA Post Representative. However, they are free to belong to AFSA, to vote in AFSA elections, and to participate in AFSA activities, except to the extent that such participation would create conflict of interest with their official duties.

The Foreign Service Act (Section 1002(6)) defines "confidential employees" as employees who act in a confidential capacity with respect to an individual who formulates or effectuates management policies in the field of labor-management relations. "Management official" (Section 1002(12) is defined as an individual who:
" is a chief of mission or principal officer;
" is serving in a position to which appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, or by the President alone;
" occupies a position which in the sole judgment of the Secretary [the AID or FAS or APHIS Administrator, or the Director General of the FCS] is of comparable importance to the offices mentioned in (A) or (B), above;
" is serving as a deputy to any individual described in (A), (B), or (C);
" is assigned to carry out functions of the Inspector General of the Department of State and the Foreign Service [AID, USAGM, FAS, APHIS or FCS] under Section 209;
" is engaged in the administration of [the Foreign Service labor-management relations program] or in the formulation of personnel policies of [AID, USAGM, FAS, APHIS or FCS or] the Department.

Posts should contact AFSA/Washington if questions arise as to whether a specific employee is in the bargaining unit.


The following repeats AFSA Cable 92 STATE 389934 sent on 12/14/92.

This notice is intended to remind Post Representatives and Chapter Officers of their authority to meet with post management and seek resolution at the post level of post specific problems.

Guidance on this issue is contained in 3FAH-1 H-5120 - "Guidelines for Implementation of Chapter 10 of the Foreign Service Act (as amended) at Foreign Service Posts" (attached).

At the outset, it is important to understand that Post Reps do not actually conduct "negotiations" with Post Management but only discuss employees' views pertaining to working conditions at the particular post.

While Post Management is required to consult with AFSA Post Reps on certain issues, management has the discretion to decline to discuss other issues with Post Reps.

As detailed in Airgram A 30 (Section 2) and Airgram A 128 (Section 2), Post Management is required to meet with certified AFSA Post Representatives regarding implementation of a) department personnel regulations and b) agency wide labor management agreements reached between the department and AFSA in Washington. Such discussions are conducted so that the department can demonstrate its compliance with the regulations at issue. Requests for discussion of these issues should be granted as soon as practicable and Post Reps may be granted a reasonable amount of official time in which to conduct the discussions.

If Post Management agrees with the AFSA Rep that a change of post policy or procedure is in order, post will unilaterally publish or circulate a corrective new or revised post policy or procedure. The document should acknowledge that the policy resulted from discussions with AFSA Reps. Copies of such new or revised local policies or procedures must be sent by post management to Susan Moorse of DGHR/PC/LM. In addition, Post Reps should send a copy of the policy to AFSA in Washington.

Corrective new or revised local policies or procedures normally remain in effect until changed by mutual agreement by post management and post AFSA reps. Post reps should contact AFSA if post management implements further changes without agreement by Post Reps.

If, after meeting with AFSA Post Reps, post management does not agree to issue a new or revised policy or procedure, Post Reps and management should submit the issue to the department and AFSA in Washington for resolution.

While post management is required to meet with Post Reps to discuss Department regulations and agency wide labor management agreements reached by the Department and AFSA in Washington, post management has the discretion to meet or refuse to meet with Post Reps to discuss all other post related subject matters. Areas in which post management has discretion to meet with AFSA include matters on which the regulations are silent and matters that are specifically left to the discretion of the Chief of Mission or Principal Officer. While meetings regarding such issues are at post management's option, both the Department and AFSA believe that such communications are useful even if agreement is not reached.

The following local policy issues exemplify the type of issues upon which requests for discussion should normally be granted: local post funded training; permissible employee activities; post parking regulations; duty rosters and work schedules; housing and furnishings, including temporary housing; local handling, and procedures for local clearance, of household effects; procedures for obtaining local medical care; health unit operations; housing board membership and use of post facilities. If post management declines to discuss these issues, or a resolution of concerns does not take place, the matter should be submitted to the Department and AFSA for consideration.

Examples of matters not appropriate for discussion by AFSA Post Reps include: post security policies, policies confined to management officials and confidential employees; municipal, state or national laws and matters under consultation between the Department and AFSA in Washington.
If post management agrees to discuss "discretionary" issues and agrees with the AFSA Post Reps' suggested changes or revisions, the new or revised local polices or procedures are not "permanent" and may later be changed or revoked at any time by post management without the concurrence of the AFSA Post Reps. Post management, however, is required to discuss further changes or revocation with Post Reps prior to publishing the changes or revocation.

In order to carry out the above duties, individual chapters must have an elected representative or officers. Those posts which do not have elected officers at post may wish to consider electing a representative. If copies of material on holding elections are not available at post, please request them from AFSA Director of Member Services. The elected representatives must be declared to post management and results should be sent to both Membership and Labor Management in AFSA Washington.

This section was agreed with the Department of State's Chief Labor Management Negotiator.


Introduction | Common Types of Grievances | The Grievance Process | Grievance Communications


Unfortunately, in a personnel system such as the Foreign Service, agency actions can occur which seem unfair or improper to an employee. In many cases, the problem can be solved informally through discussion with a supervisor. If not, the individual may have grounds for a grievance. This can be a complicated and emotionally draining process, especially when the individual is overseas.

The Foreign Service grievance system is established by law as part of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, 22 U.S.C. 3901 (as amended). The implementing regulations, which were negotiated between the foreign affairs agencies and AFSA, can be found in 3 FAM 4400.

A grievance is broadly defined as follows: any act or condition subject to the control of a foreign affairs agency which allegedly deprives an employee of a right or benefit authorized by law or regulation or is otherwise a source of concern or dissatisfaction. For example, an employee might grieve that an evaluation is flawed or that a benefit was denied in violation of a law or regulation. Any discriminatory practice based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, age, or handicapping condition can also be addressed through the grievance process.

Any Foreign Service employee who is a U.S. citizen may file a grievance. However, individuals who are no longer Foreign Service members through resignation, retirement, or separation may only grieve the denial of a financial benefit. In the case of death of a Foreign Service employee, family members may grieve a financial claim.

Every effort should be made to settle a complaint informally before taking steps to submit a formal grievance. In addition, all potential grievants should review the grievance regulations prior to filing, paying particular attention to the sections on filing deadlines and grievable issues. AFSA grievance attorneys and counselors are available to assist members with their cases throughout the grievance process. Due to resource limitations, however, AFSA is not able to perform legal research or type or file the grievance. We expect employees to take a serious, substantive role in their grievances. For employees who are not members of AFSA, our help may be limited to providing the AFSA grievance guidelines and general advice regarding grievance procedures.

If an individual wishes to retain a private attorney to represent him or her, AFSA can provide the employee with a lawyer referral list. These attorneys are located in the Washington, D.C. area, and have experience in representing Foreign Service employees. AFSA cannot, however, endorse or guarantee their services.


Unfair Performance Evaluations

Probably the most frequent cause of complaints in the grievance system is the unfairness which Foreign Service employees often see in the evaluations periodically written on their performance. A performance appraisal or Employee Evaluation Report (EER) may be grieved on the grounds that it is inaccurate, falsely prejudicial, and/or contains errors of omission that present a false picture of the employee’s performance. Falsity, either in fact or in characterization of the performance, must always be shown. The employee also might want to give an overview of any situation affecting the appraisal (e.g. the employee's relationship with the rater/reviewer or events leading to strains in that relationship).

Performance evaluations are official documents, and a rater's comments are presumed to be correct. The burden is on the grievant to overcome that presumption. Inaccurate statements may be rebutted on the basis of fact and documentation. For example, if the rater states that the employee was not effectively communicating in a foreign language, and the employee can show that he/she has a 3/3 rating in that language, the rater's statement could be discounted. If the rater did not include relevant information, or the EER lacked balance, the grievant could argue that a material error of omission had taken place.

Procedural violations in preparing an evaluation report are also grievable. This would include violations such as: a Work Requirements Statement that was not prepared within the requisite 45-day time period, an evaluation report not prepared within 30 days of a change of rater or assignment, or non-compliance with special provisions for preparing career candidate reports under the Career Candidate Program. Grievants should review applicable FAM chapters and agency regulations to determine whether a procedural violation occurred in the preparation of the evaluation. However, a word of caution is in order here: Although grievable, these technical violations are generally not sufficient to get the report expunged unless the grievant can show how the violation harmed him or her.

Separation for Poor Performance

Employees facing involuntary separation by a Performance Standards Board (PSB) after a finding of failure to meet the standards of his/her class may either appeal to a Special Review Board (SRB) or file a grievance with the agency. An employee may not use both routes.

Based on our experience, we generally advise that employees choose the grievance process. In an SRB appeal, the case is decided before the employee's designated separation date (although in some instances additional time is required to enable an employee to present a complete and documented case). The result is a process that, on the whole, is more expeditious than the grievance system. However, unlike the grievance system, there is no administrative appeal from an SRB decision.

In overturning a selection-out recommendation, an SRB may recommend further remedial action, but there is no guarantee this will happen. For example, if an SRB finds that a falsely prejudicial EER was the basis for selection out, it might overturn the selection-out decision but fail to request removal of the EER from the performance file. Consequently, an employee may later be designated for selection out on the same basis as the earlier determination. The grievance process is better adapted to correcting such problems.

There are some instances where a selection out is more appropriately appealed before an SRB because its scope of review generally extends beyond that of the grievance process. For example, suppose that an employee receives a damaging but accurate evaluation, but he/she establishes that because of personal hardships or a medical condition now under control, this was a one-time occurrence not likely to recur. The SRB may set aside the selection-out on the basis that severe or extraordinary circumstances temporarily affected the employee's performance. The grievance system is less likely to achieve such a result.

AFSA recommends that employees taking their case before an SRB retain the services of a private attorney. An SRB review involves an oral hearing before a four-member panel comprised of Foreign Service employees and an administrative law judge. It also requires a high level of organization and preparation in a relatively short period of time. With a grievance, the review and decision on the merits is normally based solely on written materials submitted by the employee. In other words, the grievance process is primarily carried out on paper, whereas an SRB review involves an oral hearing.

Discriminatory Practices

If an employee wishes to file a complaint alleging discriminatory practices based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, age, or handicapping condition, the matter can be addressed either through the agency’s EEO office or through the Foreign Service grievance process, but not both. Only a careful analysis of the complaint and remedies sought will establish the best forum for the complaint. We advise that employees consult an EEO counselor and AFSA before proceeding in such a case.

The regulations guiding the EEO process are outlined in 3 FAM 1500. (AFSA also has written guidance regarding EEO cases that is available upon request.) The time limits for filing an EEO complaint are very strict. In order to file a complaint through the agency’s EEO office, an employee must contact an EEO counselor within 45 days of the alleged discriminatory action. For further information regarding time deadlines, election of remedies, etc., please contact an EEO counselor or AFSA.

Employees who choose to file an EEO case (other than one alleging sexual orientation discrimination) through the Foreign Service grievance process must file within 180 days of the discriminatory event. If the event occurred while the employed was assigned overseas, the employee must file within 180 days of the expiration of the assignment or within 24 months after the event, whichever is earlier. (Exceptions to these time limits are very narrowly defined by case law.) Employees who wish to grieve sexual orientation discrimination must file the grievance within the general statute of limitation for non-EEO grievances (generally two years but see the discussion below).

Discipline Cases

Although the disciplinary procedures of the foreign affairs agencies (found in 3 FAM 4300) are separate from the grievance process, employees should be aware that a proposed reprimand or suspension without pay may be grieved before being finally implemented. This can have the effect of suspending the disciplinary action until the grievance is adjudicated. (Different rules apply to separation for cause cases. These are discussed below.) The reprimand or suspension without pay must be decreed finally by the agency so that the discipline is ready to be carried out before the grievance system is resorted to. The employee then may file a grievance seeking relief from the impending action and should do so within 30 days after receiving the final agency decision to achieve suspension of the discipline during the grievance proceedings. The grievance is submitted under the usual grievance procedures.

Separation for cause cases are governed by different rules. A 1999 amendment to the Foreign Service Act required the foreign affairs agencies to place Foreign Service employees slated for separation for cause on leave without pay pending final resolution. The agency’s decision to separate is automatically sent to the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB), skipping the usual agency level of the grievance process. The Board rules on the case after conducting a hearing. However, the employee may waive the right to this hearing and ruling, thereby accepting the separation. (The specific terms of the separation may in some cases still be negotiated with the agency.) Another amendment to the Act completely removed the Grievance Board’s jurisdiction in certain separation for cause cases (i.e. where the underlying misconduct involves a criminal conviction for which a sentence of imprisonment of more than one year may be imposed). In these cases, once the agency decides to separate the employee, the employee may only challenge the action in court.

A unique feature of disciplinary grievances and separation for cause cases is that the agency has the burden of proof, unlike other types of grievances where the grievant must carry this burden. The agency must show by a preponderance of the evidence (the greater weight of evidence) that the proposed action is justified.

Financial Claims

Financial claims stand alone as the only type of grievance that can be filed after the grievant leaves the Foreign Service. Both active and former members of the Service may submit financial grievances. However, only certain kinds of monetary claims may be adjudicated through the grievance system. Employees with specific questions should contact AFSA for assistance in determining the appropriate forum for their claim.

The Foreign Service Act permits employees to grieve an “alleged denial of an allowance, premium pay, or other financial benefit to which the member claims entitlement under applicable laws or regulations”. For example, if an employee has been denied a claim due to improper application of the Foreign Service travel regulations, then he/she may file a grievance alleging that the regulations have been improperly applied. However, if the employee believes the regulations were properly applied but seeks an exception for reasons of hardship or general equity, he or she should contact the Committee on Exceptions to Foreign Service Travel Regulations.

The Grievance Board does not have jurisdiction to adjudicate claims under the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees’ Claims Act (“the Claims Act”), 31 U.S.C. 3721. This law authorizes agencies to settle claims by U.S. Government employees for loss or damage to personal property (such as household effects) incident to their government service. Under the statute’s terms, the agency’s decision in this type of case is final and conclusive and the grievance system has no jurisdiction to hear an appeal.


Statute of Limitations

While trying initially to resolve a complaint through informal means, an employee should also consult 3 FAM 4427 at an early stage to make sure that the time limit for submitting a grievance does not go by. There is a two-year statute of limitations for filing non-EEO grievances. A grievance will be forever barred if it is filed more than two years after (a) the event being grieved or (b) the issuance date of a document being grieved. However, there is a special provision for grievances involving performance evaluations. For these types of grievances, the employee may wait to file a grievance until one year after the date on which he or she is no longer supervised by the rating or reviewing officer who wrote the evaluation passages that are being grieved. Thus, the applicable time limit is either two years or this special period, whichever ends later. In no case, however, may the time limit exceed three years from the date the evaluation was issued.

The statute of limitations may be longer in some situations. For example, the grievance regulations make special provisions for documents in an Official Performance Folder (OPF) that are relied upon in certain subsequent agency actions (such as a low-ranking by a selection board). Specific reference should be made to 3 FAM 4427(b) for these exceptions. Also, in calculating the applicable time limit, any period is excluded during which the grievant is deemed to have been "unaware of the grounds of the grievance and could not have discovered such grounds through reasonable diligence”.

The statute of limitations may also be shorter in certain instances. For grievances based on EEO issues (other than sexual orientation discrimination), the two-year rule does not apply. These cases have a much shorter statute of limitations. (See “Discriminatory Practices” above.) A special rule also applies to grievances concerning reprimands and suspensions without pay. (See “Discipline Cases” above.) Employees who are facing separation from the Foreign Service for time-in-class expiration, failure to meet the standards of their class, or other reasons, must file their grievance while they are still employees. Once they become former employees, they may no longer contest their separation from the Foreign Service.

Filing a Grievance with the Agency

If an employee decides that a complaint cannot be resolved informally, the first step is to submit a written grievance to the designated official of his/her agency. Some employees erroneously submit their grievance to the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB), not realizing that the Board only hears appeals that have not been satisfactorily resolved at the agency level. (An exception exists in disciplinary cases involving separation for cause, where the agency action is sent automatically to the FSGB for a hearing, bypassing the agency level. This is discussed above.)

A grievance cannot be filed against individuals. It is always filed against the agency. There is no required format for this submission, but the attached "Suggested Grievance Format" sheet may be of use. If an employee is utilizing AFSA representation, this must be stated in the submission. A copy of the grievance and all subsequent filings must be sent to AFSA.

Each agency has a senior management official responsible for investigating and resolving grievances. In the State Department that official is a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources; in USAID it is the Deputy Assistant Administrator for Human Resources; in FAS it is the Director of Human Resources; in FCS it is the Human Resources Manager; and in USAGM it is the Chief of the Labor and Employee Relations Division. Each of these officials has a grievance staff to assist in this process. In the State Department the staff's office symbol is HR/G; in USAID it is M/HR/LERPM; in FAS it is FSA/HRD/ELRB; in FCS it is OFSHR; and in USAGM it is B/PL. Staffers in these offices are charged with impartially investigating grievances coming before them. Since APHIS just entered the bargaining unit in early 2013, we are working to confirm the correct contact there.

Upon receipt of a grievance, the agency should send an acknowledgement letter giving the date on which the grievance was officially received and assigning a number to it. The agency then conducts an investigation and has 90 days in which it must issue a written decision. If unable to complete its review within the 90 days, the agency should notify the employee of his/her right to appeal the case to the Foreign Service Grievance Board in the absence of an agency decision. This right lasts for 60 days, i.e. until 150 days from the date of the original filing with the agency. After that, the employee ordinarily must wait until the agency issues the written decision before appealing, although the Board may waive this restriction if good cause is shown. In any case, the employee always has the right to wait for the agency decision. Once the decision comes out, at whatever stage in the process, the employee may appeal it and ordinarily has 60 days to do so.

Preparing Your Grievance

A grievance submission to the employee’s agency should be concise and its allegations should be substantiated by any available evidence (e.g. statements by knowledgeable individuals, supporting documentation, etc.). It should include a description of the act or condition giving rise to the grievance, its effect, and any provisions of law, regulation, or policy believed to have been violated or misapplied. Lengthy, redundant, and emotionally charged allegations can be detrimental to a grievant's case and should be avoided.

Except in disciplinary cases (as noted above), the grievant has the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that his/her case is meritorious. However, once a grievant meets this burden by showing that a procedural error or falsely prejudicial evaluation item may have been a substantial factor in the agency action being grieved, the burden shifts to the agency to prove that it would have taken the same action in the absence of the error or false evaluation item. This eases the grievant’s task somewhat, but proving the basic merits of a case is nevertheless a major burden.

In order to support his/her allegations, a grievant may, under the Privacy Act or Freedom of Information Act, request copies of agency records that directly pertain to the grievance. According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), a grievant is entitled to this information. Unfortunately, privacy and freedom of information requests generally take a great deal of time to process, usually prohibitively so. If the grievant makes the agency grievance staff aware of documents that support the grievance, the staff person is often able to obtain the documents quickly. Once a grievance has been denied at the agency level and appealed to the Grievance Board, the employee can request a copy of the grievance folder assembled by the agency grievance staff when the case was being investigated. The grievance folder may be helpful in preparing the cases before the Grievance Board. A grievant may also engage in formal "discovery" (the process by which the grievant requests relevant information from the agency, described further below) once he or she has appealed to the Grievance Board. He or she may also obtain voluntary statements (without going through the formal discovery process) from fellow employees who are knowledgeable about the facts underlying the grievance.

When filing a grievance alleging discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, age, or handicapping conditions, the employee should outline the chronology of events that he or she believes were discriminatory. If the grievant believes his or her rater discriminated against him or her, it is useful to include background information about the grievant’s relationship with the rater. A detailed examination of the events, with a narrative explaining why they were discriminatory, should be included. Voluntary statements from individuals who had knowledge of the situation also would be helpful.

Requesting Relief

The grievant must specify the remedial action he/she wishes the agency to take to resolve the grievance. He/she may request that an evaluation report be expunged in its entirety or only portions thereof, but not that the language in a report be changed or that a new report be written. Since the expunction of an entire report would leave a gap in the employee's performance file, he/she may request an additional period of time-in-class (TIC); or if only a portion is expunged, then he/she may request a “reconstituted” promotion board, which is a special mechanism designed to show whether the removal of the falsely prejudicial material would have resulted in a promotion. Career Candidates may request an extension of their limited appointment. If an evaluation formed the basis of a low-ranking, the grievant should request that all documentation referring to the low-ranking be expunged.

Grievants should avoid the temptation to request items of relief that target individuals for some sort of discipline or rebuke. The grievance system does not view such requests favorably. While not prohibited by the regulations, punitive relief proposals contradict the main theory of the grievance process, i.e. its focus on remedial actions to undo harm done improperly to a grievant. The principle that grievances are aimed at an agency, not an individual, must be kept in mind. The sole issue should be: What can the agency do to remove the disadvantage suffered by the grievant? Efforts going beyond this to "teach a lesson" to a supervisor or other official who may have caused the disadvantage will almost certainly fail.

If a grievance challenges a proposed disciplinary action, any form of involuntary separation, or recovery from the grievant of an alleged overpayment, an employee may request that the agency suspend this action pending the outcome of the case. This is known as prescriptive relief or interim relief. The grievant must request such relief in writing, but once it is requested the agency must grant it in these kinds of cases. The grievant may also request prescriptive relief at the Grievance Board level, but it is within the Board's discretion to grant the relief. In most cases, a request for prescriptive relief at the Board level must be made within 15 days of a negative grievance decision from the agency. Both tenured and untenured employees may request prescriptive relief, but at the Board level far more stringent restrictions apply to untenured employees being separated as well as to senior employees facing the expiration of their TIC. All grievants facing separation should likewise be wary of the tactic of delaying their grievance filing at the agency level until the last few days or weeks before the separation date in order to take advantage of the extended time in the Service that this could bring under prescriptive relief. While this is legal and will lead to prescriptive relief at the agency level, it is viewed with disfavor and could cause the Grievance Board to deny continued prescriptive relief should the case have to be appealed.

Employees who are represented by private attorneys will also want to request reimbursement of attorney fees and expenses. Finally, after the specific relief is requested, the grievant should add a catch-all statement covering any forgotten relief requests, such as: "such other relief as may be deemed just and proper”.


Both the agency and the grievant may propose a settlement at any point prior to receiving a Foreign Service Grievance Board decision. The Grievance Board is also available to assist with the mediation or settlement of a case. A grievance resolved through a settlement agreement is considered fully adjudicated, and a clause in the agreement forecloses the employee from ever again raising the same issues.

Settlements are sometimes proposed when timely resolution of a meritorious grievance is crucial. For example: A career candidate may be scheduled for review before the next Commissioning and Tenure Board. He/she has grieved an evaluation, the agency has found the grievance meritorious and has agreed to expunge the report. However, the wrap-up of the agency's investigation and the drafting of an agency decision are time consuming. A settlement agreement bypasses this procedure and can be drafted, approved, and signed in a day, if necessary. Additionally, with a settlement there is no admission of fault on the part of the agency.

A grievant who is stationed overseas is not required to be present during settlement talks. The settlement terms can be conveyed either by phone, fax, e-mail, or cable. If the grievant so wishes, AFSA can negotiate on his or her behalf, and may sign the agreement with proper authorization. If settlement terms offered by the agency are not acceptable to a grievant, he/she may, of course, reject the proposal. In that case, a final agency decision will be prepared. Both the offering of a settlement and the rejection of one are deemed to have no bearing on the case once the settlement negotiations fail, and neither side may be held to a position taken in the negotiations.

Grievance Board Appeals

If a grievant is not satisfied with the decision at the agency level, he/she may appeal to the Foreign Service Grievance Board (FSGB) within 60 days of receiving that decision. (As discussed previously, there is a shorter period of time, usually 15 days, to appeal if the grievant seeks prescriptive relief.) Only issues grieved at the agency level may be appealed to the Board. A three-person panel comprised of arbitrators and Foreign Service annuitants reviews each appeal. All Board members are appointed by a consensus of the foreign affairs agencies and AFSA. Active Foreign Service employees are assigned to the Board as Special Assistants. They are charged with assembling the “Record of Proceedings” (the memoranda and documents submitted in the case) for the panel members' review. In AFSA’s experience, the Board's decisions are generally more impartial than those made at the agency level, since Board members are not under the direct control of the agencies. The agency's grievance staff, while previously charged with reviewing a grievance impartially, becomes at this stage a party to the appeal charged with defending the agency's position before the Board.

The Grievance Board, unlike the grievance staff at the agency level, will not conduct an investigation into the allegations, but will base its decision upon the materials submitted in the case. It is up to the grievant to ensure that all materials necessary to support his/her case are placed in the record. This is an onerous burden that requires the grievant to come forward with evidence (such as documents and voluntary statements from knowledgeable individuals) in support of the grievance. This task may be aided by a process known as “discovery” under which a grievant gathers evidence from agency employees or the files of the agency itself. A grievant may ask the agency to: (a) produce certain documents; (b) request its employees to respond in writing to the grievant's written questions (“interrogatories”); or (c) request its employees to answer orally the grievant's questions while a word-for-word transcript is taken (“depositions”). A grievant may also use less formal means to gather evidence in support of the case, such as asking individuals to voluntarily submit a statement in support of the grievance. The Grievance Board has guidance on the discovery process that is mailed to the grievant when he/she files an appeal with the Board. It outlines the rules and time constraints involved, which are rather strictly enforced by the Board.

In addition to buttressing his or her case with discovery, a grievant may research prior Grievance Board decisions that are similar to his or her own case. If you wish to use AFSA’s index of decisions, please call us to arrange a convenient time.

The grievant should also review the remedies originally requested at the agency level to determine whether these are still valid or should be amended. If he/she requires suspension of agency actions or continuation of such suspension pending the outcome of the Board appeal, the employee must request this in writing. Granting this request is discretionary with the Board. The Grievance Board has the authority to order or recommend certain remedies if the grievance is found meritorious. The employee should carefully review 3 FAM 4455 b (6), which addresses the Board's remedial authority in detail.

Most Grievance Board appeals are decided in a non-hearing procedure where the Board's decision is based on the parties' written submissions to the Record of Proceedings. The grievant is not present during the panel's deliberations, nor is his/her representative or a representative of the grievant's agency. A written decision is issued to the parties, including findings of facts and a statement of the reasons for the Board's decision.

The Board will conduct an oral hearing under the following circumstances: (a) at the request of the grievant in any case involving disciplinary action or an involuntary retirement from the Service for expiration of TIC or for failure to meet the standards of the class or (b) when, in rare instances, the Board determines that a case can best be resolved through a hearing.

Grievance Board decisions are final administrative decisions subject to judicial review (see below). However, if a grievant discovers new or previously unavailable material evidence, he/she can request that the Board reconsider the case. This procedure should be used only when the evidence presented is clearly new, for the Board takes a dim view of efforts to have a case re-examined solely because the grievant disagrees with the Board’s reasoning.

All grievance appeals should be addressed to the Executive Secretary of the Foreign Service Grievance Board, Suite 3100 S, SA-15, Department of State, Washington, DC 20522-1531. (The street address is 1800 N Kent St, Arlington, VA.) The grievant must enclose all documentation that was provided at the agency level along with the agency's decision. In a cover memo, the grievant should explain why he/she disagrees with the agency's decision and provide any additional arguments that he/she considers relevant. A suggested format is attached. Supplementary evidence and documentation can be submitted at specific times while the Record of Proceedings is open. (See the attached Time Line.) Copies of all submissions to the Board must also be sent to the agency grievance staff and to AFSA.

District Court Review

Judicial review in federal District Court may be requested where a party believes that the Grievance Board erred in its findings of fact or law. Except for EEO cases, however, the purpose of judicial review is not to provide another opportunity to have the merits of a case reviewed from the start. The court’s review will be limited to a determination of whether the Grievance Board made factual findings that are clearly erroneous or incorrectly interpreted law and regulations. With EEO cases (excluding those based on sexual orientation, where the review is likewise limited), the District Court will conduct a de novo (new) review of the merits. Both the grievant and the agency have the right to appeal the Grievance Board’s decision if not satisfied with the decision.

The statute of limitations for taking a final Grievance Board decision to court is generally 180 days. For EEO cases (again excluding those based on sexual orientation, where the general rule applies), the time limit is 90 days. We suggest you consult an attorney if you wish to appeal a final decision, because pleadings must conform to court rules and AFSA representation is unavailable at this level.


Telegraphic Channels

The grievance regulations provide in Section 4425.1-1 for safeguarded telegraphic channels to and from a grievant. Employees may consult with AFSA about grievances via the "ERG" (Exclusive Representative Grievance) channel. (Any other cable communication between a post and AFSA should be via the "AFSA" channel.) While all cables require post or agency approval for transmission, such approval is pro forma for grievances. Authorizing officers may not deny transmission. Furthermore, no copies of an ERG cable may be retained or distributed to anyone but the sender or addressee.

To communicate with the agency grievance staff, employees may, with post authorization, use the "AGS" (Agency Grievance Staff) channel. Employees may correspond with the Foreign Service Grievance Board via the "Grievance" channel.

We urge employees contemplating a grievance to maintain maximum confidentiality. In our experience, confiding in career counselors, colleagues, or supervisors about one's intent to file a grievance can conceivably result in a negative "corridor reputation". If the grievant needs corroborating statements to present his/her side of the story, he/she should be discreet and exercise sound judgment in choosing witnesses.

AFSA Assistance

In addition to the cable channels outlined above, AFSA's Grievance Staff may be contacted at (202) 647-8160 (phone) and (202) 647-0265 (fax) for State, FCS, FAS, APHIS, and USAGM employees. USAID employees should contact AFSA at (202) 712-1941 (phone) or (202) 216-3710 (fax). Material can be sent to our offices at the following addresses:

Regular Mail:
2101 E Street NW
Washington, DC 20037

Department of State, Room 2805
Washington, DC 20520
(For State, FCS, FAS, APHIS, and USAGM)

Ronald Reagan Building
Room 3.09-D, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20523-2900

Please find a list of helpful resources on our Labor Management Guidance page.

Click here for a list of attorneys who have successfully represented Foreign Service employees or who have experience in the specified area.


AFSA Scholarship Program | AFSA Awards Program | AFSA Insurance MatrixAFSA Benefits | The Foreign Service Journal | The AFSA Web Site


The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) Scholarship Fund offers Financial Aid Scholarships based on need, along with two types of Merit scholarships. The Academic Merit scholarship recognizes academic accomplishments and the Art Merit recognize artistic achievements. The above applicants can also apply for the AFSA Community Service Award. Applications are available on November 1, and the submission deadline is February 6 (for the Merit and Community Service Awards) and March 6 (for Financial Aid Scholarships) of each year. For more information, please visit our web site at

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for any AFSA Scholarship Program, students must be claimed as a dependent on the most recent IRS tax form by a U.S. government Foreign Service employee (active, retired with pension, deceased, or separated) who is a member of AFSA.  Foreign Service employees are defined by the Foreign Service Act of 1980 at the Department of State, USAID, USAGM, APHIS, Foreign Commercial Service, or Foreign Agriculture Service.

  1. For an AFSA Financial Aid Scholarship, a student must:
    1. Attend or will be attending full-time (12 hours or more) as an undergraduate at a U.S. or overseas accredited college, university, community college, post-secondary art school, conservatory, etc.
    2. Maintain a satisfactory academic record (2.0 GPA or C average).
    3. Complete his/her undergraduate degree in four years.
    4. Demonstrate financial need.
    5. Have one parent who is an AFSA member in good standing.
  2. For an AFSA Merit Award, students must:
    1. Be high school seniors.
    2. Maintain a satisfactory academic record (2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale or C average).

Scholarship Program Policies

  1. Applicants are required to re-apply each year for AFSA Financial Aid Scholarships while Merit Awards are one-time only awards.
  2. AFSA Financial Aid Scholarships are intended to supplement college aid. Therefore, students MUST apply for federal, state, and institutional grants through their colleges before AFSA can evaluate student need.
  3. AFSA cannot award Financial Aid Scholarships that will reduce university scholarships or grants.
  4. Award winners must correspond with their scholarship donor at least once a year in the form of a “thank-you” letter and sending a picture of themselves.
  5. Students may apply for all AFSA scholarships/awards if eligibility requirements are met.
  6. Applications are now processed entirely online.
  7. AFSA cannot process any application that is incomplete, and it is the applicant’s responsibility to see that all scholarship materials arrive at AFSA by the February 6/March 6 deadlines. Please read materials carefully.

Description of AFSA Financial Aid and Merit Scholarships

Financial Aid Awards
Awards range from $3,000 to $5,000. Approximately 50 awards totaling $200,000 are made each year. Eligible applicants include entering Foreign Service freshman and undergraduate college students. Funding of these awards come from AFSA Annual and Perpetual Scholarships established by individuals and institutions, the Association of American Foreign Service Women (AAFSW), and Diplomatic and Consular Officers, Retired (DACOR) Bacon House Foundation.

Financial Aid Selection Process
Applicants must demonstrate financial need in order to be eligible for AFSA Financial Aid scholarships. The family’s financial need is computed each year by an outside agency, the College Scholarship Service (CSS). Annually applicants register with CSS using its PROFILE service. Once CSS processes the PROFILE information, the output is sent to AFSA. This output is called the Financial Need Analysis Report (FNAR).

The FNAR contains various financial information on the family and applicant. Financial issues that AFSA takes into consideration in figuring the ability to pay for college including family and student income, number of children in college, assets owned, etc. The AFSA applicants are ranked according to need. Students with the greater needs receive higher awards. Financial Aid awards are sent directly to the applicant’s college or university. Awards are disbursed in two installments: September and December to coincide with the fall and spring semesters. AFSA scholarships are awarded to reduce loan and work study burdens. AFSA policy does not allow its awards to reduce school grants or school scholarships.

Merit Awards
These one-time only awards reward academic and art achievements. A token award for Best Essay and Community Service is chosen from among the Academic Merit applicants. Art Merit Applicants can also apply for the Community Service Award. Top awards of $2,500 and $1,000 Honorable Mention Awards are bestowed on Foreign Service high school seniors. Membership in good standing in AFSA is required at the time of application. For membership information call AFSA at (202) 338-4045.

Academic Merit Award Program
Thirteen awards of $2,500 and 3 honorable mention awards of $1,000 are bestowed in May. These awards acknowledge the academic excellence and accomplishments of Foreign Service high school senior at home and abroad. Winners are determined by total scores given in five categories: personal essay, extra-curricular activities, two letters of recommendation, standardized test scores, and transcripts giving grades and the grade point average for seven semesters of high school (grades 9, 10, 11, and the first semester of grade 12). Volunteers from the Foreign Service community judge determine the winners.

Art Merit Award Program
Only one Art Merit Award at $2,500 is bestowed in May. This award honors a Foreign Service high school senior who has extraordinary talents in the field of visual arts, musical arts, dance, performing arts or creative writing. Students either intending to pursue a fine arts education or who have a serious commitment to fine arts are encouraged to apply. The winner is determined by a total score given in the following categories: personal essay, two letters of recommendation, art submission, and transcripts. Volunteers from the Foreign Service community judge the winner.


The AFSA awards are an important professional activity designed to foster excellence in the Foreign Service, to enhance public awareness of the contributions of the Service, and to attract able people to a Foreign Service career. The Awards Program is modest, and designed mainly to recognize areas of achievement not covered by the extensive awards programs of the Department of State and other agencies.

The Chairperson of the AFSA Awards Committee is Lillian Wahl-Tuco. The other committee members are chosen to be representative of AFSA constituencies. Nominations and any questions about the AFSA awards should be addressed to the Committee or to the Awards and Scholarships Manager, AFSA/Washington.

Three awards, established in 1968, and one established in 2000 are for Foreign Service officers who have “exhibited extraordinary accomplishment involving initiative, integrity, intellectual courage and constructive dissent.” Each carries a cash component of $4,000.

  • The Christian A. Herter Award is for members of the Senior Foreign Service.
  • The William R. Rivkin Award is for mid-career officers (FS 1-3).
  • The W. Averell Harriman Award is for entry-level officers (FS 4-6).
  • The Tex Harris Award is for Foreign Service specialists (other than secretaries).

The Nelson B. Delavan Award for Office Management Specialists, which includes $2,500 cash, was established in 1991 for a Foreign Service Secretary who has made an extraordinary contribution to effectiveness, morale and professionalism.

The Avis Bohlen Award, established in 1983, is presented to a member of the family of a Foreign Service employee whose relations with the American and foreign communities at a Foreign Service post have done the most to advance the interests of the United States. This award includes $2,500 cash. Nominations are not accepted from family members of the nominee for the Bohlen award.

The M. Juanita Guess Award honors Community Liaison officers who have gone above and beyond in their service for colleagues at post. Winners receive a $2,500 cash award.

The Mark Palmer Award for the Advancement of Democracy is open to all Foreign Service members from any of the foreign affairs agencies, especially early- to mid-career level, serving domestically or overseas, who promoted American policies focused on advancing democracy, freedom and governance through bold, exemplary, imaginative and effective efforts during one or more assignments. The award offers a $2,500 prize.

The Matilda W. Sinclaire Awards honor Foreign Service officers who have distinguished themselves in the study of hard languages and their associated cultures. Up to ten are granted each year, and they include $1,000 for each winner.

Each fall an appeal for nominations is issued with a deadline for the following year. However, AFSA is glad to receive nominations at any time. The format (other than for the language awards) is as follows:

Part I. Biographic data: Name and identification of nominee (grade, agency, position or relationship to a member of the Foreign Service).

Part II. Nominator information: name, grade, agency and position of the nominator and description of association with the nominee (limit 250 words).

Part III. Justification for nomination (500-700 words). The narrative should discuss the actions and qualities which qualify the nominee for the award, including specific examples of accomplishments that fulfill the criteria.

Nominations for the Sinclaire Language Awards are generally submitted through the Foreign Service Institute but are welcomed from anyone. Details on nomination requirements are circulated each fall and also may be obtained from the School of Language Studies of FSI or from AFSA/Washington.

In addition to the above, the AFSA Governing Board may bestow AFSA Annual Achievement Awards annually to recognize and honor the active and the retired members who have made the most significant contributions to the goals of the association during the past year.

An AFSA awards ceremony is held in October, usually in the eighth floor reception rooms of the Department of State, to honor all AFSA Award recipients. For more information, please visit our web site at


The Foreign Service Journal is a leading magazine on foreign affairs. Published since 1924, the Journal is the only magazine written specifically for members of the U.S. Foreign Service. The Foreign Service Journal covers foreign affairs from an perspective. Articles range from hot topics in global economics and politics to chronicling the development of American foreign policy. Journal keeps readers informed about who’s who and what’s what in foreign affairs in Washington as well as features how-tos on living overseas as a foreign affairs professional. Contributors include Service officers, academics from leading international programs and diplomatic correspondents from major newspapers and magazines.

Subscription to the Journal is included in AFSA membership or available at a regular subscription rate. The Journal has a circulation of 17,500 with 24,000 readers, including active and retired diplomats, congresspersons and other foreign affairs professionals.

The latest issue of The Foreign Service Journal is available online at


Our website has been newly renovated to better service our members. We have added a members-only section including a member directory and the option of changing your address online. We will also be hosting moderated forums, open for real-time discussions relating to the foreign affairs community.

Available to members and non-members alike, AFSA also offers email updates on AFSA activities, legislative reports, press clippings and items of interest for the foreign affairs professional. To sign up, fill out the form at or send an email to Member Services at

The Marketplace section includes classifieds for property management, Extended Stay, Real Estate, Financial & Tax Services, Legal Services & Insurance.

Our website contains the latest information on AFSA, The Foreign Service Journal, and the foreign affairs community. It is being continuously updated and we welcome your suggestions!