Foreign Service Officer

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In the U.S., a Foreign Service Officer (FSO) is a professional career diplomat working for the U.S. Department of State. Their work is now closely intertwined with that of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and career employees no longer desiring to work overseas will sometimes transfer laterally from the State Department to Homeland Security.

U.S. Foreign Service Officers (FSO) are civil servants with a distinct rank structure. The highest U.S. Foreign Service rank is Career Ambassador, then Career Minister, then numbered grades from FSO-1 to the entry-level FSO-8. Career Ambassador and Career Minister ranks have the status of general officers or "supergrade" civil servants. Among many other duties, foreign service officers staff U.S. embassies overseas, issue visas, and assist U.S. citizens in various other ways. Employees are selected after taking a grueling, day-long special exam and interview.

Career diplomats develop specialty knowledge of languages and cultures in the areas of the world in which they are assigned, and they often assist appointed diplomats and officers behind the scenes.