SUMMARY OF ALLOWANCES AND BENEFITS
FOR U.S.G. CIVILIANS UNDER THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE STANDARDIZED REGULATIONS (DSSR)
NON-DSSR FOREIGN AFFAIRS AGENCY BENEFITS RECERTIFIED FOR ELIGIBILITY BY THE OFFICE OF ALLOWANCES WITHIN THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE CONSUMABLES ALLOWANCE REST AND RECUPERATION TRAVEL
The Department of State Standardized
Regulations (DSSR) govern allowances and benefits available to U.S. Government
civilians assigned to foreign areas. Note that because individual agencies may
draft their own implementing regulations, which can be more restrictive than
the DSSR, you may not be eligible for all of the allowances listed below.
Employees should check both the DSSR and their agency's implementing
regulations for guidance on a specific allowance. Employees of the five Foreign
Affairs Agencies [State, Commerce (Foreign Commercial Service), Agriculture (Foreign
Agricultural Service), Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and U.S. Agency
for International Development (USAID)] should refer to volumes 3 and 14 of the
Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and volume 3 of the Foreign Affairs Handbook (FAH)
for more guidance. Employees of Defense Agencies should refer to Joint
Travel Regulations (JTR), Chapter 5 Part B, at http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/travelreg.cfm and DoD 1400.25-M, Civilian Personnel Manual, Subchapter
The Office of Allowances' responsibilities with respect to the Consumables Allowance and Rest and
Recuperation Travel are described at the end of this document.
The Office of Allowances internet website: https://aoprals.state.gov
The FAM and FAH can be found on the
internet at: https://fam.state.gov/
The Office of Allowances intranet
The FAM and the FAH can be found on
the intranet at:http://a.m.state.sbu/sites/gis/dir/fam/default.aspx
There are five general types of
allowances and benefits:
(1) Foreign Travel Per Diem Allowances: The foreign travel per
diem allowances provide for lodging, meals, and incidental expenses when an
employee is on temporary duty overseas. While the Office of Allowances is
responsible for setting foreign per diem rates, per diem travel policy, both
foreign and domestic, is governed by the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) and
not by the DSSR. Employees should check their individual agency's implementing
regulations also. The FTR can be found on the General Services Administration's
website at http://www.gsa.gov/perdiemrates.
(2) Cost-of-Living Allowances: The cost-of-living allowances are those allowances that are
designed to reimburse employees for certain excess costs that they incur as a
result of their employment overseas. This group includes the Post Allowance (more commonly referred to as the COLA), Foreign Transfer Allowance, Home Service Transfer Allowance, Separate Maintenance Allowance, Education Allowance, and Educational Travel. Cost-of-living allowances are not considered
a part of taxable income.
(3) Recruitment and Retention
Incentives: These allowances are designed to
recruit employees to posts where living conditions may be difficult or
dangerous. Post Hardship Differential, Danger Pay, and Difficult-to-Staff
Incentive Differential (also known as Service-Needs Differential) are all
considered recruitment and retention allowances. They are included in taxable income.
(4) Quarters Allowances: Quarters Allowances, which include the Living Quarters Allowance, Temporary Quarters Subsistence Allowance, and Extraordinary Quarters Allowance, are intended to reimburse employees for substantially all housing
costs, either temporary or permanent, at overseas posts where government
housing is not provided. These allowances are not included in taxable income.
(5) Other Allowances: Other allowances include Official Residence Expense (ORE), Representation Allowance, evacuation-related payments, and Advance of Pay.
Note: Taxation of Allowances under
the DSSR (DSSR 054): The Internal Revenue Service
considers "incentive" allowances (Post Differential, Danger Pay, and
Difficult-to-Staff Incentive Differential) as additional compensation; they are
included in gross income for federal income tax purposes. Other allowances
under the DSSR are considered "reimbursements" for extraordinary expenses
due to a foreign assignment and are not taxed. For tax treatment of Per Diem,
please contact the Office of Travel Management Policy, General Services
Administration (email@example.com) or
contact your agency's Human Resources (HR) office.
Following is a detailed description
of the five general types of allowances and benefits:
1. Foreign Travel Per Diem
The Office of Allowances establishes per diem for foreign areas. Foreign per diem rates are updated monthly
and are effective the first day of each month, and are published in DSSR Section 925. The rates consist of a maximum lodging portion and a maximum meals
and incidental expenses (M&IE) portion. Because taxes are included in the
lodging and meal prices we use to determine the foreign per diem rates, tax
expenses may not be reimbursed separately. The incidental expenses portion of
the per diem rate includes laundry and dry cleaning expenses. Therefore, these
expenses may also not be claimed separately.
The foreign per diem rates are used
for (1) Permanent Change of Station (PCS) travel between the U.S. and a foreign
area; (2) PCS travel from one foreign area to another; (3) temporary duty or
detail (TDY) to a foreign area; and (4) calculating the Temporary Quarters
Subsistence Allowance described below when permanently assigned to a foreign
location. Refer to your agency's travel regulations for instructions on how to
calculate travel reimbursements.
The General Services Administration
establishes per diem rates in the continental United States (CONUS). For
travelers to CONUS locations, laundry, dry cleaning, and taxes on lodging may
be reimbursed in addition to the per diem rate. The Department of Defense
establishes per diem rates for non-foreign locations outside of the continental
United States, such as Alaska, Hawaii, or Guam. Travelers to these non-foreign "OCONUS" locations may claim lodging tax expenses separately, but may not claim
laundry and dry cleaning expenses as those expenses are included in the
incidental expenses portion of the OCONUS per diem rate.
For more information on per diem
policies, contact GSA's Office of Travel Management Policy (firstname.lastname@example.org) or consult your agency's implementing regulations.
Implementing per diem regulations for the Foreign Affairs Agencies may be found
in section 570 of Volume 14 of the Foreign Affairs Manual (14 FAM 570).
Domestic per diem rates may be accessed at http://www.gsa.gov/perdiemrates. Per diem rates for non-foreign locations outside of the
continental United States may be accessed at: http://www.defensetravel.dod.mil/.
2. Cost-of-Living Allowances:
Post Allowance: Commonly referred to as the "cost-of-living" allowance
(COLA), this is an allowance based on a percentage of "spendable income," i.e.
money you can really put your hands on to spend on goods and services. The
amount varies depending on salary level and family size. The post allowance is
calculated by comparing costs for goods and services in 11 categories -
including food (consumed at home or in restaurants), tobacco/alcohol, clothing,
personal care items, furnishings, household goods, medical services,
recreation, public transportation, vehicle-related expenses, and household help - to the cost of those same goods and services in Washington, D.C.
Our office determines a ratio
between the average cost of goods and services at the foreign post to
costs in Washington, D.C. We then evaluate expenditure patterns between
the foreign location and Washington, D.C. to establish an overall cost
index, which may be adjusted biweekly for exchange rate fluctuations. If
the overall cost of goods and services at a foreign post, taking into account
expenditure patterns, is at least 3% above the cost of the same goods and
services in the Washington, D.C. area, we establish a post allowance. See DSSR
section 220 for further information.
Foreign Transfer Allowance (FTA): The purpose of the FTA is to help defray an employee's
extraordinary but necessary and reasonable costs when s/he transfers to a post
in a foreign area. The FTA has four parts:
(1) The Miscellaneous Expense
Portion is to help cover "miscellaneous" expenses incident to a foreign assignment
such as pet transportation; vehicle registration; driver's license; utility
fees or deposits not offset by an eventual refund; and conversion of
appliances. The flat amount for an employee without family is the lesser of
either one-week's salary or $650. For an employee with family it is the lesser
of two weeks' salary or $1,300. A higher rate is available if the employee
provides itemized receipts (see DSSR 242.1b).
(2) The Wardrobe Expense Portion is
granted when an employee transfers across two climate zones to his/her new
foreign post of assignment. Climate zone information for foreign areas can be
found in the column headed "Transfer Zone" in DSSR Section 920.
Non-foreign area climate zones are listed in DSSR 242.2b. Because the
continental U.S. is in zone 2, personnel transferring from the continental U.S.
do not receive the wardrobe expense portion. DoD does not authorize this part of the FTA
for its personnel. For those employees who qualify, the flat amounts (no
itemization; no receipts required) for a two-zone transfer are: $600 for an
employee without family; $1,000 for an employee with one family member; and
$1,300 for an employee with two or more family members. For more information,
see DSSR 242.2.
(3) The Predeparture Subsistence
Expense Portion is granted to assist employees with the costs of temporary
lodging, meals, laundry, and dry cleaning that are incurred when an employee
transfers to a foreign post from a post in the U.S. This allowance may be
granted for up to 10 days before final departure from a post in the U.S.,
beginning not more than 30 days after the employee has vacated permanent
residence quarters. According to the government-wide DSSR the 10 days may be
taken anywhere in the U.S. as long as the employee or family members have not
begun travel on orders and the final departure is from the U.S. post of
assignment. Note: Agency implementing regulations may restrict
the 10 days to within reasonable proximity of the U.S. post of
assignment. An agency may consider reasonable proximity as a fifty
mile radius from the U.S. post of assignment.
There are two methods by which
employees may be reimbursed. The Total Actual Subsistence Method is the primary
method of reimbursement. However, agencies may alternatively offer the Partial
Flat Rate Method of reimbursement. Please check your agency's implementing
regulations for guidance on which method(s) of reimbursement your agency
offers. DSSR 242.3 explains how to calculate the Partial Flat Rate Method and
the Total Actual Subsistence Method. Regardless of the method, the
calculation is always based on the employee's U.S. post of assignment per diem
and not the per diem of where the employee/family members may be staying.
(4) The Lease Penalty Expense
Portion is to offset a residential (not car or cell phone) lease penalty
unavoidably incurred by an employee when transferring to a foreign post. In
order for the employee to qualify for the lease penalty portion, the employee
and agency must meet several requirements. Information on the lease penalty
expense portion is found in DSSR 242.4.
Home Service Transfer Allowance (HSTA): The purpose of the HSTA is to help defray an
employee's extraordinary but necessary and reasonable costs when s/he transfers
from a foreign post to a post in the United States. To qualify for the
allowance, the employee must sign the attestation in DSSR 252.5b, stating that
s/he agrees to complete 12 months of USG service after s/he transfers to the
U.S. The HSTA is also available to family members who relocate to the U.S.
following the death of an employee assigned to a foreign area.
The HSTA is similar to the Foreign
Transfer Allowance described above because it also has four
portions: a miscellaneous expense portion, a wardrobe portion, a
lease penalty portion and a subsistence expense portion. For the subsistence
expense portion, agencies may choose whether to use only the "actual expense
reimbursement method" or offer to employees the optional "fixed amount
reimbursement system." If the optional method is offered by an agency the
employee may choose which method s/he wants to use. Please check your
agency's implementing regulations for guidance on which method(s) of
reimbursement your agency offers. These calculations differ from
reimbursements under the FTA. For actual expense reimbursement: (1) if
the U.S. post of assignment is in the continental U.S. (CONUS) the
standard CONUS per diem rate is used; (2) if the U.S. post of assignment
is outside the continental U.S. (OCONUS) then the per diem of that location
(Alaska, Hawaii, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, Commonwealth of the Northern
Mariana Islands, etc.) is used. For the fixed amount reimbursement,
the per diem of the U.S. post of assignment (whether CONUS or OCONUS) always
applies. DSSR 252.3 explains how to make calculations under the actual
expense reimbursement method and the fixed amount reimbursement system. See
DSSR 250 and DSSR 960 HSTA Worksheet for further information on the HSTA.
Separate Maintenance Allowance (SMA): SMA is designed to help an employee who is
compelled by reasons of dangerous, notably unhealthful or excessively adverse
living conditions at the foreign post of assignment, or for convenience of the
Government, or because of family considerations, to defray the additional
expense of maintaining family members at another location.
There are three types of SMA:
Involuntary, Voluntary and Transitional. Involuntary SMA is paid when
family members are prohibited from residing at the foreign post. Children are eligible
for Involuntary SMA until they reach 21 years of age. Voluntary SMA is
paid when family members may go to a foreign post but opt not to for personal
reasons. Children lose eligibility for voluntary SMA when they turn 18, unless
they are still in secondary school (e.g., high school). The rates for
Involuntary and Voluntary SMA are at DSSR 267.1a.
Transitional SMA may be paid for reasons following the termination
of an evacuation (a) through (c) or in connection with
commencement/termination of an unaccompanied tour of duty (d) and
(a) following termination of an evacuation and conversion of
a post to an unaccompanied status;
(b) following termination of an evacuation and reversion of
post to accompanied status, to allow a child in the final semester of the
current school year to complete that school year;
(c) following termination of an evacuation and reversion of
post to accompanied status but an employee and/or family members cannot
return to post for reason(s) beyond the employee's control;
(d) when family members must depart from an accompanied
foreign post because the employee's next foreign post is unaccompanied;
(e) when family members on ISMA prepare to depart the ISMA
point for the employee's next foreign post or domestic
The rates for Transitional SMA
are at DSSR 267.1b.
Please see DSSR 260 for details on
each type of SMA. Note carefully the limits on some types of SMA, particularly
the 90-day separation requirement, the one-change-of-election provision and
separation/divorce/dissolution and legal-custody-of-child provisions.
Education Allowance: The purpose of the education allowance is to assist an
employee in defraying those costs necessary to obtain educational services
(grades K-12) that would normally be free of charge in the U.S. The allowance
is based on the least expensive "adequate" school at post. A school is deemed
adequate if, upon completion of a grade at the school, a child of normal
ability could enter the next higher grade at a public school in the United
States. When a school is adequate, the rates for attending a school "at post" and attending a school "away from post" will be the same. The "away-from-post" education allowance can be used to pay for tuition, room and board, unaccompanied
air baggage and periodic transportation between the post and the school.
The regulations also provide a "special-needs" education allowance in lieu of the "at-post" or "away-from-post" education allowances listed by country/post in DSSR 920. There
is also education allowance funding for children who are home-schooled. DOD employees come under separate authority
for education benefits. Note: the transportation portion of the "away-from-post" rate should not be confused with the separate benefit of
educational travel described below. See DSSR Section 270 for more information
on the education allowance.
Educational Travel: This allowance permits one round trip annually between a
school attended and the foreign post of assignment. This benefit is primarily
intended to reunite a full-time post-secondary student attending college
(including the post-baccalaureate level), technical or vocational school with
the employee/parent serving the U.S. government in the foreign area. However,
educational travel may be paid for a child in secondary school (grades 9
through 12) instead of the education allowance described above.
Educational travel cannot be paid at
the same time as the education allowance and should not be confused with the
transportation component of the "away-from-post" education allowance.
Educational travel can commence from either the school or the post, but
only one round trip between school and post is allowed annually. Based on
a change in law, the DSSR changed effective July 22, 2007 eliminating
the restriction that the school attended full-time had to be in the United
States. The educational travel benefit ceases once the student
dependent reaches the age of 23, except for in limited cases when the child's
education is delayed by military service (see DSSR 284 for further
3. Recruitment and Retention
Post Hardship Differential: Post hardship differential is meant to compensate employees
for service at places in foreign areas where conditions of environment differ
substantially from conditions of environment in the continental United States
and warrant additional compensation as a recruitment and retention incentive.
It is paid as a percentage of basic compensation (DSSR 040k) in 5, 10, 15, 20,
25, 30 and 35% increments. In addition to being paid to
permanently-assigned personnel, post differential may also be paid to employees
on extended detail either from the U.S. or from foreign posts. See DSSR 500 for
Danger Pay: The danger pay allowance provides additional compensation
for employees serving at designated danger pay posts. It is paid as a
percentage of basic compensation in 15, 25 and 35% increments. In addition to
being paid to permanently-assigned personnel, danger pay may also be paid to
employees on temporary duty or detail to the post.
For those not qualifying for the
danger pay allowance described above, a danger pay allowance may be granted to
civilian employees who accompany U.S. military forces designated by the
Secretary of Defense as eligible for imminent danger pay. The amount of danger
pay will be the same flat rate amount as the imminent danger pay amount paid to
uniformed military personnel, currently $225 per month. While uniformed military
personnel are paid once every 30 days, civilian employees eligible for this
type of danger pay will be paid on a daily basis. The two types of danger pay
may not be paid simultaneously. See DSSR 650 and DSSR 920, footnotes "p" and "v"for further information.
Differential (DTSID)- akaService Needs Differential: This differential is paid to an employee assigned to a post
with a Post Hardship Differential rate of 15% or higher, after an agency has
determined that especially adverse conditions of environment warrant additional
pay as a recruitment and retention incentive to fill the employee's position at
that post. Also known as the Service-Needs Differential, the differential is a
percentage of basic compensation (15%). Check with your agency representative
for more information because each agency develops unique procedures to
implement the differential (or may choose not to implement it). Note that DTSID
and Danger Pay compensation together may not equal more than 35% of an employee's
basic compensation. General guidance can be found in DSSR 1000.
4. Quarters Allowances:
Temporary Quarters Subsistence Allowance (TQSA): The purpose of TQSA is to assist
with temporary lodging, meals, laundry and dry cleaning in a foreign area when
an employee first arrives at a new post and permanent quarters are not yet
available, or when an employee is getting ready to depart the foreign post
permanently and must vacate residential quarters. An employee cannot receive
the post (cost-of-living) allowance when receiving the TQSA. An employee may
receive TQSA and LQA at the same time when departing post only with agency
permission for unusual circumstances described at DSSR 124.1 and DSSR 132.41a.
For further information on TQSA, please refer to DSSR 120.
Living Quarters Allowance (LQA): This allowance is granted to an employee to help defray the
annual cost of suitable, adequate living quarters for the employee and his/her
family at a foreign post where government-leased or -owned housing is not provided.
The LQA rates are designed to substantially cover the average employee's costs
for rent, utilities, required taxes levied by the local government, and other
allowable expenses. Living quarters allowance rates are categorized by "quarters groups" based on the employee's grade level or rank and his/her
family size. Additional amounts of up to 10%, 20%, or 30% above the LQA rates
may be allowed for larger families. For further information on LQA, see DSSR
130. DSSR 136 contains guidance for employees occupying personally-owned
Extraordinary Quarters Allowance (EQA): An employee and eligible family
members at a foreign posting may receive EQA when they are required to
partially or completely vacate their permanent quarters because of renovations/repairs
or unhealthy or dangerous conditions. The employee may continue to receive post
(cost-of-living) allowance and LQA when receiving EQA. For further information,
please see DSSR 138.
Representation: Representation allowances are intended to reimburse
employees, including foreign national employees and adult family members of
employees, for expenses incurred in establishing and maintaining relationships
of value to the United States in foreign countries. Reimbursement may include
costs for entertainment and customary gifts or gratuities. Funds are limited
and specific guidelines are formulated at each foreign post depending on need,
custom, and budget. See DSSR 300 for further information.
Official Residence Expenses (ORE): The purpose of ORE is to reimburse a principal
representative (e.g. an Ambassador) at a foreign post for expenses related to
operating and maintaining a suitable official residence when those expenses
exceed the usual expenses incurred if s/he were serving at the post in any
other official capacity. Generally the principal representative will contribute
three and one-half percent of salary (DSSR 040 L) for "usual" expenses;
allowable expenses above that amount will be reimbursed. See DSSR 400 for
Evacuation Payments: Evacuation payments are made when an employee/family
member(s) is authorized or ordered to evacuate a foreign post. Evacuation
payments consist of (1) a subsistence allowance to help cover the costs of
lodging, meals, laundry, and dry cleaning; (2) local transportation at the
safehaven; and (3) an air freight replacement allowance if air freight is not
shipped from post. Subsistence amounts are based on the safehaven's per diem
rate if the family is occupying commercial quarters, and vary based on family
size. M&IE payments decrease over time. Evacuation payments terminate no
later than 180 days after the evacuation order is issued.
Generally, the United States
(anywhere in the 50 States and the District of Columbia) is designated as the
official safehaven (at times, when necessary, an official foreign
safehaven may also be designated), and evacuees are required to return to the
U.S. (or official foreign safehaven) to receive allowances. An employee may
request designation of an alternate safehaven for special family needs but
approval is not guaranteed. See DSSR sections 600 and 960 (Evacuation Payments
Worksheet) and the Evacuation Manual available at each foreign post for more
information. The Office of Allowances' website also contains Frequently
Asked Questions on Evacuation.
Advance of Pay: Up to three months' salary (minus certain deductions as
designated by the agency) may be advanced when an employee is assigned to a
foreign post. An advance of pay may also be authorized for medical emergencies.
Repayment varies by agency; the State Department maximum is 18 pay periods; the
DOD maximum is 26 pay periods. See DSSR 850 for further information.
DSSR 010 - Authorities for
establishing the allowances/benefits
DSSR 030 - Determining
eligibility for the allowances/benefits under the DSSR
DSSR 040 - General definitions
used for the DSSR (however, if there is a specific definition at a chapter,
that definition will pertain for that chapter)
DSSR 070 - All reporting requirements
for reports used to determine the allowances and instructions for use of the
SF-1190 (Rev. 07/2009) for claiming the allowances. Now incorporates former
DSSR 950 Retail Price Schedule Handbook.
DSSR 100 - Quarters Allowances
(including LQA, TQSA and EQA)
DSSR 200 - All the "cost-of-living" allowances (Post Allowance, Transfer Allowances, SMA, Education Allowance, Educational Travel)
DSSR 300 - Representation
DSSR 400 - Official Residence
DSSR 500 - Post Hardship Differential
DSSR 600 - Evacuation Payments
DSSR 650 - Danger Pay
DSSR 850 - Advances of Pay
DSSR 900 - Instructions for
understanding all columns of DSSR 920
DSSR 960 - Valuable
training/learning resource which contains the worksheets for TQSA, LQA,
EQA, FTA, HSTA, EDA, EPW and the "Omnibus Exhibit" of helpful points on Post
Allowance, SMA, Educational Travel, Post Differential and Danger Pay
DSSR 1000 - Difficult-to-Staff
The Department of State Standardized
Regulations (DSSR) are maintained by the Office of Allowances within the U.S.
Department of State. Changes to the DSSR are proposed through an interagency
and union consultation process.
* * * * * *
The Office of Allowances' responsibilities with respect to posts' eligibility for a Consumables Shipment
and eligibility for Rest and Recuperation Travel are as follow:
Office of Allowances determines eligibility for a Consumables Shipment based on
information contained in the Consumables Survey (DS-0267A) submitted by foreign
posts as well as other criteria. A post
requiring a consumables shipment is one at which conditions make it difficult
to obtain locally the consumables required by employees and their eligible
family members. Consumables are referred
to as expendable personal property because they are used up as opposed to
The three categories of
consumables are: Foodstuff; Personal
Maintenance; and Household Maintenance.
Consumables do not include items to maintain an automobile or other
machinery. Once a post is designated for
a consumables shipment an authorizing officer shall authorize a separate weight
allowance for the shipment of consumables, in addition to the Household Effects
(HHE)/Household Goods (HHG) weight allowance.
Additional information on Consumables is available on our websites under
Rest and Recuperation (R&R) Travel: The R&R Travel benefit provides temporary relief for employees and eligible family members from posts with distinct and significant difficulties. R&R eligibility is determined by the Office of Allowances during review of post's Hardship Differential Questionnaire (DS-267). In most cases, a hardship differential equates to a R&R. See 14 FAM 531.5, 3 FAM 3720 and 3 FAH-1 H-3720 for additional information on this benefit.
This information is current as
of November 18, 2016.