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Frequently Asked Questions
Who can join AFSA?
AFSA is the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit, which encompasses all Foreign Service employees of State, USAID, FCS, FAS, APHIS and BBG, as defined by the 1980 Foreign Service Act. The Foreign Service is unique in that employees move in and out of the bargaining unit based on the position in which they are serving. AFSA membership is available to all Foreign Service members regardless of whether or not it is a part of the bargaining unit. The following positions are outside of the bargaining unit: employees currently serving in positions designated as "management officials" or "confidential employees are excluded from the bargaining unit, as are employees engaged in personnel work (in other than a purely clerical capacity) and those assigned to carry out functions of the Office of the Inspector General. In practical terms, this means that those excluded are Foreign Service members serving as chief of mission, deputy chief of mission, management counselors or management officers, human resources officers, Regional Security Officers and Office Management Specialists who work in the front office or for a management counselor. However, there may be exceptions to these guidelines, so members should contact AFSA headquarters if questions arise as to whether a specific employee is in the bargaining unit. Please bear in mind that non-bargaining unit employees can still be regular AFSA members.
Do I have to be a tenured member to join AFSA?
No, AFSA welcomes all incoming Foreign Service personnel as regular, voting members of the association.
Who is a bargaining unit member?
AFSA is the exclusive representative of the bargaining unit, which encompasses all Foreign Service employees of State, USAID, FCS, FAS, APHIS and BBG, as defined by the 1980 Foreign Service Act, with the following exceptions. Employees currently serving in positions designated as "management officials" or "confidential employees are excluded from the bargaining unit, as are employees engaged in personnel work (in other than a purely clerical capacity) and those assigned to carry out functions of the Office of the Inspector General. In practical terms, this means that those excluded are Foreign Service members serving as chief of mission, deputy chief of mission, management counselors or management officers, human resources officers, Regional Security Officers and Office Management Specialists who work in the front office or for a management counselor. However, there may be exceptions to these guidelines, so members should contact AFSA headquarters if questions arise as to whether a specific employee is in the bargaining unit. In addition, please bear in mind that non-bargaining unit employees can still be regular AFSA members.
Can AFSA still provide guidance if I’m not in the bargaining unit?
Yes, AFSA frequently provides guidance to senior executive officers, members in the Office of the Inspector General’s office, confidential employees and employees engaged in personnel work.
How do I pay my membership dues?
- Annually: You will receive an annual invoice which can be paid via check or credit card.
- Payroll deductions: Active-duty Foreign Service members can pay via direct payroll deductions.
- Annuity deductions: Retired Foreign Service members can pay via monthly annuity deductions.
How do payroll deductions work?
AFSA members who are active-duty Foreign Service employees are eligible to pay membership dues via payroll deductions; biweekly deductions which are directly withdrawn from your paycheck. To sign up for payroll deductions, click here.
How do annuity deductions work?
Once a month, your AFSA membership fee will be directly deducted from your annuity. Click here for the form.
What are the dues rates for active-duty and retired Foreign Service members?
The annual and deduction dues rates can be found by clicking here.
Why pay via payroll or annuity deductions instead of an annual check or credit card payment?
Members signed up for payroll or annuity deductions are far less likely to have their membership lapse. Your deductions will continue through your career and no additional action is necessary to keep your membership current. Ninety percent of AFSA active-duty members pay via payroll deductions.
What do I do if the online membership enrollment form did not go through?
If you signed up for membership online and are not sure it worked, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I log in to the web site?
Click here to log in. AFSA members do not need to create a new account or register, only log in on the right side of the webpage. All members have existing accounts and can log in immediately. To log in for the first time, use your primary email address (.gov for active duty and personal email for retirees) as your username. Use your last name in all lowercase letters as your password. You will be directed to update your password after you log in.
Are AFSA membership dues tax-deductible?
AFSA membership dues are tax-deductible as a business expense for active-duty employees, subject to the usual 2-percent threshold of Adjusted Gross Income for itemized deductions.
Do you really need my SSN?
In order to process your payroll or annuity deductions, we do need your Social Security number. If you are not comfortable providing it via mail or email, you can always call us at (202) 338-4045, ext. 525. We carefully guard our members' confidential information and use encrypted email when working with the agency payroll and annuity offices.
Why did my membership lapse?
Members who do not renew within 30 days of their expiration date are considered a lapsed member. The most common reason for a lapsed membership is that we never received an address update and have been sending your membership invoice to an outdated address.
As a new member, when should I begin receiving benefits?
At the end of the month in which you sign up, you will receive a new member card, which contains your membership number and a welcome letter. You will then begin to regularly receive The Foreign Service Journal on a regular basis beginning the first week of the month. And your ability to seek guidance from our Labor Management staff begins immediately!
I joined AFSA along with my incoming class more than a month ago, but payroll deductions have not taken effect. Why not?
Signing up with your incoming class gives you two months of free membership. We do not send in your request for payroll deduction until the two months have passed, giving you two free months on us.
I'm part of a tandem couple; do both of us need to pay membership dues?
Yes. In order to ensure that we can provide you with top legal guidance, personal assistance with travel vouchers, medical clearances and disciplinary actions, we rely on the full support of all members. Additionally, AFSA advocates for all its members collectively on assignments, promotions, travel regulations and other conditions of employment. Membership dues are collected to ensure that we can provide the services you expect, in the event that you need us.
Can I purchase a lifetime membership?
The lifetime membership option was suspended in 2011 and is not currently available.
How do I find out my membership number?
Your membership number (and initial join date) is indicated on your membership card which is mailed to you upon joining AFSA. In the absence of your membership card, the number can be found on the mailing label of The Foreign Service Journal, above your name. Alternatively, please send us an email at email@example.com.
Why do I need my membership number?
In order to take advantage of some membership benefits, you may be asked to provide your member number. For example, our Zipcar, Ford's Theater, Brooks Brothers, Vonage and magazine discount programs all require proof of membership.
How do I update my mailing address?
Simply fill out our online Address Change request form.
Why does AFSA prefer to use the diplomatic pouch for overseas mailing?
As the union for Foreign Service employees at each of the foreign affairs agencies, AFSA has negotiated collective bargaining agreements. These agreements give AFSA the right to use the diplomatic pouch free of charge for delivering union-related material. Using the diplomatic pouch keeps our costs down and thus your dues.
Why does AFSA prefer residential addresses as opposed to internal agency addresses for those working domestically?
The Department of Labor requires that we use the last known home address when mailing ballots and election-related material to members during our biennial AFSA Governing Board elections.
How do I cancel my AFSA membership?
We hate to see you go, but we make it easy. To cancel your membership, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will handle the rest. In order to improve our service, please let us know why you have decided to cancel.
I haven’t received The Foreign Service Journal for months. Where is it?
If you notice that the Journal is not being delivered, then that usually means we do not know where you are. Please update your address every time you move, no matter how brief the move may be.
Can I discontinue delivery of the FSJ if I prefer to read it online?
Yes. To cancel your print subscription, please send an email to email@example.com. Please note that upon being promoted within the Foreign Service, our records automatically restart your subscription. If you notice that this is the case, just follow up with us and we will cancel it immediately.