what exactly is a tandem couple?

Good question. There’s a lot that I don’t know yet, but here are some things I do:

  • Tandem couples are married members of the Foreign Service, whether the Department of State, USAID, Department of Commerce, etc.
  • There’s no guarantee that tandem couples will be placed together, but the government does try its best to make sure they are. The fact that Alex and I will work for the same agency but in different career tracks ups our odds.
  • To stick together, though, we may have fewer posts to choose from.
  • We’ll each get our own salary, benefits, pensions, etc.
  • One benefit we won’t get two of: government-provided houses. Yes, we’ll have to share the same house at post. Ugh.
  • At various points we’ll have to make hard decisions about whose career takes precedence. The word “tandem” is fitting. Like a tandem bicycle, we won’t be riding along side-by-side. One person will be leading in front; the other will be following behind.

It’s also quite possible that we won’t be a tandem couple for quite some time. It is probably too late for me to dream of sliding onto the register and into an A-100 class in time to join Alex as an FSO in Cotonou (and that’s assuming there was even a position available there, which there isn’t). It’s far more likely that I’ll defer my assignment until Alex’s second post. At that point we’ll try to link up.

Of course like many things, the gears of this process turn slowly. The next step is for me to actually get my security clearance. Then we can talk to Alex’s CDO about what our options are. Then, finally, we’ll have more of an idea of what’s going on. Until then, I’ll bask in the warm glow of having actually passed that exam.

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3 Responses to what exactly is a tandem couple?

  1. Hi Alex, Andy and Abbey- I can’t seem to find an email contact on your blog. I was wondering if one of you would mind emailing me at wandertrav@gmail.com. I have a few questions, if you wouldn’t mind. Merci. That’s it for the French from me though.

  2. Jeff says:

    Was wondering whether you know whether a spouse of an FSO gets any bump in the rankings if you pass the FSOT and OA to try to increase the chances that the non-FSO gets a slot in the next A-100? Thanks!

  3. Andy says:

    Jeff – the spouse of an FSO does not get any bump in score on the OA or FSOT.

    The one benefit State extends to spouses is more time to accept an A-100 offer. If an EFM who is on the register is on the travel orders of an FSO posted overseas, that EFM can request a deferral (different from do not call) for up to two years while overseas. This is in addition to the typical 18 months on the register. This gives the EFM an opportunity to wait for better timing before joining – giving the tandem couple a better chance to be posted together.

    Hopefully that makes sense.


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