Thursday, September 5, 2019

What's Home Leave?

Our home leave just came to an end (you may have seen the blog post about the road trip we took)! Those of you who aren't in the Foreign Service might be asking: what's home leave? Is it just when you use your annual leave or vacation time to go home? Well, not exactly. It's more like a Congressionally-mandated special vacation.

Home leave is different from other types of leave in a few ways. First, it's mandatory, not optional, for those like us who are going from one overseas tour to another. Second, you have to spend the whole thing in the United States. You're not supposed to spend even one night in another country (including Canada or Mexico) during home leave. Third, even the duration range is set: we're required to take a minimum of 20 workdays. All of these regulations serve to give us adequate time to reacquaint ourselves with the United States, which is not only our home but also the nation we serve when we live overseas.

If you're interested in learning more, feel free to indulge yourself in the details of the relevant section of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM): 3 FAM 3430. The FAM reiterates very explicitly what I mentioned above: "The purpose of home leave is to ensure that employees who live abroad for an extended period undergo reorientation and re-exposure in the United States on a regular basis." It makes sense to us, especially when some Foreign Service families may not serve a domestic tour for 10 or more years.

Members of the Foreign Service community seem to have very strong feelings--both positive and negative--on home leave. Many struggle with the financial costs of a month of vacation while managing the advance expenses of an international move and limited options for housing. Others struggle to see family scattered all across the country in only a month. You can read an article from 2003 (as it seems not much has changed) that sums up some of the emotions and accompanying suggestions here. After our first home leave, we can easily see how this unique requirement can be both a blessing and a challenge at the same time. Although we loved the extra time with loved ones and the break that home leave provided from work, we were glad to finally settle down in our apartment and get back into a routine.

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