Technological advancements have made it possible for a greater number of employees to work seamlessly and more productively from almost anywhere in the world and at almost any time. The passage of the Telework Enhancement Act coupled with the development of new collaboration tools have highlighted the use of telework as a viable work flexibility to expand opportunities for employees to effectively perform their work from almost anywhere. However, Federal employees are prohibited from “teleworking” from an alternative location overseas without official approval from the employee’s agency and the Department of State. An employee in a domestic position who is teleworking for a Federal agency from an overseas location is defined by the Department of State as a Domestic Employee Teleworking Overseas (DETO). DETO policy helps the Government carry out a global mission, support family unification, and recruit and retain valuable talent and expertise in the Federal workforce.
We use the term “telework” here, as this is the term the State Department uses to describe working from an alternative location outside of the United States. DETO arrangements fall under the statutory authority of the Department of State and apply to all Federal Executive branch employees. DETO arrangements are a discretionary workplace flexibility, not an employee entitlement. The Department of State issued a Memorandum to Executive Branch Agencies dated October 14, 2022, entitled “Policy Requirements for Executive Branch Domestic Employees Teleworking from Overseas (DETO)” that updated DETO policy guidance and outlined specific requirements that must be met in order to request approval for a domestic employee to telework in a foreign country, which falls under Chief of Mission (COM) authority. These requirements are in addition to OPM-issued Governmentwide remote work policy, and the requirements of the requesting agency’s remote work policy by which such work requests are evaluated and approved or disapproved on a case-by-case basis. Some DETO arrangements may result in additional costs and additional security implications for agencies.
There are two general categories of DETOs: Sponsored and Independent
A sponsored DETO is a U.S. direct-hire employee teleworking overseas who is on the orders of a spouse (the sponsoring employee) who is a U.S. direct-hire employee or military member assigned abroad. The sponsor may be assigned abroad under COM authority or under the command of a U.S. Geographic Combatant Commander (GCC). If the sponsoring employee is assigned under the command of a GCC, special considerations may apply.
An independent DETO is a U.S. direct-hire employee teleworking overseas who is not included on official orders of a U.S. direct-hire sponsoring employee. The Department of State’s own DETO policy does not permit independent DETOs, but other agencies’ DETO policies may allow both sponsored and independent DETOs. Agencies considering independent DETO arrangements must carefully consider the implications of these arrangements and comply with additional costs and security implications.
Section 6202 of the Fiscal Year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (Public Law 117–81, December 27, 2021) requires all Executive branch agencies to establish an agency DETO policy governing these arrangements. Agencies are not required to permit DETOs but are required to have policies in place. Agencies contemplating permitting DETO arrangements are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with the requirements and process for requesting approval from the Department of State through the DETO approval process, including a completed and signed DETO Agreement. The October 2022 Memorandum to Executive Branch Agencies, referenced above, also includes a DETO Policy Development Template, which agencies may find helpful in developing their own DETO policies – but is not required for agencies to use.
All DETO arrangements require both a signed DETO agreement and Chief of Mission approval. For DETOs of one year or more, agencies must obtain authorization for DETOs through Chief of Mission approval via the NSDD-38 approval process. For DETOs of less than one year, agencies may obtain authorization through the eCountry Clearance process.
Please Note: Per a recent legislative change, Civil Service DETO employees are eligible for location-based comparability pay in accordance with Section 9717 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (Public Law 117-263). Under this authority, Civil Service DETOs will receive location-based comparability pay that is equal to the lesser of the following:
- The locality pay the employee would have received had they not moved overseas as a DETO; or
- The current rate of Overseas Comparability Pay (OCP) paid to eligible Foreign Service employees working overseas, including Foreign Service employees on DETO arrangements. OCP is currently set at two-thirds the rate of DC locality pay.
For additional information regarding DETO policy guidance, please contact DETOPolicy@State.gov