I've been really tickled by the amount of emailed questions I've gotten from folks who are in the process of being hired by State. I'm always happy to try to help, since I still remember how difficult it was a few years ago when James was in the hiring process as a Special Agent with the Diplomatic Security Service (or "DS").
(NOTE: The Diplomatic Security Service has a hiring announcement open right now, but only until August 27th! Since this opens only once or twice a year, max, I just wanted to put that out there! Best of luck to all of you applicants! It's a great job - well worth braving the gauntlet that is the BEX.)
When James was being hired by State, we knew basically NOTHING about moving/assignments/anything. Which is why I have a soft spot in my heart for folks who are being hired and have questions.
I figure - for every person who emails me questions, there have to be multiple others who would like to know the same information but are too shy to ask. So here you go, a glimpse from the Daring Adventure (E)mail Bag...
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A: When my husband was hired by State, he had a goatee. Now, he's not a Generalist/ FSO, he's a Specialist with the folks who like to capture bad guys (like I said, above). When James got hired and went to FLETC, during his multiple months there he was required to be completely clean-shaven. (A picture from that time is what I use on my Facebook page, the badge of which is on this blog's right sidebar). However, when he was finished with FLETC and even to this day, he has had facial hair that has ranged from a goatee again to a full blown beard (which is what he has today).
Since he's not an FSO, I can't speak with authority to the facial hair than an FSO is or is not allowed to have, however, I would imagine that if State didn't allow facial hair on their FSOs, they wouldn't allow it for their Specialists, either. I hope someone corrects me in my comments box if I'm wrong!
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Q: You have said that you guys have had your closing costs from the sale of your home(s) reimbursed by State during your move(s). Where is the written directive that covers this and how can the closing costs from the sale of my home be covered, too?
A: Yes, when James was initially hired by State, we lived in Florida and owned a home. BECAUSE (AND ONLY BECAUSE) JAMES WAS ALREADY A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE WHEN HE WAS HIRED BY STATE (I guess working for soul-sucking evil demons can come in handy sometimes), the closing costs from the sale of our pre-hire home were reimbursed by State. Had James NOT already been a federal employee when State hired him, he would NOT have gotten this benefit.
Also, know that in order for closing costs from the sale of a home to be reimbursed, you MUST be making a DOMESTIC MOVE (or: from one domestic post to another) that is OVER FIFTY MILES AWAY from where you already are/from one post to another. (This ends up excluding DC are to DC area post moves.) Thus, when we were hired out of Florida and moved to Houston, Texas initially, all of these requirements (current federal employee... domestic move over fifty miles away from the new assignment) were met. Thus, we were reimbursed for our closing costs. (Also, just wanted to re-iterate that the reimbursement of closing costs doesn't count everything on the HUD sheet at closing. For example, we were not reimbursed for the pro-rated property taxes.)
We just closed on our house in Texas a few days ago, and we will be reimbursed those closing costs, also, because we are PCSing (or Permanently Changing Station) from Texas to Washington DC for training that is longer than a year long (to prepare us for James' next post: Chengdu, China). It's a domestic move more than fifty miles away - we thus will get our closing costs reimbursed. (Furthermore, you must ALWAYS have these benefits reflected on your orders, and you must sign a continuing service agreement with State.)
As far as the written documentation (FAMs or FTRs) for these...
- You can find the list of what is and is not reimbursed from the closing of a home at FTR (Federal Travel Regulations) 302-6;
- 14 FAM 630 covers Domestic Moves, and 14 FAM 632.2 covers the Residence Transaction Allowance.
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Q: I'm a new hire and I own a motorcycle. Do you think that State will move my motorcycle? (UPDATE: This question is regarding a domestic-to-domestic move, and NOT a move overseas. In regards to a move overseas, please see this post's comments section!)
A: Wow, what an interesting question! Our family doesn't own a motorcycle, so we haven't had to ask about that. But this question was so interesting to me that I asked our Moving Coordinator Dude about it.
Our moving coordinator hadn't had anyone ask him about it, either, so he chewed on the question for a bit, and ended up surmising that the fluids could probably be drained from the motorcycle and then it could probably be crated and moved just like the family bicycles that James and I just had moved. It would count against your HHE weight total (HHE is short, I think, for Household Effects), so bear in mind that we all, I believe, have a domestic move limit of 18,000 pounds of HHE allowance. But that's a nice, large number. Even our family of four didn't come close to our limit.
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Q: I saw on your last post that you guys came in under your weight for your UAB. How is that calculated, and how does the use of your UAB allotment work?
A: This was the first move in which James and I used the UAB that we were allotted. It just wasn't feasible to use it during our other moves, for various reasons, so we were both sort of biting our nails early this week during packout over how the UAB worked.
While everyone in a domestic move situation (from what I understand) is allotted 18,000 pounds of HHE (or Household Effects... or "YOUR CRAP"), you are also allowed to get some of your crap somewhere faster than your HHE would otherwise ship it. Your UAB allowance (Unaccompanied Air Baggage or "fast crap shipment") is actually calculated based upon the number of people in your family. Basically, the employee is allotted 250 pounds of UAB, and each family member gets some weight added on. Our family was allotted 700 pounds of UAB total.
James and I sort of squirreled away piles of we-would-like-to-have-this-sooner-rather-than-later crap in a corner of our home for immediate packout as UAB. The UAB movers were actually from a different moving carrier than our HHE movers, and they arrived before the HHE movers did. James and I had been conservative with our potential UAB crap pile, and when our initial UAB crap pile was wrapped/boxed, we had only set aside about 350 pounds, or half of our total allotment.
It was actually really interesting - the UAB mover guys wrapped our UAB crap, put it in boxes, and then had what almost looked like the scale people have in their bathrooms (but it was actually a commercial scale... just really small!) that they slid under the box to weigh the box. That is how we knew, right then and there during packout, what our UAB weights were.
Once we found out that we had a lot more UAB allowance to play with, James and I started dashing around the house, grabbing more crap to go into the UAB. By the time we were done, we were STILL under our allotment by 30 pounds. WooHoo!