Consular Cone

The first step to becoming a Foreign Service Officer is choosing a cone, or career track. While every officer is a generalist and free to bid on any job in the world, doing jobs within your cone is vital to be promoted within the Foreign Service. The five cones are consular, management, public diplomacy, economic, andpolitical. The first step toward getting a job as a Foreign Service Officer is choosing one of these cones. Here we’re looking at the consular cone.

Consular officers have the greatest stories the world. Consuls have two main responsibilities: visas and American citizen services. I’ve worked in both and love each of them. Every new officer spends one of his first tours doing consular work, and he generally does visa interviews. Visa adjudication teaches two important skills: how to quickly make a decision and how to read people. These skills are necessary in any cone. I found the work fascinating (although I didn’t serve anywhere overwhelming). You’ll meet lots of interesting people and, every now and then, speak to groups about visa procedures, sniff out some fraud, or deny a known terrorist. That being said, many officers complain that it can be repetitive or robotic.

American Citizen Services (ACS) is good work too. Anywhere overseas an American Citizen (AmCit) is arrested, robbed, or goes crazy, you’ll be there to help her get back up. You’ll get calls in the middle of the night from the local police asking you to come help them with an AmCit. You’ll get phone calls from prisoners with contraband cell phones asking a favor. You’ll spend two hours trying to talk an unbalanced AmCit out of doing something life-ruining.

It’s a job with great highs and some pretty big lows. You’ll reunite families and send hundreds of kids to Disney. On the other hand, I found it difficult to sleep one night after issuing immigrant visas to an entire family except one son, who was ineligible because he was HIV positive. In my opinion, the highs usually outnumber these lows.

Entry Level. Entry level officers will spend most of their days doing visa adjudication, possibly with rotations to ACS, Fraud Prevention, or other subsections. It’s hard work but it’s an honest living. It’s also one of the only 9-5 jobs in the embassy. If you later decide the Foreign Service isn’t right for you, new officers doing consular work are titled “Vice-Consul”, which looks phenomenal on a resume. This one does vary greatly from post to post; I have great respect the officers who interview for 40 hours a week in places like Mexico, Nigeria, and India.

After Tenure. Tenured officers are generally managers. As you progress in rank you’ll move from managing small groups (the consular section at a tiny post, the ACS section of a midsized post, or say, one of several teams of non-immigrant visas at a large post) to managing larger groups. There are also quite a few Washington jobs setting policy for consular issues, or helping to manage crises.

The Exam. The job-related knowledge portion of the written test does not focus solely on immigration law. I didn’t choose this cone because I didn’t know anything about immigration and have at times regretted it. One big perk is that consular tends to have a shorter post-oral exam wait list than some of the other cones.

<– Back to the FSOT Guide

From The Hegemonist


  1. [...] are the frontlines of American foreign policy. Each officer has a “cone,” or career track: consular, management, public diplomacy, economic or political. It should be noted that although all [...]

  2. Naphtalia says:

    I have questions re the FSOT study pak. What information and questions do you generally go over with the flashcards? For example, are they questions geared towards geography or are they questions more geared towards policy?


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