Foreign-born, unmarried, and LGBTQ spouses

Partners and spouses of foreign service officers today no longer fit the traditional stereotype of a woman accompanying a male foreign service officer. While there are differences between systems, many MFAs in Europe are now near gender parity in recruiting new foreign service officers, and same-sex partners have become more common in the past several years. A significant percentage of partners and spouses are not originally from the country the foreign service officer represents. Changing social norms in much of Europe and the world mean that many couples today choose not to get married, while same-sex couples in many countries may choose to get married, though their unions are not always recognised when they are posted abroad. This means that although today’s diplomatic spouses are more diverse and representative of modern Europe, they also face additional linguistic and legal barriers to employment, and to receiving a residence permit to accompany a foreign service officer abroad.


  • MFAs should ensure equal rights and support of all partners and spouses, regardless of gender, marital status, family structure, or country of origin. While for some issues, such as access to diplomatic visas or work permits while abroad, the sending MFA will not have full control over policies and decisions, MFAs should nonetheless endeavour to support equal rights for all partners/spouses.
  • MFAs should provide language training for spouses/partners who are not proficient in the national language(s) to support integration and foster employment options.
  • MFAs should endeavour to ensure that foreign-born spouses are not unduly disadvantaged in qualifying to apply for citizenship because of accompanying a foreign service officer abroad. Minimum residency requirements may be difficult or impossible for foreign-born spouses to meet if they are accompanying a foreign service officer abroad.