foreign service

or diplomatic service

Staff of a state's international-affairs department that represents the state's interests in foreign countries. It fulfills two functions, diplomatic and consular. The standards for foreign-service jobs are similar in most countries. Before the 20th century, wealth, aristocratic standing, and political connections were the chief requirements for high-ranking diplomatic positions. Political appointees still hold the top positions in many foreign missions, but their subordinates generally must demonstrate their education and intellectual ability through a competitive examination. Foreign-service personnel have special legal rights (e.g., they do not have to pay taxes to their host country). Seealso ambassador.

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