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Spousal employment woes are not isolated to Japan. When 43-year-old Andreas Fielder’s wife took a job with the U.S. military in South Korea in 2005, they were sure he would be able to find work.

“We had asked before moving here and were told that there were ample opportunities for spouses,” Fielder stated in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

He wasn’t overly worried about finding an on-base job because, as a German citizen with more than 20 years of accounting work in Europe and the United States, he was sure he could find work in Seoul.

Germany is South Korea’s sixth largest trading partner and Fielder found many German companies where he submitted resumes.

But during interviews he discovered an entirely different dilemma was preventing him from being hired. As the dependent of a civilian government worker, Fielder has an A-3 visa and falls under the U.S.-South Korea Status of Forces Agreement.

German companies wouldn’t hire him unless he had a work visa. But South Korea wouldn’t give him a work visa unless he was already hired.

In October 2006, Fielder became a U.S. citizen and began applying for U.S. government jobs, assuming that his “family member preference” status would help.

He applied for several jobs he believes he’s qualified for, including accountant, budget analyst and budget officer. He also applied for related jobs in human resources, supply and administrative support.

He applied for jobs ranging from GS-3 to GS-14, but he never made the list of “best qualified” applicants — meaning he was never interviewed.

“The local interpretation of ‘family member preference’ is that it only applies to the best qualified candidates that are referred,” Fielder wrote. “Therefore, until I am considered a best qualified candidate I will not be given the preference. Even for a GS-3 support assistant job.”

Fielder said the interpretation of the Defense Department regulations (Department of Defense Instruction 1400.23) goes against the spirit of the regulation.

“Not referring qualified family members is detrimental to retention because a family member that cannot find work will certainly not encourage the sponsor to stay,” Fielder wrote.

He believes it’s beneficial to give qualified family members a chance to work because putting a local person to work means the government won’t have to pay to move a new family here.

Personnel officials in South Korea maintain that they’re following the DOD instruction correctly, according to a U.S. Forces Korea spokesman.


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