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Career in Indian Foreign Service

What is IFS?

The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) is the administrative diplomatic[ civil service under Group A and Group B of the Central Civil Services of the executive branch of the Government of India. It is a Central Civil service as Foreign policy is the subject matter and prerogative of Union Government. The Ambassador, High Commissioner, Consul General, Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations and Foreign Secretary are some of the offices held by the members of this service.[1] The administrative head of the service is the Foreign Secretary, and the Political Head of the service is the External Affairs Minister.

What are the responsibilities of IFS?

  • Protecting India’s national interests in the country where the officer is posted

  • Improving and promoting friendship between India and the country that the officer is posted in Including non-resident Indians or persons of Indian origin

  • Informing about the developments in the foreign country that could affect India's policy

  • The role of an IFS officer is a very promising and a challenging one. To represent India on international forums and platforms and in the countries they are appointed, An IFS officer is thus a very important thread for India who plays vital role in shaping Indian foreign policy and building all diplomatic and economic ties with countries

  • To handle and manage all diplomatic relations between India and of the country they are appointed

  • To create, co-create and maintain economic cooperation between India and other countries

  • To constantly keep updating Indian MEA office, about recent developments

What kind of training is offered under Indian Foreign Service (IFS) ?

A candidate who is selected in the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) through Civil Services examination undergoes a comprehensive training Programme. This initiative offers thorough knowledge about diplomatic qualities and diplomatic skills to the candidate. The probationers enter their training, from the other All India Services, at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussourie. Thereafter they join the Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi, where they focused training in the various disciplines that a career diplomat needs to familiarizehim/ herself with. The class involves lectures, attachments with various sections of the Government as well as becoming accustomed to touring both within the country and abroad. The ultimate purpose of the course is to fill the new candidate with a strong sense of history, knowledge of diplomacy and international relations. Finally, the officer is assigned his/her compulsory foreign language (CFL). After a brief period of desk attachment in the Ministry of External Affairs the officer is posted to an Indian Mission abroad in a country where his CFL is the native language and enrolled in a language course. The officer is expected to develop proficiency in his CFL and pass the requisite examination before he is confirmed in service.

What is the eligibility for Indian Foreign Service (IFS) ?

The eligibility criteria and syllabus for the Indian Foreign Service (IFS) exam are the same as for other civil services. The candidate who succeeds the civil services and as per his rank gets allotment to the Indian Foreign Service, he has to go through specified training in Foreign Service Institute in New Delhi.

Skills needed for an IFS Officer

  • Good communication and inter-personal skills

  • Interest in international relations, expert in global affairs

  • Knowledge of your country’s politics, culture, and economy

  • Analytical skills

  • Diplomatic approach to issues

  • Decision-making ability

  • Leadership quality

  • Physical stamina and poise

  • Ability to adapt to different environments and cultures (e.g. you might be posted to a mission in a country with limited healthcare facilities)

  • Loads of patience

  • The polish and intelligence to be aware and respectful of the host country’s culture

How to become IFS Officer?

Becoming an IFS officer is not an easy task. It is a challenging and demanding job. Only the best candidates are selected to this post.

In order to select these deserving candidates, Government of India has tasked UPSC with the task of conducting Civil Services examination.


In order to become an IFS officer, a candidate must crack the tough Civil Services examination. UPSC is the body that conducts this examination.


Civil Services examination is ranked among the toughest examinations in the world. The exam is conducted once each year. The entire exam spans over a period of one year!

The Civil Services examination consists of three main parts. They are –

Preliminary examination

Mains examination


Each year, Lakhs of candidates appear for Civil Services preliminary examination. Among them, only handful of candidates is selected for the mains examination.

The first stage of CSE is preliminary examination. Preliminary examination consists of objective type papers (general studies and aptitude test). Candidates who clear preliminary examination are called to appear for mains examination.

The second stage of CSE is mains examination. It consists of nine papers. Candidates who manage to clear this examination are called to appear for the Interview. The final stage of CSE is interview.


All candidates must have as a minimum one of the following educational qualifications:

A degree from a Central, State or a Deemed university.

A degree received through correspondence or distance education.

A degree from an open university.

A qualification recognized by the Government of India as being equivalent to one of the above.

The following candidates are also eligible, but must submit proof of their eligibility from a competent authority at their institute/university at the time of the main examination, failing which they will not be allowed to attend the exam:

Candidates who have appeared in an examination, the passing of which would render them educationally qualified enough to satisfy one of the above points.

A degree from Private University.

A degree from foreign university recognized by the Association of Indian Universities.

The IFS Salary based on the Ranks are listed below:

  • In Junior Time Scale the officers will join as “Under Secretary” and the will range from 8000 to 14000/-

  • In Senior Time Scale the officers will join as “Under Secretary” and the salary will be around 10650 to 16000/-

  • In Junior Administrative the officers will join as “Deputy Secretary” and the salary will range from 12,750 to 17000/-

  • Selection Grade officers will join as “Counselor Director” and the salary will be around 15,100 to 18,500/

  • The officer at Senior Administrative level will join as a “Joint Secretary” and the salary will be around 18,400 to 22,500/-

  • Officer at High Commissioner or Ambassador level will work as “Foreign Secretary” and they would not receive any grade pay.

Career related to IFS Officer:

IFS officers on foreign assignments Represent India in various countries and international organizations and protect India's interests, both at home and abroad on a wide variety of issues related to trade and investment, bilateral economic and political cooperation, cultural appreciation and interaction, media relations etc.

Monitor closely and assess the emerging situation in the host country and country of concurrent accreditation and carry out detailed discussion, negotiations and diplomacy to promote India's strategic interests

Report all matters which may influence policy formulation and also the views of the host country

Promote India's commercial and economic interests as well as Indian exports, industrial collaboration, trade events and fairs

Protect national interests and develop and promote friendly relations with the state and its people

Provide consular facilities for non-resident Indians and foreigners staying in the country

Liaison with media to manage relations in multilateral, domestic and international affairs

Represent the country in permanent missions, multilateral organizations like the United Nations

IFS Officers on Home Posting Deal with bilateral political and economic issues specific to a region

Frame and implement policies, which govern India's relations with other countries

Are responsible for managing international diplomatic protocol when foreign dignitaries visit India

Oversee activities of multilateral and regional organizations

Handle legal disputes, protocol issues, interactions with the diaspora, press and publicity, administration etc.

Frequently asked questions:

Is there age limit to become IFS Officer?

The candidate must be between the age of 21-32 years (for the General category candidate) on August 1 of the year of examination. However, age relaxations dies exist for SC, ST, OBC and Physically Handicapped candidates.

For Other Backward Castes (OBC) the upper age limit is 35.

For Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), the limit is 37 years.

The upper age limit is relaxed for certain candidates who are backward with respect to other factors and physically handicapped (PH) people.

What are the pros and cons of IFS?

You represent your country and work to achieve national objectives.

You have to travel the globe and rub shoulders with celebrities and big names in the course of your work and during leisure time.

Enjoy diplomatic immunity

Your foreign posting might at times not allow you to take your family along.

Insular service – there’s not much public dealing at the HQ.

Work can get terribly strenuous

Which are the area Foreign Service Institute candidates are trained?

  • International Relations Theory

  • Military Diplomacy

  • Trade

  • History

  • India’s Foreign Policy

  • International Law

  • Diplomatic Practice

How difficult is it to be IFS officer?

If you want to get into IFS,you have to clear UPSC-CSE the toughest Exam in India which has a Cut-Throat Competition.It is not easy to clear UPSC but it is harder than you think to get into IFS,you have to be in top positions in merit list.But if you have clear idea about it then keep acquiring knowledge and moving in right direction,then it will be easy.

Is there limit in the attempt of UPSC examination?

  • General Category Candidates: 7 attempts

  • Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe (SC/ST) candidates: No restriction

  • Other Backward Class candidates: 9 attempts

What are the perks of being an IFS officer?

An IFS officer normally gets perks depending on their country of posting. These are:

  • Foreign Area Allowance

  • Security Cover for self and family

  • Government-sponsored housing in secure areas.

  • A vehicle for commuting.

What is the difference between IAS and IFS?

IFS are the Indian Foreign Service. An IFS officer is a career diplomat who has to project and protect Indian interests abroad. IAS is the Indian Administrative Service, which takes care of day to day administration inside India. Though there can be overlap in their roles from time to time, for example, when an IAS officer is posted abroad as part of developmental or administrative assistance to friendly countries, the career path is entirely different.

Do IFS officers get diplomatic passports?

IFS officers get maroon colored diplomatic passports when posted abroad. IFS officers typically spend two to three postings abroad and return to the Foreign Ministry for a posting before returning to foreign postings. Whenever an IFS officer travels abroad on personal business, they have to use a normal blue passport.

Are IFS officers powerful?

IFS officers are powerful in their own right, though they do not have the broad administrative powers that an IAS or IPS officer would have inside the country. Notwithstanding this, they shape India’s foreign policy and can wield a lot of influence on other departments related to their work.

Which is the best training center for IFS?

ALS IAS Training, Thiruvananthapuram 3rd Floor, Attukal Shopping Complex , Thiruvananthapuram (Thiruvananthapuram Dist.) – 695023, Kerala

Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMS):

25/8, Old Rajender Nagar Market, Delhi - 110 060 Branch Office Delhi Address: 105-106, Top Floor, Mukherjee Tower, Mukherjee Nagar, Delhi - 110 009 Branch Office Hyderabad Address: H.No-1-10-237, 2nd Floor, Room No.202, R.K'S - Kacham's Blue Sapphire Ashok Nagar, Hyderabad - 500 020 Phone No: +91 9999197625 / 011 - 45629987 / +91 9652351152 Email Id: Website: National IAS Academy Address: Lucky Paradise, 2nd Floor, 8th 'F' Main Road, 22nd Cross, Opp. ICICI bank, 3rd Block, Jayanagar, Bangalore - 560 011 Phone No: +91 9632334466 / +91 9632334488 Email Id: Website:

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