Dual citizenship (US and CDN) and security clearance
September 15, 2010 7:51 PM   Subscribe

Can a dual citizen (American and Canadian) get a Secret level security clearance in the United States? I'm starting to hear rumors that they'll ask me to give up my Canadian passport to get the security clearance. And - by giving up my Canadian passport are they asking me to renounce my Canadian citizenship to get the security clearance?
posted by raising_arizona to Law & Government (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My understanding is that they will ask you if you'd be willing to, and under certain circumstances would hold you to that, but that it would be rare for you to have to surrender it before starting employment.

(I'm a dual citizen, have had several cleared friends.)
posted by phrontist at 8:11 PM on September 15, 2010

yes, "giving up a passport" generally means renouncing one's citizenship..
posted by modernnomad at 8:14 PM on September 15, 2010

It's absolutely a legitimate question and not something that would raise crazy red flags. My understanding is that dual citizenship per se isn't a blocker, though it's going to make your clearance more difficult - but I am pretty sure you'd have to surrender your Canadian passport for the duration of your clearance. Take a look at this DSS page, which discusses how, if the only thing keeping someone from being cleared is the possession of a non-US passport, they can hand the passport over for the duration.

This is probably connected to the fact that part of having a clearance is informing the government every time you leave the US - note this isn't "asking permission," just informing them that you are in fact going out of the country, letting them know where/when, etc.

In this case, "Giving up your passport" is not at all the same thing as ending your dual citizenship. However, please just talk to your employer - or prospective employer - about this. Regardless of the final answer, it's going to be a very simple thing to find out.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:19 PM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: by giving up my Canadian passport are they asking me to renounce my Canadian citizenship to get the security clearance?

No. Idiomatically, it can mean that, but in this specific instance, they'd be asking you to relinquish your Canadian passport, because holding it counts as "exercising the benefits" of a foreign citizenship, and it might potentially be used for foreign travel unverifiable by the US. They probably want you to show "credible intent to revoke" Canadian citizenship, but they might not grant a clearance even if you do so -- though the most they can ask is for you to destroy the property of that government in front of them.

There are explicit policies on dual citizenship and clearances for each agency: for instance, State spells out the criteria for its case-by-case decision process, and it's primarily concerned with a positive affirmation of allegiance to the US, in which "exercising the benefits" of another citizenship is more of an issue than dual citizenship per se.

The DoD's Industrial Security Clearance Decisions provide a good selection of actual case-by-case decisions showing the disqualifying and mitigating criteria when granting or denying clearances.
posted by holgate at 8:28 PM on September 15, 2010 [5 favorites]

I have a Canadian citizenship card ("certificate") but do not yet have a passport. So far as I know, a passport is not a requirement for citizenship, although it certainly is a legal document to that effect.

Talk to an immigration lawyer before you talk to an employer, as talking to an employer could get you put on some list, somewhere.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:55 PM on September 15, 2010

To be more precise, what matters to the agency granting the clearance isn't "dual citizenship" -- the US basically regards dual citizens as "US citizens who happen to have other passports in their name" -- but instead "foreign preference", as outlined under Guideline C in the Adjudicative Guidelines. Guideline B on "foreign influence" can also apply when assessing family, personal and business contacts in foreign countries.
posted by holgate at 8:55 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

I do security clearance cases as part of a public employment legal practice. Holgate has got it, spot on. Those are the guidelines and the decisions you need to be looking at.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:02 PM on September 15, 2010

The Concern: When an individual acts in such a way as to indicate
a preference for a foreign country over the United States, then he
or she may be prone to provide information or make decisions that
are harmful to the interests of the United States.

Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be
disqualifying include:
a. Exercising dual citizenship,
b. Possessing and/or using a foreign passport,

Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:
a. Dual citizenship is based solely on parents' citizenship
or birth in a foreign country;
b. Indicators of possible foreign preference (e.g., foreign
military service) occurred before obtaining United States
c. Activity is sanctioned by the United States; or
d. Individual has expressed a willingness to renounce dual
SECNAV M-5510.30 Appendix G, June 2006

Other services' guidelines are likely similar.
posted by ctmf at 9:56 PM on September 15, 2010

A final point, with a bit of qualification: one reason for an emphasis on "credible intent to revoke" and willingness to hand over a passport is because having the government explicitly ask someone to renounce a foreign citizenship might be regarded as undue influence or duress, which generally invalidates any oath of renunciation.

Just noticed that the publication of those clearance decisions made it to the blue in July.
posted by holgate at 10:39 PM on September 15, 2010

You also need to consider Canadian law. No matter what the US government does, Canada will continue to regard you as their citizen until THEY decide you aren't.
posted by twblalock at 3:12 AM on September 16, 2010 [1 favorite]

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