The most recent Adjudicative Guidelines went into effect on June 8, 2017. These govern security clearance determinations throughout the federal government for both employees and contractors.
Significantly, Guideline C now makes clear that dual citizenship in itself is not disqualifying. If the dual citizenship is appropriately disclosed in the clearance application process and is not judged to be contrary to U.S. national interests, the dual citizen may nevertheless be granted a security clearance. This is a big departure from previous practice where applicants who were dual citizens could get past Guideline C only after surrendering their foreign passport and professing a willingness to renounce the foreign citizenship.
Changes to “Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying” (¶ 10 in both the 2005 and 2017 versions) give some indication of how this has reshaped the implementation of Guideline C. A concern raised by “applying for and/or acquiring citizenship in any other country,” (¶ 10(a) (2017)) may be mitigated if it is found that “the foreign citizenship is not in conflict with U.S. national security interests.” (¶ 11(a)). The applicant does not control this determination, of course, but no longer is the exclusion a blanket one for all dual citizens of even the friendliest countries.
A foreign citizenship that is found to be in conflict with U.S. national security interests can nevertheless be mitigated by an expressed willingness to renounce the foreign citizenship. (¶11(c) 2017).
Exercise of “the rights, privileges, or obligations of foreign citizenship,” which, under the 2005 guidelines could be mitigated if this exercise of rights took place before the applicant became a citizen of the U.S., now may also be mitigated if they “do not present a national security concern.” (¶11(e) (2017)).
Dual citizens may retain and even use a foreign passport except when entering or leaving the U.S. Guideline C continues to find concerning “failure to use a U.S. passport when entering or exiting the U.S.” (¶10(c) (2017)).
Concealment, as throughout the security clearance process, remains disqualifying. Failure to report one’s citizenship in another country, and failure to report the possession of a passport or security card from another country, raises concerns. This concern is also not mitigated.
Of course, dual citizenship is not the only circumstance addressed by Guideline C. Under Guideline C, the activities of lobbyists or business people who may or may not be foreign nationals are also addressed. Concerns may be raised if an applicant acts,
to serve the interests of a foreign person, group, organization, or government in any way that conflicts with U.S. national security interests.
(¶10(d)(2) (2017)). This concern sweeps into its breadth those who lobby for a foreign government or business. And while it may encompass inadvertent as well as deliberate service to the interests of a foreign entity, it may also allow such service unless it conflicts with U.S. national security interests.
The 2017 Guideline C is good news for dual citizens. It is now possible for a dual citizen to get a security clearance if she fully discloses her connections to the foreign country and if that country is judged to pose no risk to U.S. national security interests. The first is within the control of any applicant; the second is not.
For more information, please check out Security Clearance Law and Procedure by KCNF partners Elaine Fitch & Mary Kuntz.