I am an Engineer working in the US and I am currently looking for opportunities. However, a certain percentage (30-40%) of the job postings I am looking at state that I must be a US citizen, due to security clearance requirements (because they do work for the US government or military, I presume).

Currently, I am not a US citizen, but I have a Green Card. I am eligible to apply for citizenship and I will probably apply in the near future. However, I am wondering if there is a minimum length of time I would have to wait after I become a citizen, before I would be eligible for security clearance? Would the fact that I have just recently become a citizen make it less likely for me to be granted clearance, or would the process take longer?

Edit: To provide some more info on my background, I am from the UK and I would be hoping to retain dual citizenship. However, my father and Grandfather are US citizens (although they haven't lived in the US for many years).

  • Would be nice to hear some reasoning from those that have VTCed. Especially since there is a tag specifically for security-clearance.
    – Time4Tea
    Jun 7 '19 at 10:12

A citizen is a citizen is a citizen. There are caveats, though.

There is likely to be a fair chunk of time between when you apply for citizenship and when you receive it. It is a long and bureaucratic process. It can take literal years. The process of getting a clearance can also take a while. It can be 6 months or more. It varies on how overworked the investigators are, on what priority your personal clearance has, on how complicated your background is, on the level of clearance, and on pure luck. On the bright side, the investigation itself takes place while you are employed.

There things that can go along with having recently been a foreign national that can make it less likely and/or more time-consuming. Examples include having a large number of family/friends/loved ones who are foreign nationals and living in foreign countries, having a recent history full of locations and previous employers that are harder for the investigators to follow up on because they're in other countries, having ongoing business interests in other countries, and so forth. None of these are drop-dead issues individually, but the accumulation can get problematic. Which country it is has a strong bearing on how problematic it is. US allies (like the UK) are less of an issue. US enemies (especially those that might seek to use your family as leverage, or those for whom you might have any sort of residual sympathy) are much, much more of one.

Further, trying to retain dual citizenship is likely to make it significantly harder. In general would not suggest trying to acquire a clearance as a dual citizen, though if it's US/UK, on another close US ally, you might be able to make that fly. For those that belong to one of those (non-allied) countries that reasserts citizenship every time they return, the associated hassle is bad enough that I'd suggest they either forgo the clearance or just decide they're never going back.

  • 7
    "Which country it is has a strong bearing on how problematic it is." - Definitely emphasis should be added. If you're from, say the UK, it should be far far less of an issue. If you're Canadian its literally no issue since the two countries share their police records. If you're from Iran you can forget about ever getting a clearance.
    – solarflare
    Jun 6 '19 at 22:54
  • 2
    "I would not suggest trying to acquire a clearance as a dual citizen." This depends on the countries and the clearance. I know someone with a TS/SCI and US/UK/NZ triple citizenship.
    – cpast
    Jun 7 '19 at 1:22
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    In addition to a significant amount of time to become a citizen, the process of getting a clearance as as citizen can take a long time. Assuming your employer is willing to sponsor it, it can take multiple years if you're going to be working as a contractor. Jun 7 '19 at 13:13
  • Thanks for your answer, this very interesting. I wasn't aware that the citizenship process itself was as long as that, so I should probably start that sooner rather than later. I will add some more of my background to the question, but I am from the UK and I am hoping to retain dual citizenship. I guess my biggest concern would be taking a position that requires clearance, but then having it rejected for some reason.
    – Time4Tea
    Jun 7 '19 at 14:29
  • @Time4Tea I've tweaked my answer in response to your changes.
    – Ben Barden
    Jun 7 '19 at 14:40

Once you are a citizen, you are entitled to everything a US citizen would be entitled to including applying to a job with a security clearance. Generally speaking they look into the last 10 years, so if in the last 10 years you only stayed in the USA and never flown out of the country (even to visit family back at home) then your process will be easier than most.

The process of security clearance is well documented. You can review it online as well as look at current cases where people challenge their revocation. I recall reading the two areas people fail are: foreign influence and the number one being financial consideration. Foreign influence usually involves one of the questionable countries out there. If you are from UK, I don't see any issue but if you get a TS clearance, then prepared to be put under the microscope more with the government most likely asking you to come in for a polygraph test. For Secret and below, you're probably okay and they won't interview anyone other than check your financial records and so forth.

While waiting for your citizenship, just be a person in good character. Don't make debt you cannot repay and always pay your bills. If any dispute, fines, or fees, fix it asap. Don't associate yourself with people other than you family outside of the USA or close friends of your home country. Always quit any job on good terms and always have references handy with you.

Edit: Also you cannot hold two citizenships. That's usually a red flag and will get you denied an interim. Most jobs will require that you pass the interim investigation before they hire you, so just remember that. Military and civilian workers generally can be put on a non-security clearance position until their investigation comes back.

  • 1
    “Once you are a citizen, you are entitled to everything a US citizen would be entitled to including applying to a job with a security clearance.” - Except you cannot run to become POTUS. Only natural born citizens can become POTUS.
    – Donald
    Jun 7 '19 at 16:55
  • True, I think there are a couple of other things only natural born citizens can do as well. However in the context of this question, he can do the thing he wants.
    – Dan
    Jun 7 '19 at 16:57
  • It’s one of the few rights a natural born citizen has. I think it’s a pretty important right.
    – Donald
    Jun 7 '19 at 19:58
  • Thanks for your answer. So, it seems that trying to hold on to dual nationality would make it hard to get a security clearance. Good to know.
    – Time4Tea
    Jun 7 '19 at 20:17
  • This is actually a case where going for a higher clearance may help you. If you're applying for a secret, your employer probably expects you to get an interim clearance. If you need SCI, your employer has probably already resigned themselves to waiting for the final adjudication (it's rare to get interim access to SCI material).
    – cpast
    Jun 8 '19 at 3:17

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