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I have two citizenships - one from being born in Russia, and one from being a naturalized U.S. citizen. I'm considering applying for jobs that require a security clearance (for aerospace/defense contracts), and unsure whether I would pass. I am unwilling to give up my Russian passports because I still have family there and want to be able to travel to visit them (not in this political climate but still). But I lived in United States over half of my life at this point (16 years).

I never declared a "dual" citizenship, it's just that I didn't relinquish the Russian citizenship when I naturalized in the U.S. I imagine my chance of passing any security clearance is slim, but I don't understand the process well enough to know.

Edit: The question is whether the intent to keep the foreign citizenship/passports will disqualify a person from getting clearance.

I found the following example in Dept of State's Security Clearance Implications on Dual Citizenship:

A subject is a naturalized U.S. citizen and dual national who is willing to relinquish his foreign passport but is not/not willing to renounce foreign citizenship of birth. The subject explains that the reason for this position Is: (1) so that children can continue to enjoy free foreign education benefits; (2) for possible future employment opportunities; and (3) for foreign inheritance purposes. DS would not be able to clearly determine the individual's preference for the United States, sufficient to grant a security clearance.

Since this specifically mentions the unwillingness to relinquish the passport or the citizenship, I feel like I would fall into this category.

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  • The US does require foreigners of some countries to relinquish their citizenship before they can become naturalized US citizens. There is a well-known list of those countries. From your message, I've just learned that Russia is not on that list. Jun 28, 2022 at 20:07
  • I think if you can reword this slightly so that it reads more like you're asking the general questions of whether dual citizenship and/or foreign passports are disqualifying instead of whether or not you personally can get clearance, you could make those close votes go away. I think your intent was to ask the general question but I can see how a couple of people thought it was a request for legal advice.
    – BSMP
    Jun 28, 2022 at 20:09
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    The example isn't just about reluctance to relinquish citizenship; it mentions the reasons why that person is reluctant to do so, and their reasons are not the same as your reasons. "I want to visit relatives there" is much less of a connection than "I might want to live and work there and have my kids educated there".
    – G_B
    Jun 28, 2022 at 23:33
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    I wouldn’t get your hopes up getting a Aerospace job, which deal with extremely sensitive information at times, and have restrictive job requirements job. Besides there is an extremely long lead time to get a Secret clearance, and that assumes, your case is straight forward. Your case wouldn’t be straight forward, I am not sure you realize, how in-depth of an investigation you would be signing up for. I had an answer written up, but it was tailored to the author’s specific situation, which doesn’t help the community in my eyes.
    – Donald
    Jun 29, 2022 at 1:19
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    Whether you "declare" a dual citizenship or not if you have two citizenships you are a dual citizen, not "dual-like". Jul 3, 2022 at 16:20

5 Answers 5

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The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has a section for Security Executive Agent - Policy. The one specific for your question is Security Executive Agent Directive-4 (SEAD-4) (PDF) National Adjuicative Guidelines:

GUIDELINE C: FOREIGN PREFERENCE

  1. ...By itself, the fact that a U.S. citizen is also a citizen of another country is not disqualifying without an objective showing of such conflict or attempt at concealment. The same is true for a U.S. citizen's exercise of any right or privilege of foreign citizenship and any action to acquire or obtain recognition of a foreign citizenship.

It does go on to say that applying for and/or acquiring citizenship in any other country still could raise a security concern. Also note that

(c) failure to use a U.S. passport when entering or existing the U.S.

is also listed as a condition that could raise a security concern.

You'll want to read through the whole thing. There are also articles you can find on legal web sites and blogs that talk about it plainer language. I'm not familiar enough with them to vouch for credibility but they do seem to all say the same thing.

It's also worth noting what Jon Custor commented:

Further, particular assignments may have stricter requirements.

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Dual citizenship does not automatically preclude a security clearance.

The only way you'll know is to apply.

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    This is particularly true for countries that view you as their citizen based on birth circumstances whether you want them to or not (e.g. Iran). Further, particular assignments may have stricter requirements.
    – Jon Custer
    Jun 28, 2022 at 21:30
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I dont want to be the bearer of bad news, but to be blunt, your chances are close to 0.

Due to the war vs. Ukraine currently, Russia is heavily sanctioned and the aerospace industry often comes into contact with national security secrets. There is a strong state influence on Russian citizens that the risk of granting a clearance would not be worth the risk by the USA.

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Depending on the level of security clearance, the investigation is exhaustive. Depending on the area, all your time abroad will need to be able to be investigated. They talk to high school teachers. While you are not automatically inelegible, I would say that holding a passport for Russia is likely a huge red flag. Even if you obtained a clearance today, it is possible that a future renewal could be challenged and not granted. Given the future possiblity of investing in government work that you could then become unemployable in, I would consider this too high a risk for a career choice.

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I would not discourage you from applying, the worst they can say is no, but I speculate based on my own experience that your chances of being granted the clearance you need is extremely low. I know several cleared U.S. citizens who were given a very hard time by security over fairly benign relationships with foreign nationals from very US friendly countries (e.g. Five Eyes member states of USA, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand) so I'd imagine the chances for someone who is an actual citizen of a nation that is currently in open war with a U.S. ally that the U.S. government is actively supporting are basically zero.

Also something to know: even if you are granted security clearance by the DOD or IC, that does not mean you are eligible to work in any cleared role: your eligibility is ultimately determined by the specific contract customer and they can and do deny eligibility to fully cleared people at their own discretion based on things like ties to enemy nations. In my experienced opinion, even if you are granted a security clearance, your actual options for working on cleared program will be extremely limited.

Just my 2¢

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    The worst is they can say yes today and no at some random time in the future.
    – Tiger Guy
    Jul 1, 2022 at 0:19
  • I didn't know contract customers also determined eligibility to work (it makes sense.) Thanks for sharing your experience.
    – Buddhapus
    Jul 1, 2022 at 19:10

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