Security Clearances for US-Italian Dual Citizens

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All Advantages, No Disadvantages?

Most discussions on dual citizenship focus on the advantages of having it and the process to obtain it (e.g., see the discussion here Dual Citizenship Through Ancestry for Italian dual citizenship, or this site Dual Citizenship FAQ for U.S. laws regarding dual citizenship). The disadvantages are usually listed as

  1. needing to know about tax laws in two countries,
  2. the potential obligation for military service in the country of your newly acquired citizenship,
  3. and not having recourse via the U.S. embassy if you get into trouble while in Italy.

The following is one other disadvantage that some aspirants need to be aware of.

Do You Need a Clearance?

This drawback, not discussed very often (perhaps because it affects a very small number of people), is how dual citizenship impacts a U.S. security clearance.

An individual needs to have a security clearance when working at a job that involves access to classified data, either as a civilian employee of the military or as a defense contractor working on military projects. Also, most government jobs require some level of security clearance. This is especially true for diplomats and Foreign Service officers, but can also include employees of other Federal organizations, (the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasure, as well as Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Federal Reserve System, General Accounting Office, General Services Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Small Business Administration, United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, United States International Trade Commission, United Trade Representative, and United States Information Agency2 , footnote 24).

Note that you do not actually have to handle classified data for your employer to require that you have a security clearance. Many companies require everyone at certain locations to have security clearances. You could be doing something totally generic like graphic design, and have no need to ever use or see classified data, but because classified data would be used by someone at that location, you would also be required to have a clearance.

Your Clearance or Your Job

Although the U.S. does not forbid dual citizenship, and court cases over the last quarter-century have established its legality, being or becoming a dual citizen can affect your ability to acquire or maintain a security clearance.

Some recent cases highlight the difficulties for those having or wanting dual citizenship while working on military projects for defense contractors: U.S./Italian Dual Cit. 1, U.S./Italian Dual Cit. 2, U.S./Italian Dual Cit. 3. (Also, note that the Foreign Service does not provide diplomatic privileges and immunities for dual nationals: U.S. Dept. of State, AFSA).

Of particular concern, it may not even be necessary to actually acquire dual citizenship. If the government can simply show intent, that may be enough to refuse or discontinue an individual's security clearance.

So, someone hoping to land a government or defense job some day might not want to pursue this path until they had decided otherwise, or had finished their tour of government employment.

This issue does not that the other country is hostile to the U.S. A security clearance can be denied even if the second citizenship is with a country "friendly" to the U.S.: the government protects classified information from anyone not authorized to receive it, regardless of whether that person, organization, or nation has interests opposed to those of the United States.

Excerpted Summaries

Two documents are summarized below. The first is the Adjudicative Desk Reference1 the official U.S. Government policy that guides decisions on an individual's eligibility for access to classified information.

The second is a report, Few World Security that discusses the impact of the Money Memo on employees with dual citizenship that have or need a security clearance.

The Adjudicative Desk Reference

Two important factors that are considered when applying for a security clearance: foreign preference and foreign influence. Below are excerpts from the Adjudicative Desk Reference about these two issues. (ADR Guidelines B & C)

Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information

Guideline B
Foreign Influence

The Concern. A security risk may exist when an individual's immediate family, including cohabitants, and other persons to whom he or she may be bound by affection, influence, or obligation are not citizens of the United States or may be subject to duress. These situations could create the potential for foreign influence that could result in the compromise of classified information. Contacts with citizens of other countries or financial interests in other countries are also relevant to security determinations if they make an individual potentially vulnerable to coercion, exploitation, or pressure.

Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include:

  1. An immediate family member, or a person to whom the individual has close ties of affection or obligation, is a citizen of, or resident or present in, a foreign country;
  2. Sharing living quarters with a person or persons, regardless of their citizenship status, if the potential for adverse foreign influence or duress exists;
  3. Relatives, cohabitants, or associates who are connected with any foreign government;
  4. Failing to report, where required, associations with foreign nationals;
  5. Unauthorized association with a suspected or known collaborator or employee of a foreign intelligence service;
  6. Conduct which may make the individual vulnerable to coercion, exploitation, or pressure by a foreign government;
  7. Indications that representatives or nationals from a foreign country are acting to increase the vulnerability of the individual to possible future exploitation, coercion or pressure;
  8. A substantial financial interest in a country, or in any foreign owned or operated business that could make the individual vulnerable to foreign influence.

Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:

  1. A determination that the immediate family member(s) (spouse, father, mother, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters), cohabitant, or associate(s) in question are not agents of a foreign power or in a position to be exploited by a foreign power in a way that could force the individual to choose between loyalty to the person(s) involved and the United States;
  2. Contacts with foreign citizens are the result of official U.S. Government business;
  3. Contact and correspondence with foreign citizens are casual and infrequent;
  4. The individual has promptly complied with existing agency requirements regarding the reporting of contacts, requests, or threats from persons or organizations from a foreign country;
  5. Foreign financial interests are minimal and not sufficient to affect the individual's security responsibilities.

Guideline C
Foreign Preference

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:

  1. The exercise of dual citizenship;
  2. Possession and/or use of a foreign passport;
  3. Military service or a willingness to bear arms for a foreign country;
  4. Accepting educational, medical, or other benefits, such as retirement and social welfare, from a foreign country;
  5. Residence in a foreign country to meet citizenship requirements;
  6. Using foreign citizenship to protect financial or business interests in another country;
  7. Seeking or holding political office in the foreign country;
  8. Voting in foreign elections; and
  9. Performing or attempting to perform duties, or otherwise acting, so as to serve the interests of another government in preference to the interests of the United States.

Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:

  1. Dual citizenship is based solely on parents' citizenship or birth in a foreign country;
  2. Indicators of possible foreign preference (e.g., foreign military service) occurred before obtaining United States citizenship;
  3. Activity is sanctioned by the United States;
  4. Individual has expressed a willingness to renounce dual citizenship.

The Supplemental Information section of the ADR contains more elaboration and some examples: ADR Foreign Preference, ADR Foreign Influence.

The ADR also has links to the citizenship laws of other countries. First, click on How to Read a Country Entry in the left column. Then click on Italy in the left column: ADR Citizenship Laws of Foreign Countries.

The Money Memo

Following security breaches in the 1990s, the Department of Defense issued a policy that severely limits the ability of dual citizens to hold or obtain security clearances. This article explores the Foreign Preference guideline before and after the Money Memo.

Prior to the Money Memo, the mere use or possession of a foreign passport was not considered to be dispositive, and DOHA decisions recognized the predicament of many dual citizens traveling abroad.

The following case, discussed on page 10 of the article, applies to the laws of Italy. It appears, however, that Italy does not enforce these laws at this time.

The applicant's parents were born in FC [Foreign Country] and became United States citizens in 1974. The applicant was born in the United States and entered FC in 1993 on his United States passport. On exiting FC, the applicant was warned by customs officials that because of his parents' citizenship, he was also a citizen of FC. Therefore, the applicant could only enter and exit FC with an FC passport.

Following the Money Memo, the application of Foreign Preference Mitigating Factors (described in the ADR) was severely restricted.

The Money Memo, an alleged "clarification" of the Foreign Preference guideline, prevents an administrative judge from considering the specified mitigating factors for possession of a foreign passport while a United States citizen.

By August 2000, the Money Memo established ?[that] dual citizens would effectively be barred from holding or maintaining security clearances.

Conclusions

In order to obtain a security clearance, most guidelines seem to state that you need to return your foreign passport to your foreign embassy. However, since it is usually a simple matter to reapply for another passport, it is not clear how meaningful this action would be. Nor is it clear that it would be sufficient to actually convince a court that you were not a security risk.

Other sources have stated that a formal renunciation of foreign citizenship would also be necessary. But note that Italy makes it more difficult to reacquire Italian citizenship than to obtain it the first time. So, you may want to use this path only as a last resort.

If you do want (or have) a job that requires (or might require) a security clearance, be sure to coordinate the period during which you will be working with the processing of your dual citizenship. Even though a security clearance may not need to be renewed for up to 10 years, you are required by law to notify the government when your status changes.

If your situation is more complex, be sure to consult a lawyer. Usually when you contact legal resources about dual citizenship issues, they put your case in the hands of an immigration lawyer. Unfortunately, immigration lawyers work almost exclusively with those wanting to acquire U.S. citizenship, and they know almost nothing about dual citizenship. Their work with foreign embassies is primarily the acquisition of information and foreign documents from them, not providing information and U.S. documents to them. Stipulate that you want to work with someone familiar with dual citizenship issues.

References

1. Adjudicative Desk Reference (ADR), Defense Personnel Security Research Center, version 2.2 (July 2001), Approved by the President March 24, 1997, Adjudicative Desk Reference

2. New World Security? Security Clearance for Dual Citizens Employed by Defense Contractors, Federal Contracts Report, Vol. 77, No. 18, pp. 540-548 (May 7, 2002), Bureau of National Affairs, Inc., Dual Citizenship and Security Clearance

 

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