Obtaining Security Clearance

Can a Foreign-Born Citizen get a Security Clearance?

A federal appeals court found that an Iranian-born worker can sue for discrimination after being fired from his job after being denied a Homeland Security clearance.

Hossein Zeinali was hired by Raytheon in 2002, contingent upon his receiving a clearance. He was terminated in 2006 when it was learned his clearance request had been denied. The cusp of the lawsuit rides on whether or not the clearance really was a requirement of the position given two other employees were purported to have continued working after a similar denial.

Not knowing the details of the Zeinali case we can’t speculate as to the reason behind the denial of his initial clearance request (or the legitimacy of his lawsuit), but the issue of foreign birth is a significant one and a factor in security clearance procedures.

Being born in another country doesn’t prevent a person from obtaining a security clearance, but having dual-citizenship with another country or refusing to give up a foreign passport possessed as a result of dual-citizenship is an issue.

Foreign influence is a significant concern when the government considers individuals for security clearances. The issue at heart is “divided loyalties.” Read: Uncle Sam doesn’t want to give anyone a clearance if they might have difficulty resisting influence from friends, family or allegiances in another country.

As we’ve stated before, critical elements to mitigating outside entanglements include demonstrating allegiance to the United States through attitudes and habits as well as demonstrating a willingness to give up outside influences, be it relationships in a foreign country or financial ties.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    Hi Lindy,

    The Security Clearance Jobs blog is a great resource!

    I have a question:

    A facility cleared company can hire someone who is not a US Citizen (but is authorized to work in the US) to work for the company as long as he/she is not working on a contract that specifically requires a security clearance, correct?

    For example, we can hire a permanent resident who is not a US Citizen to do our marketing/proposal writing or as an intern as long as he/she is not working on a specific contract that requires he/she be a US Citizen.

    Can you post a link to language on one of the government websites that specifically addresses this issue? I need to provide to my upper management as confirmation.

    Thanks much.

  2. Avatar

    Curious –

    I’m not aware of any regulation prohibiting a non-US citizen (but authorized worker) who is an authorized worker from working for a company that does cleared work. In fact, Executive Order 11935 even outlines how foreign workers may be eligible for federal employment: http://cpol.army.mil/library/permiss/681.html. Provided the person isn’t given access to classified information and is a permanent resident they should be able to do work for a company that happens to have cleared contracts.

    I’d recommend a search at http://www.dol.gov, as well as contacting your Facility Security Officer.

    Best of luck,


  3. Avatar


    I second admin’s post. I have been to numerous cleared facilities where foreign nationals are working. Now, SCIF may be a problem if that’s what you mean. If you mean you have a cage code, so facility is cleared, no problem.

  4. Avatar

    I am waiting on SECRET clearance for the past 5 months from DISCO. DHS requested additoonal information from OPM in Februray 2011. How long do you think it will take for final adjudication?

    The entire process started in December 2010.

  5. Avatar


    What type of info?