Foreign preference/foreign influence remain in the top five issues causing clearance denial or revocation. For individuals interested in obtaining a security clearance in the future, overseas travel can cause as much anxiety as it does a sense of adventure.

College students are often the more anxious inquisitors at Perhaps they’ve only recently considered a cleared career and they’re suddenly concerned about how recent marijuana use may affect their clearance chances. Or in other cases a government career has always been at the fore, and they consider a variety of issues from a background investigators eyes.

That’s the perspective of a query profered by a current college student. He has the opportunity to study abroad in some interesting locations – including Jordan and Tunisia – but he wonders how spending a significant stint in a less-than-friendly country may look on a future application for a security clearance.

The good news? The government often looks for applicants with on the ground overseas experience. Assuming a stint overseas doesn’t result in foreign entanglements, a study-abroad is nothing but good news for application for government employment. But if you have the foresight to know you intend to study abroad today, work for Uncle Sam tomorrow, there are a few thing to keep in mind.

“With respect to security clearances, you will want to be sure you keep track of your foreign travel for the SF-86,” notes Christopher Burgess, ClearanceJobs contributor and founder of Prevendra, a cybersecurity consultancy.  “Look over the SF-86 for those questions which pertain to foreign travel, foreign contacts and perhaps the most important, foreign contacts with whom you may have a close and continuing relationship. I lived abroad from age 7-17 and while my clearance process was a bit longer than most due to no US continental references, it was seen as a plus not a minus.”


If you plan to study abroad:

  • Keep records of countries visited and dates of stays
  • Keep track of any contacts who you develop a close relationship with. Carefully consider the implications before starting a romantic relationship.
  • Don’t engage in illegal activities.
  • Avoid creating financial obligations or creating business ties in a foreign country.

If you follow these tips, your time overseas will be nothing but a boon, not a negative, when you apply for a security clearance career.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.