The 2017 revisions to the National Adjudicative Guidelines for Security Clearances (SEAD-4) loosen the rules surrounding possession and use of a foreign passport. That’s great news for the countless dual citizens working in cleared careers.

Nonetheless, the Standard Form (SF) 86 continues to require details about any dual citizenship a security clearance applicant may possess; and, in some circumstances, dual citizenship itself can still present problems irrespective of any accompanying passport.

How to Determine if YOu Have Dual Citizenship

Before determining whether a particular scenario does present problems – and before assessing what, if anything, can be done to proactively mitigate it – one must determine whether or not s/he actually holds dual citizenship. This is not necessarily a straightforward question. Indeed, it is a frequent line of inquiry posed by our typically well-educated clients.

In any such assessment, a good place to start is by reviewing official documentation in one’s possession. With rare exception, holding a country’s passport is conclusive evidence of citizenship. Similarly, certain countries issue other documentation that evidences citizenship, such as voting registration papers.

But keep in mind that documentation can sometimes be counter-intuitive. For example, India issues “Overseas Citizen of India” (OCI) cards to former Indian citizens who have assumed foreign citizenship but wish to retain visa-free travel rights back to their country of origin – typically to visit family. Despite the name of the card, an OCI card does not confer Indian citizenship, as India apparently does not recognize dual-citizenship.

Another option that is frequently overlooked is talking to relatives – especially parents – about the situation. Everyone’s family dynamics are different, but I’ve seen cases where an applicant’s parents or other relatives were able to produce evidence of an applicant’s dual citizenship that the applicant never knew existed.

Finally, consult the foreign country’s equivalent of the U.S. State Department. These days, nearly every country posts detailed information online about their citizenship laws – and if you don’t speak the language, Google offers a handy website translator tool. As a measure of last resort, consider contacting the consular section of the foreign country’s U.S. embassy and asking those questions. Use discretion and common sense, however, in turning over any personal information – especially if the country is one known to pose a heightened espionage or other national security risk to the United States. When in doubt, consult your security officials before contacting any foreign embassy or consulate.

Ultimately, establishing whether or not one holds dual citizenship is a matter of law, while determining whether that dual citizenship poses a security risk is a fact-intensive inquiry.

U.S.-licensed attorneys are not qualified to opine on foreign law, so applicants are largely responsible for doing their own research on this issue and reaching their own informed conclusion about whether dual citizenship is or is not established. Once such a conclusion has been made, however, a qualified attorney can assist – often significantly – with mitigating risk. Applicants should consider the identity of the foreign country and that nation’s relationship with the United States. Holding dual citizenship with a hostile foreign country may counsel in favor of proactive steps to minimize exposure or ties.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Sean M. Bigley retired from the practice of law in 2023, after a decade representing clients in the security clearance process. He was previously an investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management) and served from 2020-2024 as a presidentially-appointed member of the National Security Education Board. For security clearance assistance, readers may wish to consider Attorney John Berry, who is available to advise and represent clients in all phases of the security clearance process, including pre-application counseling, denials, revocations, and appeals. Mr. Berry can be found at