Tis the season to be jolly, but if you violate travel security requirements during your holiday travel, your security manager will have strong words, and possibly worse, when you return.

PLAN AHEAD – Alert your Security Manager Before Traveling

One of the most important rules for cleared professionals to remember before traveling to a foreign country (except Canada and Mexico) is to alert your security manager and get a travel briefing. Depending on your position and the situation, a post-travel report may also be required.

After years of working in the cleared professional environment, you will hear tales of the misadventures of people who made huge mistakes when traveling, and the unpleasant consequences of those mistakes.

A few years ago, I heard about a someone in the DoD organization I supported who took their government-issued laptop with them on a cruise to Mexico. It seems hard to believe, but people do things like this and the results can mean a loss of a clearance and job.

The U.S. Government takes violations or failure to report foreign travel seriously, and the result can be suspension of access to classified information, either temporarily or permanently, depending on the offense. This could be revocation of a Common Access Card (CAC) which means you are unable to get on the computer network. For all intents and purposes, this is the loss of ability to work.

There is no requirement to report domestic travel within the United States, including the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. But, when traveling to U.S. territories, it’s a good rule of thumb that if you take your passport with you, notify your security manager, as you may decide to go to a nearby country while you are there.

A helpful resource for foreign travelers is the State Department website that lists current travel advisories. Local conditions in certain countries can change quickly. Knowing the threat before you travel can save you time, money, and potential local situations. A regular contributor to ClearanceJobs and 30-year CIA veteran also maintains a website dedicated to providing travel safety information.

The State Department has the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), a free service for U.S. citizens and nationals traveling and living overseas to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

The most recent update to foreign travel requirements, Security Executive Agent Directive 3, “Reporting Requirements for Personnel with Access to Classified Information or Who Hold a Sensitive Position,” took effect June 12, 2017.

Some things to remember when traveling overseas:

  • Report all unofficial foreign travel and foreign contacts (this includes friends and relatives).
  • Foreign travel must be reported before the trip, excluding Mexico or Canada, which can be reported within five days of return.
  • Report continuing associations with foreign nationals who you are associated with, including online contact.
  • Report anyone, regardless of nationality, that approaches you to obtain illegal or unauthorized access to classified, proprietary, and technical information.
  • If you come into contact with any foreign military or state, national, or local police force while overseas, report the encounter to your security manager.

Enjoy your holiday travel, but remember that a security clearance is a privilege that allows professionals to work in positions that require trust and compliance. Travel requirements and reporting rules are set up for a reason. It’s the responsibility of each person with a clearance to act accordingly and in compliance of those rules.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.