People from across the world reside in the U.S. while they apply for citizenship or perform a specialized job. These non-U.S. citizens may work with technical information or on government projects with specific approval, they are not authorized to hold U.S. security clearances. There are some limited instances where permanent residents may be granted access to classified information. This process is called a Limited Access Authorization (LAA) and is only granted in certain cases. This would be based on a specific need, and after a favorable background check.
This limited access or authorization is not the same as granting a security clearance. While non-U.S. citizens cannot obtain clearances, individuals from other countries who become U.S. citizens have the same opportunity and eligibility. Citizenship status is a qualification for access to classified information, but source of status is not – that means an individual who comes to the country and becomes a citizen has the same eligibility. That said, foreign influence remains a top reason for security clearance denial, so individuals looking to pursue national security careers and with countries of origin who may not be particularly friendly with the United States may face significant hurdles and lengthy delays in the security clearance process.
Contrary to long-held belief, being a dual citizen is not automatic grounds for security clearance denial. In recent years the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released new policies to clarify how foreign passports should be handled (you may keep one, but you shouldn’t travel with it). Don’t let dual citizenship, or even foreign contacts and relatives keep you from pursuing a national security career. Just be completely forthcoming about your relationship to your home country, and be prepared to wait.