The ClearanceJobs Blog is a place where you can read, discuss, and receive answers to your questions on the government security clearance process, forms, how to obtain a clearance job, and background investigation issues.
Q&A on Impacts to Getting a Security Clearance
When it comes to your security clearance, there are a few ways other parties can screw your chances. Through an interesting exchange, one subscriber initially asked:
“I am a male born and raised U.S. citizen, but my parents are pressuring me to get married. My parents are naturalized U.S. Citizens. The potential woman would be a non-U.S. citizen. This is all hypothetical and my parents can’t do anything unless I greenlight them to search. So, there is no actual woman waiting in the wings. Would I lose my clearance? How would the process work? The country the potential woman is from is highly populated known for spices and borders another populated country known for everything cheap made there.”
Arranged marriages are a type of marital union where the bride and groom are selected by individuals other than the couple themselves, particularly by family members such as the parents. The tradition is most commonly found in eastern-based cultures, including Indian, Japanese, and Chinese cultures.
THE EXPERT OPINION(S)
Sean M. Bigley, Security Clearance Attorney and former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), has seen arranged marriages with clearance holders on more than one occasion. These cases have allowed him to learn a lot about different cultures, lifestyles, and world views more than he ever thought possible, keeping the sometimes-mundane industry of field investigations interesting.
“There is no rule or policy that precludes a clearance-holder from having an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages — as long as they are not entered into under duress, fraud, or for fraudulent purposes — are perfectly legal and, in fact, remain common in some cultures,” he says.
Foreign Influence Potential Increases Scrutiny
However, these types of unions often invite additional scrutiny from security officials because of related concerns like foreign influence potential. Close contact with any foreign national is relevant for security clearance purposes if it creates a heightened risk of foreign influence, under Guideline AG 7(a). However, your spouse’s foreign citizenship will not disqualify you, as a matter of law, disqualification to your clearance. However, your romantic relationship with a foreign-born person is not, as a matter of law, disqualifying under Guideline B. Clearance adjudicators will look at a variety of factors when making their determination.
Arranged Marriage Does Not Equal Marriage of Convenience
Bigley also mentions that “It’s worth noting that ‘arranged marriage’, as that term is understood in a historical/cultural sense, differs dramatically from marriage of convenience (commonly referred to as mail-order brides). The latter can raise significant questions about visa or naturalization fraud, not to mention issues like sex trafficking that could very well tank an applicant’s security clearance prospects.” Marriages of convenience are not difficult for an investigator to spot. They usually involve considerable age differences, different cultures and languages, online meetings followed by very short or non-existent courtships, and a significant imbalance of financial resources and opportunity between the spouse’s pre-marriage.
“I recall many years ago as an investigator interviewing one subject who kept his wife’s identification in his own wallet; that was a red flag that something was amiss and the wife may have been staying in the marriage not entirely of her own free will. On the other hand, the occasional arranged marriage I’ve seen over the years has been exemplified by relatively equal socio-economic status between the partners prior to marriage, shared culture and language, and mutual respect,” Bigley says.
When to Report Foreign National Relationship
Another investigator on the ClearanceJobs Blog says that if you are already in a relationship with a foreign national, the information should have already been reported to the subscriber’s Facility Security Officer (FSO), but if not, and the subscriber is aware of his security responsibilities, starting a relationship with a foreign person may not the best of scenarios. Pressuring parents, and a cleared worker succumbing to those pressures to obtain a foreign spouse might be looked at as being susceptible to foreign influence.
When it comes to relationships and your security clearance, transparency and country of origin are key. In one case, a woman with a TS clearance married an Israeli citizen. She was allowed to maintain her clearance for a few reasons. She immediately reported the relationship to her FSO and followed all laws in her visits and efforts to obtain permanent U.S. residency with her foreign spouse. Israel being a democracy and an ally of the US was also a factor. According to the court, “The risk of coercion, persuasion, or duress is significantly greater if the foreign country has an authoritarian government; a family member is associated with, or dependent on, the foreign government; or the country is known to conduct intelligence operations against the United States.”
Relationships are tricky enough and adding in security clearance adjudicative guidelines complicates the process. Most importantly, you should become familiar with your security clearance responsibilities and other “due process” procedures, and consider your cleared work before getting involved with a foreign national. Morale of the story: this situation is more common than you think.
Much about the clearance process resembles the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” This case-by-case system is meant to consider the whole person, increase process security, and allow the lowest-risk/highest-need candidates to complete the process. However, it also creates a lot of questions for applicants. The ClearanceJobsBlog.com is a forum where clearance seekers can ask the cleared community for advice on their specific security concerns. Ask CJ explores questions posed on the ClearanceJobs Blog forum, emails received, and comments from this site.