The term security clearance is confusing. Security clearance itself is just an easier way to say ‘eligibility to access classified information.’ Across government and the Department of Defense, in particular, the government uses the term clearances for other things that don’t have anything to do with accessing classified information. One of those is the DoD foreign clearance.

Foreign Clearance Guide

The Department of Defense’s Foreign Clearance Guide refers to official travel regulations that apply to service members, DoD civilians, and DoD-sponsored family members – and even the DoD contractor. Long story short, if you’re a service member, you can’t just hop on a plane to any country overseas (and that includes country hopping while serving overseas). DoD regularly updates its Foreign Clearance Guide, and its last update was June 16, 2021. Even contractors who may not be sure of rules for traveling should refer to the Foreign Clearance Guide.

Personnel doing a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) overseas must apply for a special issuance passport prior to departing. The Foreign Clearance Guide also outlines any steps that must be taken prior to travel. These vary by combatant command and country, and change due to current threats, so it should always be consulted prior to travel for those operating under the DoD umbrella.

Foreign Clearance vs. Foreign Travel Reporting Requirements

Foreign Clearance for DoD has nothing to do with clearance eligibility. But like the DoD, all security clearance holders are governed by specific rules around their overseas travel. As a part of Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD) 3, all security clearance holders must report foreign travel prior to traveling overseas. In addition to getting pre-approval, they must provide their travel itinerary to their security officer and should receive a pre-travel security briefing. The directive does not indicate a specific timetable for when foreign travel must be reported, but the SEAD directs individual agencies and commands to develop their own guidelines. As a rule, it is better to safe foreign travel as soon as a trip is planned to avoid any potential issues and to give the flexibility to adjust travel plans if necessary based on current threats or agency directives.


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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer