AFSA’s Guidance on Reporting Requirements for Foreign Contacts, Foreign Travel, and Intent to Marry or Cohabit with a Foreign National
Updated July 15, 2019
AFSA routinely receives questions regarding Foreign Service members’ foreign contact reporting requirements, including questions about what constitutes a close and continuing relationship and the definition of cohabitation. AFSA has updated its guidance to address some of these questions and to bring to members’ attention to additional reporting requirements that have already gone into effect at USAID and will ultimately go into effect at the Department of State. Employees from FCS, FAS, USAGM, and APHIS should check with their security office regarding their reporting requirements.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued new reporting requirements for personnel with access to classified information in December 2016 (Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD) 3). Although the new rules were to go into effect on June 12, 2017, due to the large number of foreign contacts, travel, and other reports that the Department of State anticipates Foreign Service employees, and especially those serving abroad, will have to file, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) has deferred implementation of the new rules. When the Department implements SEAD 3, employees will be required to provide more comprehensive and contemporaneous reporting. DS has assured AFSA that it will consult with AFSA prior to implementing the news rules. AFSA will provide additional guidance to our members once the new requirements are implemented.
Until it implements the new requirements set forth in SEAD 3, Department of State employees are governed by the reporting requirements in 12 FAM 260 and 12 FAM 270 and Form SF-86 (security clearance questionnaire). However, employees with access to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), employees serving at Critical Human Intelligence Threat (HUMINT) posts, and employees of other Foreign Affairs agencies serving under COM authority or in the United States may be subject to additional reporting requirements. In addition, some posts may implement additional requirements. AFSA recommends that employees check with their agencies’ offices of security and/or the Regional Security Office (RSO) at overseas posts to ensure that they are aware of the applicable reporting requirements.
12 FAM 270 - Security Reporting is the primary source that State Department employees can go to find security reporting requirements. 12 FAM 270, et seq. covers processes relating to marriage and cohabitation with foreign nationals, implication of dual citizenship on an employee’s security clearance as well as other incidents that employees with clearances must report (such as arrest, bankruptcy, etc.). Please note that the sections on foreign contact (12 FAM 274) and travel reporting (12 FAM 276) are merely extracts of 12 FAM 260 placed in 12 FAM 270 for the readers convenience and are not intended to contradict or supersede the base policy in 12 FAM 260.
Contact reporting is a counterintelligence function that is aimed at identifying individuals working for a foreign intelligence, terrorist, or other organization with the intent of harming the U.S. government by using employees to obtain information/services. Please note that the FAM states ‘a contact’ includes all manner of personal and impersonal contact, including email, text messaging, chat rooms, etc. The FAM requires employees to report:
- Unofficial contact with a national from a country with HUMINT posts listed on the Department's Security Environment Threat List if the employee and/or critical threat foreign national suggests, agrees to or actually has a second meeting after the initial encounter. The list can be accessed on the DS Source Web page. 12 FAM 262.1(b)(1) and 12 FAM 274.2(e)(1). Currently, the FAM does not require employees to fill out a contact report for contacts or relationships involving continuing romantic or sexual intimacy with foreign nationals from non-Critical HUMINT threat countries. However, as noted below, more stringent contact reporting requirements have been implemented at USAID.
- Contact with persons or organizations who the employee knows or suspects advocate the unlawful overthrow of the U.S. Government. This reporting requirement includes, but is not limited to, persons who the employee knows or suspects are members or supporters of foreign terrorist organizations as designated by the Secretary of State. 12 FAM 262.1(b)(2) and 12 FAM 274.2 (e)(2).
- Unofficial contact with a person who the employee knows or suspects is a member of a foreign intelligence agency, regardless of nationality. 12 FAM 262.1b.(3) and 12 FAM 274.2(e)(3).
- Any time illegal or unauthorized access is sought to classified or sensitive information or when the employee is concerned that he or she may be the target of exploitation by a foreign entity. 12 FAM 262.1(b)(4) and (5) and 12 FAM 274.2(e) (4) and (5).
Contact reports should be made immediately or within one business day of the contact. Contact reports (Form DS-1887) should be filled out on line using myData.
If an employee is unsure whether to report a contact, he or she should seek guidance from the RSO or his or her security office. Employees who are unable to report contacts via myData can send a pdf version of the DS-1887 to ContactReports@state.gov. Employees of other foreign affairs agencies posted domestically should contact their agency's security office for information on how to report contacts.
The RSO must give an arrival briefing to all employees assigned to post, which must include information on counterintelligence issues of concern at post, contact reporting responsibilities, and the names of all current critical human intelligence threat posts. Domestically, State employees will be briefed on counterintelligence issues through their bureau security officer.
FORM SF-86 (QUESTIONNAIRE FOR NATIONAL SECURITY POSITION)
Even though State Department employees are not required to fill out a contact report for non-Critical HUMINT contacts at this time, all employees from all agencies are required to report their own and their spouse’s “close and/or continuing” foreign contacts (for Critical HUMINT and non-HUMINT countries) on their SF-86 in response to Question 19 pertaining to “foreign contacts”. “Close and/or continuing” is defined as those contacts that an employees or his/her spouse is (or was within the last seven years) bound to by affection, influence, obligation, and/or common interest. This is required even if the employee previously filled out a contract report for the contact.
In addition, applicants for the Foreign Service who listed a contact from a Critical HUMIT post on their Form SF-86 may be required to fill out a contact report the first time they have contact with the contact after joining the Foreign Service. Employees should check with the RSO or DS/DO/CI to see what is required.
AFSA is often asked if employees must list all of their social media friends on their SF 86. According to DS, if an employee routinely contacts a foreign friend on Facebook, they would be expected to list the friend on their SF 86 as a foreign associate. However if the Facebook friend is casual, and they do not continuously contact each other, they need not report it. However, as noted above, if the Facebook contact is from a Critical HUMINT threat country, the employee must file a contact report.
Please note that DS and other agencies’ offices of security may question employees about foreign relationships at any time as such relationships may impact an employee's security clearance or assignments because they may make an employee vulnerable to blackmail or there may be other security concerns based upon the foreign national's occupation, family members, etc…
REQUIREMENT TO REPORT PERSONAL TRAVEL TO CRITICAL HUMAN INTELLIGENCE THREAT AND OTHER COUNTRIES
12 FAM 264 and 12 FAM 276 advise that all U.S. Government employees under the authority of a COM must notify the RSO or Post Security Officer (PSO) at post of residence, using either a classified memorandum or telegram, at least two weeks in advance of personal travel to any country with a Critical HUMINT threat post and certain countries with which the U.S. does not have diplomatic relations. For a list of these countries, see the Security Environment Threat List (SETL) which is available on the classified network links on the Department's Home page and the DS Source Home page. State Department employees stationed domestically should directly notify DS/DO/CI. Employees of other foreign affairs agencies should contact their Agency's security office.
A further description of procedures and forms may be found in 12 FAM 264. The Department encourages spouses and adult dependents of employees to advise the RSO, PSO, or DS/DO/CI as appropriate of their personal travel, and to receive any available defensive security briefings, especially those at post of residence. If the traveler is detained or subjected to significant harassment while traveling, he or she is to report this to the nearest consul, attaché, RSO or duty officer immediately. For additional instructions, see 12 FAM 264.2. AFSA also encourages employees to visit http://source.ds.state.gov on a secure computer and visit DS/DO/CI's vast resources of relevant counterintelligence information.
TRAVEL TO NON-CRITICAL HUMINT COUNTRIES
Currently, State Department employees who do not have SCI access are not required to report their personal travel to non-Critical HUMINT countries (absent some other circumstance, such as being detained or harassed while traveling).
As noted in USAID’s Notice to employees, USAID employees are required to report unofficial travel to any foreign country not just those countries with a Critical HUMINT post or those countries that do not have diplomatic relationships with the United States.
REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR EMPLOYEES WHO INTEND TO MARRY OR COHABIT WITH A FOREIGN NATIONAL
Employees are required to report intent to marry or cohabit with a foreign national and fill out a security package. In addition, all employees posted overseas (no matter what agency they work for) must also get permission from the COM prior to cohabiting with a foreign national or U.S. citizen in U.S. government housing.
Notifying DS of the intent to marry or cohabitate with a foreign national is a DS/SI/PSS function primarily aimed at assisting the employee in making an educated decision as to whether the marriage or cohabitation may have an adverse impact on their security clearance. In addition, the requirement for COM permission to cohabitate in U.S. government housing allows the RSO to run local and other checks to ensure the proposed cohabitant does not present counter intelligence or other concerns.
Key requirements of the 12 FAM 275 regulations are:
- State Department employees must provide written notice of intent to marry a foreign national (including a U.S. citizen who is also a dual national). They and their fiancée/fiancé must complete a security package 90 days prior to the expected date of marriage. State employees who have not heard back from DS within 90 days should contact the DS/SI/PSS Customer Service Center to check the status of their case. Employees of other foreign affairs agencies should check with their Agencies' security office or HR officer. 12 FAM 275.3-5 states that if the Department has not reached a determination within 90 days regarding the intended marriage, the employee "is free to make a risk-managed decision as to whether to proceed with the marriage based on his or her careful review of the national security adjudicative guidelines."
- Employees posted abroad who wish to cohabitate with a foreign national must submit the same security package as required for intent to marry and obtain approval from the COM or Principal Officer prior to beginning to cohabit in U.S. government provided housing. Note: Seeking approval to cohabitate is separate and distinct from declaring a member of household to the COM under 3 FAM 4181.
- Employees posted abroad who wish to cohabitate with a U.S. citizen in U.S. government housing must also get prior approval from the COM so that the RSO can run local and other checks. The employee and cohabitant will not be required to fill out a lengthy security package as is the case with a foreign national cohabitant. Note that there is not a requirement for reporting and subsequent vetting for U.S. employees, with security clearances, who are both already approved to reside in USG housing.
- Employees serving domestically who wish to cohabitate with a foreign a national must submit their security package to DS within 30 days from the start of a cohabitation relationship. However, they do not need to seek and obtain permission before cohabitation as they do when the cohabitation occurs abroad in U.S. government provided housing.
12 FAM defines cohabitation as “sharing a living unit on a frequent and regular basis without regard to the nature of any interpersonal relationship or reason for sharing the living quarters. This includes, but is not limited to minor children, roommates, foreign exchange students, and members of households.” According to DS, a cohabitant is someone who shares a living unit on a semi-permanent basis rather than someone who is a short-term house guest. In addition, someone who house sits while an employee is away is not a cohabitant.
SEAD 3 defines a cohabitant as follows: “A person with whom the covered individual resides and shares bonds of affection, obligation, or other commitment, as opposed to a person with whom the covered individual resides for reasons of convenience (e.g., a roommate).”
Employees have recently contacted AFSA and DS about the requirement for employees to submit a security package for their live-in nannies and domestic help. AFSA understands that this issue currently is under review and that DS hopes to clarify what is required in the near future.
Regardless of duty location, DS will conduct appropriate foreign indices and other checks on the intended foreign national cohabitant or spouse. Cohabitation or marriage to a foreign national could have negative repercussions on an employees' security clearance or assignment to critical threat or other posts. See 12 FAM Exhibit 12 FAM 275.3-1 which contains the security related criteria used in evaluating clearance eligibility.
OTHER REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
12 FAM 270 has several additional reporting requirements which employees should be aware of.
- State Department employees must immediately report to DS/SI/PSS wage garnishment, credit judgments, repossessions, tax liens, bankruptcies, and/or intentions to file for bankruptcy.
- State Department employees must report to DS/SI/PSS within 72 hours adverse involvement with law enforcement agencies to include arrests (other than minor traffic violations) for which a fine or forfeiture of $150 or more was imposed or arrests for "driving under the influence" or "driving while intoxicated."
- Employees with security clearances contemplating applying for citizenship with a foreign country must report to DS/SI/PSS when any act is initiated in furtherance of obtaining foreign citizenship.
REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR EMPLOYEES WITH SCI ACCESS
Employees with SCI access have a responsibility to report activities or conduct concerning themselves or other with SCI access that might affect their ability to protect SCI information from unauthorized disclosure. SCI indoctrinated personnel must immediately report the following to DS/IS/SSO via email to DS SSO@state.gov using the DS 1887 form, and checking the box indicating that they have SCI Access. The DS-1887 is routed to DS/CI under the process noted above under Foreign Contacts.
- Continuing association with known foreign nationals that involve bonds of affection, personal obligation, or intimate contact. This reporting requirement is based on the nature of the relationship regardless of how or where the foreign national contact was made or how the relationship is maintained (via personal contact, telephonic, postal system, Internet, etc.).
- The reporting of limited or casual public contact with foreign nationals is not/not required absent any other reporting requirement.
- Following initial reporting, updates regarding continuing unofficial association with known foreign nationals are required only if and when there is a significant change in the nature of the contact. DS/IS/SSO is available to provide specific guidance, upon request.
- Unofficial visits to foreign diplomatic facilities and trade missions.
- Direct involvement in foreign business.
- Foreign bank accounts.
- Ownership of foreign property.
- Application for, possession or use of a foreign passport or identity card.
- Voting in a foreign election.
- Adoption of non-U.S. citizen children.
- Attempted elicitation, exploitation, blackmail, coercion, or enticement to obtain classified information or information specifically prohibited by law from disclosure regardless of means.
- Full or part-time employment, business activities, or participation as an officer or director in an organization.
- Media contacts where the media seeks access to classified information or other information specifically prohibited by law from disclosure, whether or not the contact results in an unauthorized disclosure.
- Court appearances other than for official purposes.
- Contemplated or actual public disclosure of information that may contain or reveal intelligence or intelligence sources, methods and activities, in either written or spoken form, via speeches, books, articles, dissertations, resumes, Internet postings, social networking sites, etc. Such disclosures must be reported and approved in advance.
- Financial Anomalies, any unusual infusion of assets of $10,000 or greater such as an inheritance, winnings, or similar financial gain.
- Alcohol and drug related treatment.
See 18 STATE 60836 (June 15, 2018).
POSSIBLE CONSEQUENCES OF NOT REPORTING
Failure to meet the applicable reporting requirements may result in the employee's curtailment from post, suspension/revocation of security clearance, and/or disciplinary action.
AFSA attorneys are available to provide guidance to Foreign Service employees regarding these rules. Please direct any questions to General Counsel Sharon Papp or Deputy General Counsel Raeka Safai at (202) 647-8160 or PappS@state.gov or SafaiR@state.gov.
Note: This guidance has been reviewed for accuracy by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.