Joining the Central Intelligence Agency
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) serves the nation’s interests by collecting and analyzing foreign intelligence related to national security threats, foreign governments and industries, as well as terrorist cells operating both in and outside of war zones. Intelligence obtained by the CIA is disseminated to key U.S. heads of state, including the President and his cabinet, and is used to help guide strategic military decisions, as well as decisions concerning foreign policy.
At the request and direction of the President, the CIA operates in a covert manner, ensuring the actions, activities and whereabouts of agents and operatives are never compromised.
It is not a secret that the CIA employs a select group of the most qualified agents to perform undercover operations that contribute to the intelligence cycle. Careers with this prestigious federal agency are reserved for only the most qualified, competent and suitable candidates.
The Central Intelligence Agency is a massive federal entity that hires professionals with distinct expertise from a variety of backgrounds. The work of the CIA is carried out through four separate offices:
- National Clandestine Service
- Directorate of Intelligence
- Directorate of Science and Technology
- Directorate of Support
Specializations within the CIA deal with everything from congressional affairs and legal issues to tactical operations and counter-espionage. Employees of the CIA may be scientists, engineers, economists, linguists, accountants, computer specialists, and mathematicians,
If you’re smart, have a college degree, are ready to serve your country, and are ambitious, becoming a part of the CIA is a future career option for you. Provided you’re a U.S. citizen( how to become a US Citizen will be discussed extensively below) and you meet all the required qualifications and background checks, you are eligible to apply for a job with the CIA. Keep in mind that the process is competitive (as with all government positions) and that there are many reasons for turning down applicants. In spite of that reality, it’s important to give it your best shot if it’s your dream career.
U.S. Citizenship through Naturalization
Citizenship through naturalization is a process in which a non-U.S. citizen voluntarily becomes an American citizen. U.S. citizens owe their allegiance to the United States and are entitled to its protection and to exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens.
Review this visual overview (PDF, Download Adobe Reader) about the general naturalization process.
To file for U.S. citizenship, you must:
- Have had a Permanent Resident (Green) Card for at least five years, or for at least three years if you’re filing as the spouse of a U.S. citizen
- If you apply for naturalization less than six months before your Permanent Resident Card expires, or do not apply for naturalization until your card has already expired, you must renew your card.
- You can apply for naturalization before you receive your new Green Card, but you’ll need to submit a photocopy of the receipt of your Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, when you receive it.
- Meet certain eligibility requirements including being
- At least 18 years old at the time of filing
- Able to read, write, and speak basic English
- A person of good moral character
- Go through the ten step naturalization process which includes
- Determining your eligibility to become an American citizen
- Preparing and submitting form N-400, the application for naturalization
- Taking the U.S. Naturalization Test and having a personal interview
Helpful Resources For Citizenship
Take the United States Naturalization Test
One of the requirements in the naturalization process is taking the United States Naturalization Test.
To prepare for the naturalization test, check out these resources:
Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization
Certificates of Citizenship and Naturalization are proof of your U.S. citizenship.
Get a Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization
Apply for a Certificate of Citizenship if you were born abroad to U.S. citizen parents and they did not obtain a Consular Report of Birth Abroad for you before you turned 18.
Foreign nationals receive a Certificate of Naturalization when they become American citizens. Get certified copies of a Certificate of Naturalization.
Replace Your Certificates
Replace your Certificate of Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalization if it was lost or stolen.
If you have further questions, contact U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Dual Citizenship or Nationality
Dual citizenship (or dual nationality) means a person may be a citizen of the United States and of another country at the same time. U.S. law does not require a person to choose one citizenship or another.If you are a citizen of another country and have questions about that country’s laws, policies, and mandatory military service, contact that country’s embassy or consulate.For information on dual nationality from the point of view of another country, please contact that country’s embassy or consulate.
If you have dual citizenship and plan to travel to or from the United States, you must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States.
Information about giving up or losing your U.S. citizenship is also available.
A licensed attorney skilled in citizenship matters can assist you with questions about your situation. A local bar association can often provide a good referral.
Establish Citizenship Without a Birth Certificate
If you were born in the U.S. and there is no birth certificate on file, you will need several different documents to prove your citizenship:
If you were born outside the United States and your U.S. parent(s) did not register your birth at the U.S. Embassy or consulate, you may apply for a U.S. passport, but you will need:
- Your foreign birth record showing your parents’ names
- Evidence of your parent(s) U.S. citizenship
- Your parents’ marriage certificate
If you were born outside the U.S. and your U.S. parent(s) registered your birth with a U.S. Embassy, the U.S. Department of State (DOS) will be able to help you get a copy of a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240).
U.S. Citizenship for People Born Abroad or in U.S. Territories
You are a U.S. citizen if:
- You have a birth certificate issued by a U.S. state or territory. If you were born in a U.S. territory, but do not have a birth certificate issued by that territory, you may be able to verify your citizenship status using other documents.
- You were born outside of the U.S. to at least one U.S. citizen parent and your parent(s) recorded your birth with the U.S. Embassy or consulate in that country:
How to Become A CIA Agent As a Foreigner After Aquiring US Citizenship
Once you acquire the US Citizenship Then the next step is to work your way to becoming a CIA Agent. If you’re smart, have a college degree, are ready to serve your country, and are ambitious, becoming a part of the CIA is a future career option for you. Provided you’re a U.S. citizen and you meet all the required qualifications and background checks, you are eligible to apply for a job with the CIA. Keep in mind that the process is competitive (as with all government positions) and that there are many reasons for turning down applicants. In spite of that reality, it’s important to give it your best shot if it’s your dream career.
Understand what is involved in a CIA career before seeking to join the CIA.While the spying side of the CIA might be the seemingly glamor filled side you’re hankering after, the Directorate of Operations (or “clandestine service” where the spies are located), is but one part of the CIA and a small part at that. The majority of CIA employees work in analytical positions, language positions and science, engineering, and technology positions. Matching your skills and aptitude to what you’re best suited for may not see you working in the clandestine service positions at all, so be ready for this possibility. In addition, be prepared to become part of a family when joining the CIA, with expectations to uphold deep loyalty to others, and with possible ramifications on your outside-work socializing and relationships.
- Whatever your position, a role in the CIA means that you’re part of the first line of defense in warning and protecting your fellow citizens. You will be working with people possessing high integrity, perception, analytical ability and intellectual curiosity.
- You’ll be expected to work in teams on many occasions, so you will have to have strong team skills.
- You’ll be able to pursue career goals within the CIA and it’s hoped that you’ll remain with the CIA for the duration of your career.
- The Agency has its own community. The reason for this stems from the academic environment, as well as the nature of the work performed and mission of the CIA. The CIA’s George Bush Center has its own food court, fitness facilities, formal gardens and walking paths, company store, recreational and activity clubs, and artwork on display. In addition, there is a museum, a library, and the usual offices.
- The Agency considers its community a family, employing people from nearly all fields of study, united in their work and their service to the country.
- Before even embarking on the process of becoming a CIA officer,  do some thorough background reading on what the CIA is about, what CIA officers do (not just spying.), as well as finding out about how much of the spying isn’t what you’d gleaned from movies and TV shows.
Before starting the process, it might be a good idea to background check yourself. If you’re not clean, then don’t bother applying. Most importantly, you will be able to see if your background report contains any false information, so you will be prepared when they question you on it. You must use a service that is able to access the CIS database which is the exact same database that the CIA uses, If your name appears then they have your record available and you can prepare yourself.
Stay squeaky clean. Every single position requires a security clearance and you’ll need to pass through very thorough background checks to clear this. The content and expectations of security checks are not known publicly (that would defeat their purpose) but it’s fairly obvious that there are standard behaviors and activities that you should present, and others you must have avoided. For example:
- Do not have a criminal record. Naturally, this includes not having participated in any activities against the USA’s interests, whether or not these were criminal in nature.
- Don’t take drugs. The CIA states that you cannot have used illegal drugs within 12 months of your application or background check process. Illegal drug use at any time in your past can hurt your chances, however, so it’s best to avoid any illegal drug altogether. In addition, don’t abuse legal drugs, like alcohol or prescription drugs, as these can provide evidence of your character and future likelihood of re-abusing.
- Be financially sound. This means that you don’t gamble, over-invest, have a poor credit repayment record, or have bankruptcy in your background. No intelligence service wants to take a risk on a person who has poor financial management skills and is potentially open to bribery.
- Have a good work track record and ethic. Whatever jobs you’ve had already, ensure that you’ve always given your best, being honest and ethical, and worked hard. Demonstrable loyalty and accountability in any work environment is an asset to your application.
- Be highly trustworthy, reliable, and faithful. Background investigators will ask questions of people in your circle of acquaintances including family and friends. If they feed back positive information about you, this is good for you, as their assessment of your character builds.
- Understand the importance of maintaining confidences and confidentiality. If you love to gossip, being in the CIA probably isn’t a good choice for you; you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that you can abide by regulations regarding the use, handling, and protection of sensitive information.
- Have excellent strength of character, integrity, honesty, sound judgment, and loyalty to the United States. The CIA recognizes that no one is perfect. Security officials will consider the blemishes in your background according to their nature, extent, seriousness, and recency. They weigh the risk and benefit of each individual with the utmost care. If you’ve got everything else needed, the Agency won’t necessarily turn you away if they consider you have important contributions to make to the nation’s intelligence efforts.
- Have squeaky clean parents and friends. While this may not always be possible, it’s enormously helpful because any family member or friend with shady leanings could be a source of weakness for you if they fall into a spot of bother (aka “potential for coercion”). If there are issues surrounding this, talk to a CIA careers agent about your options, and always be truthful.
Be highly competent in your field. The CIA takes the best and the brightest students: CIA officers must have at least a bachelor’s degree. Having an advanced degree can be helpful for most positions, and in many instances, is required, although the CIA also offers its own relevant undergraduate programs. Moreover, the CIA gets so many hundreds of applications per position that you’ll need to ensure your skills, abilities, and studies stand out from the rest.
- Have excellent grades through high school and college. Have at least a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale.
- While there is no specific major to study, having studies with emphases on international relations (most internationally focused studies are likely to be of interest to a recruiter), law, political science, history, security studies, economics or finance (including international finance), mathematics, journalism, science (behavioral, physical, or computer), languages, sociology or psychology, and anything requiring analytical skills, can be to your advantage.
Learn other languages. The more, the better, but master at least one other language really well. At the current time, languages in high demand include Mandarin, Farsi(Persian), Pashto, Dari, Russian, and Arabic, reflecting current world political and military “hot spots”. Fluency is especially important if you’re seeking a position in the clandestine service. Your language proficiency must be above and beyond mere college knowledge; you must demonstrate that you can speak it as well as a native. If you cannot, either keep improving it, or inquire about on-the-job training potential for language improvement.
Be personable, flexible, and sociable. The best way to get information out of other people is to be a good talker and listener, to be someone who can connect with others with ease, as well as being able to put people at their ease. These skills are harder to learn than academic ones for some people, so if you don’t feel comfortable around people, either brush up on the skills through reading or courses, or be less inclined to seek any positions that require interacting with “assets” (the clandestine service’s term for spies – those people who assist CIA agents, often at great risk to their own lives or well-being), or with anyone else who might serve as a source of information.
- Learn what makes people tick; learn people skills including how to make people like you and good conversation skills. You’ll need to know how to “schmooze” and build rapport with people from all walks of life, in order to be able to spot, assess, develop, and recruit assets. You’ll need to know how to feign interest in other people’s interests and hobbies in order to build friendships or relationships with them to obtain information.
- If you have a problem with being likable, being a CIA officer is probably not a good option for you. Equally, arrogance, egoism and inflated self-importance will soon see you dropped from training.
- See life’s gray areas. If you see life in absolutes (“he is wrong, I am right”), then it’s likely you’re not going to be a good choice for the CIA. Inquiring minds, openness to discussion and possibilities, and the ability to see the more nuanced and complicated elements of every situation are an essential trait when you need to analyze things. Sometimes you will be asked to finesse things for the good of your national security that don’t necessarily produce the best results for people in other nations. Is that something you can handle?
Be physically fit. You will be put through rigorous physical testing and it will be expected that you can manage the physical tests. As well as the benefits of keeping fit, getting involved in both team and individual sports on a regular basis proves to your future potential CIA employers that you’re willing to stay in shape, work in teams, and maintain your general health and well-being. Good stamina is also important if you work undercover, as you may be expected to work very long days without appearing tired or without losing your ability to think clearly; indeed, in a typical day you could spend the daytime creating a cover for yourself, and the night catching up with people you need to find information from.
Be mentally fit. You will be tested to your limits in training to see how you handle emotional pressure. In addition, if you do enter the clandestine service, you’ll need to be able to deal with the mental pressures of being subjected to dangers and life-threatening situations. For example, if you’re caught, you may be subjected to torture, and even denial by your government of your existence. In addition, if your asset is caught by his or her own government, you will face the emotional issues related to how that person (and maybe his or her family) is then treated (sometimes they will suffer the death penalty). There will be many trying situations, and your mental health needs to be in top shape to be able to cope with the possibilities.
Be honest and candid. Expect to be tested as much as it is possible to ensure the veracity of what you’re telling the CIA. If accepted for the interview process, as well as periodically during employment, you’ll be subjected to a polygrap. While polygraphy isn’t an exact science, CIA polygraph equipment is among the most thorough and the technicians working with are highly trained security professionals. These security professionals will generally err on the side of caution if they have any reason to believe you’re lying. It is during this testing that they’ll be able to find out if you’ve lied about taking any illegal drugs, being disloyal, poor financial management, and so on. All test results are guarded and kept in the strictest of confidence. And don’t expect the testing process to be breezy or comfortable; for starters, it’s hardly a pleasant feeling to have others trying to “catch you out,” let alone being hooked up to a machine that could determine the fate of your future career.
- Expect continued checks throughout your career with the CIA. You will be expected to undergo regular re-investigations (updates on your lifestyle, connections, etc.), and to continue taking polygraph tests.
- Be ready to maintain high standards of professional conduct at all times, both at work and outside of work, for the duration of your CIA career.
Be prepared to relocate or travel. A CIA job will often require that you move from your initial residence. In addition, many CIA positions will require frequent travel, which can be disturbing to home life if you’re not already focused on how you’ll cope with this (the CIA does offer childcare centers at some locations).
- Do not underestimate the stress on your personal life. If you’re the type of person who wants to come home at 5 every day and be regularly available to raise your family, work as an agent is not likely to provide that ease of child-raising and family togetherness for you. If you can’t abide this thought, consider looking for a different career. Many other CIA careers, however, do offer this type of stability.
nly US citizens may apply to join the CIA. If you don’t have citizenship, obtain it
How to Apply and Become a US Marine as a foreigner
Apply for a position with the CIA. If you’re confident that you can pass the above initial requirements, it’s time to apply. You can do this online, but be prepared for a lengthy process and the need to fill in a lot of information about yourself. The application process starts at: https://www.cia.gov/careers/opportunities/cia-jobs/index.html. Look for a specific position of interest, read through its requirements and ensure that you meet them. If you don’t meet the minimum requirements, don’t apply unless you have a very good reason, because you’ll be wasting your time.
- Make sure to follow the application deadlines and instructions to the letter. If you miss one thing, your application will be rejected.
- Spruce up your resume, as this will need to be submitted along with the online application.
- Job listings are updated regularly. This means that if you don’t see something of interest, check back again frequently.
Be patient and wait. The vetting process can be lengthy, especially if you have numerous foreign contacts who need to be followed up as well. If you’ve been completely honest and open, this will speed up the checking process.
- Don’t write or call to check. You won’t get a response.
- As a general rule, if the CIA is interested in your application, they will contact you within 45 days.
- Don’t give up. Keep trying – it may be that you selected a position that you weren’t cut out for, or that had too many other highly qualified people competing with you and one small flaw in your application had yours rejected. Just keep trying for a reasonable time and your persistence may pay off. In some cases, it may mean they’ll take you when your experience improves, so get that PhD, go for that military position, or do something else extraordinary that will catapult you into their notice.
Get ready for the next stage if you are successful in obtaining clearance and a conditional job offer. All initial offers are conditional; if you get one, there is still a long way to go before you can be hired. You will now need to undergo a series of physical, psychological, security, and intelligence tests to verify your suitability to join the Agency.
- Undergo a medical exam and psychological exam. The medical is designed to ensure you’re in adequate physical condition for the needs of the job, and also to test for drug use. The psychological exam assesses your intelligence, judgment, and mental stability.
- Wait for your background check to be completed. The background check is extremely thorough and often lengthy (it can take two years). The CIA website states: “The investigation addresses comprehensively one’s loyalty to the United States, strength of character, trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion, and soundness of judgment. In addition, it examines one’s freedom from conflicting allegiances, potential for coercion, and willingness and ability to abide by regulations governing the use, handling and protection of sensitive information.”
- Pass the polygraph test (discussed above).
Accept or decline your job offer. If you make it through the selection process, you’re lucky: only about 17 percent of candidates presented with conditional offers pass the background check and exams. Now you can accept your job and get ready for training, after which you still might find yourself not ideal for the job!
- Participate in job training. For some positions, particularly those in the clandestine service, you may have a probationary training period during which you must successfully complete training for your specific position. You may have to relocate during your training period (about six months), and the Agency will usually not pay for relocation of your family during this time.
- You will not be an official case officer until you pass the rigorous training, which, depending on the position, can be very difficult. Hope you now know how to become a CIA Agent as a foreigner.