In Russia there are some categories of employees with access to classified information (mostly in the military) who are legally BANNED from travelling abroad (due to the knowledge they possess) while in service and usually several years after the service or retirement.

Is there a similar restriction to TRAVELLING ABROAD applied for citizens in western countries:

  1. For those who currently serve and have access to military secrets
  2. For those who retired and had had such access
  • 1
    You cannot travel abroad without permission, the penalty being possibly losing your security clearance.
    – user6726
    Jul 25, 2018 at 14:41
  • 1
    And you may have to file a report/undergo an interview when you return.
    – mkennedy
    Jul 25, 2018 at 16:41
  • 2
    @davidgo The UN Declaration of Human Rights is not binding or enforceable law in the U.S. or in most countries that have adopted it.
    – ohwilleke
    Jul 25, 2018 at 17:36
  • 1
    @ohwilleke I accept the UHDR is not directly binding or enforceable in most countries (I agree this to be true in NZ)- however it is an ideal, and I expect it is at least something of a guiding principle in the Western Countries that are a signatory to it. As the question was very generic with respect to country so was my comment.
    – davidgo
    Jul 25, 2018 at 19:21
  • 1
    @ohwilleke You are correct. It is a whole since I looked through the NZ Crimes act - and I was actually thinking of debt bondage (which, like serfdom is considered slavery) and defined as "the status or condition arising from a pledge by a debtor of his or her personal services, or of the personal services of any person under his or her control, as security for a debt, if the value of those services, as reasonably assessed, is not applied towards the liquidation of the debt or if the length and nature of those services are not limited and defined".
    – davidgo
    Jul 26, 2018 at 20:04

3 Answers 3


In the U.S., at least through the end of the twentieth century, there were SCI clearances for which personnel were required to notify the relevant program agency in advance of any foreign travel. I think this may still apply to people in the PRP. (More than once I heard a joke was that this was so that if a transport they were on was hijacked the U.S. could shoot it down to prevent them being taken hostage and tortured for the information.)

In a similar vein: I was told (but can't confirm) that some information was considered so sensitive to national security that any individual "read in" had to have a minder present during any medical procedure in which they would be sedated to prevent them from inadvertently divulging secrets while impaired by anesthetics.

Plenty of U.S. security clearance contracts require signers to keep classified data they encounter secret for the rest of their life (or until it is properly declassified), not just while on the job or while the program is funded.

When people are entrusted with information that in the wrong hands would easily compromise multi-billion-dollar weapons or intelligence systems, or put the lives of other people in imminent jeopardy, the general policy of the U.S. government is to take all reasonable measures to ensure that information is kept safe. Nobody is forced to acquire such sensitive information: Those clearance contracts are signed voluntarily.


In the US, Yes, but it's far less restrictive. If you are traveling aboard for "Unofficial Foreign Travel", you must submit to your work a form that lists the country (ies) you plan to travel too and activities you plan to do in those countries and means of travel both in and out of that country. While rare, the government may issue warnings to the traveler about that country which are not so much travel restrictions, but things they need to be aware of before they travel. The choice is still the traveler's but they may cancel based on what they have been told. Even rarer is that a few countries will be blocked, though there is no hard list. Finally, the government may tell their employee no up to one hour prior to departure from the U.S. for any myriad of reasons, though this tends to be natural disaster situations more than political.

That said, most of the time if you travel to a country you didn't list, you are allowed to self report upon return to work, with little consequence.

From what I am aware of, this is only a restriction placed on people who are present employees and the reporting criteria is not lifetime. Once retired you do not need to report your travel.

  • AFAIK, it's not retirement per se, it's still having the badge that matters.
    – user6726
    Jul 30, 2018 at 15:27
  • I'm not sure I see the difference in you disticntion, @user6726. Could you clarify?
    – hszmv
    Jul 30, 2018 at 16:32

I am not aware of any post subject to such restrictions in the United States (although it wouldn't stun me if certain cryptography experts were subject to restrictions). A large share of posts that provide access to highly classified information are jobs in the diplomatic or defense areas that actually require international travel as part of the job. Others are scientists who routinely attend international conferences in their fields to stay abreast of developments even if they can't present some of their own work due to confidentiality issues.

Some highly secret jobs (e.g. in the CIA) are followed by extensive debriefings and polygraph checks following such trips, however, and many of these jobs leave little time for non-employer sanctioned business trips.

There are statutory prohibitions against sharing certain technologies with national defense implications abroad, but those prohibitions generally do not extend to limitations on travel. These days it would be futile to do so anyway as secrets can easily be exchanges over untraceable internet connections or handed to someone else on digital media to transfer sneaker-net style that no customs officer would find.

I am not familiar with practices of Western countries other than the U.S. with regard to these issues.

  • 1
    Thanks. By the way, the question arose as someone told me he knows a guy who knows a guy who is a cryptography expert in the Russian Navy and 'he has a life ban for travel' (I guess it must be not all countries, but still for a moment I felt pity for the guy).
    – alexsms
    Jul 26, 2018 at 5:37

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