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EEOC Informal Discussion Letter

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.

Title VII: Citizenship

February 4, 2004


This is in response to your letter dated January 12, 2005. You are requesting an advisory opinion on the legality of the United States Department of State's (State Department) requirement of U.S. citizenship for all of your employees who handle/transport passports and passport applications. The State Department's Passport Services issued a letter dated __________, to certain ____________ managers. The letter stated that the State Department now requires that all courier/visa company employees who handle/transport completed passport applications and/or U.S. passports be U.S. citizens, free of any federal or state felony conviction, and free of any serious misdemeanor convictions, involving crimes related to breach of trust or moral turpitude. We cannot provide you with an "advisory opinion." We can address the legality of a specific policy only after a charge has been filed. However, we will provide you with general guidance on the legality of citizenship requirements in employment decisions.

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination on the bases of race, sex, color, national origin, and religion. Title VII does not prohibit discrimination based upon citizenship, unless the citizenship requirement has the purpose or effect of discriminating on the basis of national origin.

Even assuming that the State Department's imposition of a citizenship requirement does have the effect of discriminating on the basis of national origin, in your company, Title VII is not violated if the requirement is imposed by federal statute or Executive Order in the interest of national security. See 703(g) of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(g). See EEOC Compliance Manual, §III(B)(1),

You may also wish to contact the Office of Special Counsel at the Department of Justice. That office enforces parts of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). Unlike Title VII, IRCA does include some prohibitions against discrimination based on citizenship. Of course, that Act, too, may have a national security exception but, because the EEOC does not enforce that law, you would need to contact the Office of Special Counsel to determine what that law requires. Contact information for that office follows:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related
Unfair Employment Practices
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530

Employer Hotline: 1-800-255-8155

We hope that this information is helpful to you. Please note, however, that this letter does not constitute an opinion or interpretation of the Commission within the meaning of ' 713(b) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-12(b).


Dianna B. Johnston
Assistant Legal Counsel

This page was last modified on April 27, 2007.