7 Things You Need to Know About Security Clearance

If you are applying for security clearance for the first time, you will have questions about the process and what it involves. To help you better understand security clearance, we have compiled a list of 7 things you should know. If one or more of your questions were not answered here or if you need help with an application or appeal, we invite you to contact our firm to speak with one of our security clearance attorneys.

1. You cannot apply without being invited first. You cannot initiate an application for security clearance all by yourself. If a position involves access to classified information, then a background investigation must be conducted on any prospects. A conditional offer of employment would have to be given to you before the process could be started.

2. The purpose is to safeguard national security information. Security clearance was created to ensure that all individuals with access to classified national security information are loyal, trustworthy, reliable, and have a strong sense of character. If someone didn’t have these traits, they could put our national security at risk.

3. There are three levels of security clearance. Currently, there are three levels of security clearance including: 1) Top Secret, 2) Secret, and 3) Confidential. Each Department of State position has its own level of security clearance, which is determined by the Bureau of Human Resources. The level of security clearance for a given position also depends on the duties and responsibilities associated with the position itself.

4. Security clearances may be transferrable. In many cases, someone’s clearance is transferable to another federal agency. Usually, one federal agency will accept the clearance of another federal agency if the investigation was conducted in the past 5 years for Top Secret, or 10 years for Secret, and the individual has not had a break in service for more than two years. The agency will also consider if the individual has had any significant changes in their situation since they were last investigated.

5. Your family and cohabitants can be checked. In some situations, an applicant’s spouse or cohabitants may be subject to an investigation with their authorization. “Cohabitants” include roommates, minor children, foreign exchange students, and other individuals who live with you.

6. You can be denied security clearance for lying on your application. You could be denied security clearance for various reasons, including a DUI, domestic violence, a recent bankruptcy, a sexual assault accusation, a mental health issue, or substance abuse. Remember, it’s very important that you are honest on your forms. If you lie on your application, this reason alone can lead to a denial.

7. People are usually re-investigated every five years. Security clearance doesn’t last forever. If you are approved, you will be subject to a reinvestigation every five years.