Security Clearance Denials: Are There Exceptions?

“Eligibility for access to classified information, commonly known as a security clearance, is granted only to those for whom an appropriate personnel security background investigation has been completed,” according to the U.S. Department of State. If you have been given a conditional offer of employment and you’ve completed the applicable security questionnaire (Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions), the security background investigation shall begin. This exhaustive background investigation will take a careful look into your past, going back years.

The background investigation will look at several aspects of your life, including but not limited to any history of:

“Under what circumstances can I be denied security clearance?” There are a number of reasons why you might be denied security clearance. Essentially, the U.S. government is concerned about your honesty, candor, and you being detailed when completing your security clearance forms. Each case is handled on an individual basis, using the National Security Board’s 13 Adjudicative Guidelines to reach a decision.

What Are the Exceptions?

Fortunately, just because someone has something negative in their background; for example, a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, a DUI conviction, a conviction for drug possession, or a diagnosis for a mental illness, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be automatically denied security clearance – there are exceptions. “Exceptions are an adjudicative decision to grant initial or continued eligibility for access to classified information or to hold a sensitive position despite a failure to meet the full adjudicative or investigative standards,” according to

The exceptions include:

  • A waiver may be approved.
  • Authorities may set conditions, such as additional monitoring, counseling, or submitting financial statements.
  • Eligibility may be granted or continued regardless of the scope of the investigation; this is called a “deviation.”

Is there something in your background that has you concerned that it may lead to the denial or discontinuation of your security clearance? To learn more about the exceptions and to determine if one of them applies to you, contact our security clearance attorneys.