A job or contract position with a United States government agency might require access to confidential material. Thus, if you’re interested in working for the U.S. government, you might need security clearance before you can begin your duties. The security clearance process can be long. It involves submitting an application, going through a background check, and waiting for adjudication.
Waiting to hear about the status of your application can be stressful, as you’re eager to start your new role. You might be wondering if there is anything you can do to speed up the process. Although you can’t expedite it, you may be able to take steps, such as ensuring your information is accurate and complete, to facilitate greater efficiency.
What Is the Security Clearance Process?
Some jobs within the U.S. government may expose individuals to confidential information that, if released, can threaten national security or safety. As such, any person hired for these roles must be trustworthy, reliable, and have good judgment. Therefore, potential incumbents must be vetted before they can be put in the role.
Getting a security clearance determination requires that you go through a multi-step process.
The stages involved include:
- Application: You must submit an accurate and complete Standard Form 86 (SF-86).
- Background check: An investigator will review the information in your SF-86 and run criminal history, credit, and other checks.
- Adjudication: The sponsoring agency determines whether you are granted security clearance.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Security Clearance Decision?
Governmental agencies must do their due diligence before assigning someone to a position where an incumbent might handle confidential material. Failure to scrutinize individuals could lead to a leak of classified information. Therefore, the process for determining security clearance eligibility can be long.
A set timeframe for a security clearance decision does not exist. The duration of the background check will depend on several factors, including the applicant’s specific circumstances and the level of security clearance needed: confidential, secret, or top secret.
Generally, a security clearance determination takes a few weeks to a few months, with longer timelines for higher-level clearances.
Is There Any Way to Decrease the Waiting Time?
If you were hired for a government job or contract position, you might be anxious to learn the sponsoring agency’s decision concerning your security clearance. After all, it’s what you’re waiting on to move forward in your career.
For the most part, you can’t expedite the process. Once you submit your application, investigators will take however much time is needed to verify your information.
That said, a couple of avenues may help get you started in your role sooner. First, you can ensure that you provide the information needed to facilitate a smooth investigation and adjudication process.
Some of the things you can do when applying for security clearance to create greater efficiency include:
- Providing accurate and complete information: You’ll be asked a lot of personal questions on the SF-86. Although it might be difficult to answer some of them, refrain from being evasive or misrepresenting yourself. The investigator must follow up on everything, and their review may be slowed down if something doesn’t add up. Additionally, don’t leave any blanks on the form.
- Providing good sources: Be sure that you include references who can really speak to your character. You must also have their current contact information so the investigator can easily get in touch.
- Ensuring you know where the investigator can get supporting information: The investigator might need certain documents to verify your statements, and they might reach out to you for them. Be sure you know where any forms or reports can be found.
Second, you may be granted favorable interim determination. An interim determination means that the investigation and adjudication are still underway, but because of information in your application and some of the background checks, you are cleared to begin work.
Interim determinations are granted only in exceptional circumstances; in some cases, they can be denied. But don’t get discouraged if that happens to you. A denial of an interim determination does not negatively affect final eligibility.
Call Claery & Hammond, LLP
Our team assists with preparing the security clearance application. We can answer questions about what’s being asked of you and verify that the document is complete.
If you need help with a security clearance matter, please contact us at (877) 362-3176 today.