Do You Have to Disclose Unfavorable Information on Your Security Clearance Application?

When applying for security clearance, you must complete Standard Form (SF) 86. In the document, you must provide information concerning various aspects of your life. Unfortunately, not all the details in your history may be favorable. For instance, you might have gotten into legal trouble years ago or had a problem with alcohol or drugs. Revealing the information might be uncomfortable, and you might be hesitant about including it in your SF-86 because you worry it could hurt your chances of being granted security clearance.

Although disclosing unfavorable details about your life can be hard, you must be honest when applying for security clearance. The information might not be positive, but it also might not be grounds for immediate denial. In contrast, willfully misrepresenting yourself can have grave repercussions on your application now and in the future. It can also lead to criminal consequences.

If you need assistance preparing your security clearance application, schedule a consultation with one of our lawyers at Claery & Hammond, LLP by calling (877) 362-3176 or submitting an online contact form today.

Information You Must Provide When Applying for Security Clearance

The security clearance application, SF-86, is used as the basis for your background check. The representative conducting the investigation will compare and verify the information you have provided with the details they have uncovered.

The purpose of the background investigation is to determine whether the person seeking it is reliable, trustworthy, and of good character. These qualities are assessed by examining various facets of the applicant’s life.

As such, you will see questions on the SF-86 asking about things such as your:

Unfavorable Information Is Not Automatic Grounds for Denial

Your history might contain some less-than-favorable information. However, negative details in your past will not necessarily keep you from receiving security clearance. The agency considering you is going to look at your character as a whole.

It will also evaluate your answers based on:

  • The recency of the conduct,
  • The severity of the act,
  • The relevancy of your behavior to the position, and
  • The consistency of the information with other details about you.

Additionally, the agency may weigh mitigating factors concerning certain pieces of unfavorable information. For instance, suppose your mental health was not great a few years ago. However, you sought counseling and treatment to address the issue. The steps you took may be seen as beneficial and can positively affect your eligibility.

Dishonesty Can Lead to a Denial

When completing your SF-86, it is best to be accurate about all information, regardless of whether it’s favorable. Willfully withholding details, misrepresenting yourself, or falsifying information can do more harm than honestly disclosing anything that can be seen as a negative.

The subsequent background check after you submit your SF-86 is thorough. The investigator will compare your responses on the application with the information they pull from various sources, such as courts, credit agencies, and previous employers. Any inconsistencies may be uncovered.

Dishonesty on your application can result not only in clearance being denied but also disqualification for federal service. If you apply for a national security job in the future, your previous SF-86 may be compared to your current one, affecting future placements.

Falsifying or omitting material information is also considered recent and severe. Doing so can lead to felony charges under federal law. If you’re convicted, you could be fined and/or imprisoned for up to 5 years.

Get Assistance with Your Security Clearance Application

Not being upfront about unfavorable information in your past can hurt your chances of being granted security clearance and lead to criminal penalties. Interestingly, some people face denials or other serious consequences for misrepresenting themselves that they may have avoided had they been honest.

When completing your application, be complete and accurate. If you need help understanding what’s required of you, reach out to an attorney. They can explain the application process and assist with preparing for an interview, where you can clarify unfavorable details in your past. A lawyer can help appeal the decision if your security clearance is denied.

Speak with a member of the Claery & Hammond, LLP team by contacting us at (877) 362-3176 today.