Four Steps in the Government Security Clearance Process

You’ve been hired for your first government position, so what happens next? After you have accepted the offer, your next step may be to complete the government security clearance process.

Security clearances are administered to make sure that a person who is hired is reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, and loyal to the United States (via Go Government). There are four main types of security clearances, including:

  • Confidential
  • Secret
  • Top Secret (TS)
  • Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI)

Each clearance grants a different level or form access to specific information, and only federal agencies are allowed to grant security clearances. Here are four steps to complete during the government security clearance process:

Background Investigation

Whenever a government security clearance is required, any job offer is conditional until the new hire has been cleared. Typically, the candidate must complete a Standard Form 86, the Questionnaire for National Security Positions. Human Resources will submit the completed security questionnaire and security package to the Department of State’s Office of Personnel Security and Suitability.

The candidate’s information will be entered into a case management system, followed by fingerprint checks.  A case manager will direct the investigation to cover key events and contacts from the individual’s past and present.

To learn more about the candidate, a Department of State investigator will interview the candidate face-to-face within a few weeks of receiving a complete security clearance package.

The investigator will check to confirm the information listed in the security package, such as his or her residence, school(s) attended and previous employers. Additionally, investigators will not only talk to the candidate’s references provided in the security package, but they will also talk to current and former neighbors, supervisors, co-workers and classmates.

Once the investigators have completed a report, highly trained security clearance adjudicators will weigh the results against existing adjudicative guidelines for security clearances.

Although most candidates will be granted security clearance, complicating factors or derogatory findings could delay a decision or result in a denial of security clearance.

Note: For more information or FAQs on the security clearance process, please visit this FAQ on Clearances from the U.S. Department of State.