Federal jobs that give you access to sensitive information require security clearances. Although all federal jobs require background checks, not all federal jobs require security clearances. There are also different security levels and different types of security clearances.
National Security Positions, Public Trust Positions, and Non-Sensitive Positions
If you work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for example, you will hold a national security position and require the highest level of security clearance. Politicians and public figures hold public trust positions, and other federal employees hold non-sensitive positions.
Public trust positions and national security positions usually require some level of security clearance, but a public trust determination is not the same as a security clearance.
What Kinds of Security Clearances Are Available?
The 4 main types of security clearances include:
- Top secret
- Top secret with sensitive compartmented information (SCI)
Politicians may have access to confidential information or information that could cause damage to national security if disclosed without authorization and would thus need a confidential security clearance. Members of the CIA or FBI would need higher security clearances (secret or top secret) and federal employees working on special programs may also need top secret security clearance with SCI.
Security Clearances Are Not Limited to High-Profile Jobs
Security clearances are required for a wide range of jobs. An FBI field agent may require the same security clearance as a janitor who works in the FBI office.
Any federal employee who is exposed to controlled or confidential information may need a security clearance. Even authorized federal contractors or employees working for companies that do business with the federal government may need security clearances.
How to Get a Security Clearance
You cannot apply for a security clearance. Rather, you may be offered a job that initiates a security clearance investigation.
If you apply for a job that requires a security clearance, you will be considered and accepted first, then given a conditional offer of employment. Once you have a conditional offer, the federal government will investigate you for a security clearance. If your security clearance is denied, your job offer will be revoked. You may be able to protect your job by appealing your denied security clearance.
The evaluation process can be lengthy, and according to the U.S. Department of State:
“Honesty, candor, and thoroughness are very important factors in the process of obtaining a security clearance.”
Most delays and denials are the result of incomplete forms and information. Applicants with dual citizenship and extensive overseas activities may be more vulnerable to delays and denials, as well.
You cannot get a security clearance unless you are:
- Honest, trustworthy, and morally upstanding
- Loyal to the U.S. government
- Physically, mentally, and psychologically healthy
- Free from foreign influence
- NOT involved in criminal activity
Sometimes, something as simple as a failed drug test can invalidate a security clearance. If your security clearance is denied, you will receive the reason(s) for the denial and have an opportunity to appeal.
During your security clearance investigation, you will use the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) system. Review your e-QIP submissions for accuracy and verify the names and contact information of references you provide.
Sometimes, having a trusted advisor take a second look at your e-QIP submissions can be helpful. If you have an attorney look over your documents, you will also have representation if your security clearance is denied, and you need to appeal.
For over 25 years, John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law has been helping federal employees with their security clearances. We can help you, too.
Call us at (202) 759-7780 or contact us online to get started today.