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Is There a Difference Between Security Clearances?

When obtaining your first security clearance, you may soon learn there are multiple tiers of clearance levels. Each tier grants access to a certain classification of classified information, which may be necessary for your job duties as a federal employee. Our award-winning federal employment attorneys break down the basics of security clearance tiers.

Security Clearance Basics

Federal employees can only obtain a security clearance if their job requires the use or access of classified information. The position’s needs determine which security clearance the employee will need to apply for.

If a federal employee does not need to access classified information, they cannot be granted a federal security clearance. However, if a federal employee moves positions from a job that required a higher classification of clearance to a job that requires a lower classification, they can keep their level of clearance until the security clearance expires.

The Tiers

There are multiple tiers of security clearances, grouping together individual clearance types based on the type of information they access.

Confidential and Public Trust Clearances: confidential and public trust security clearances are the most basic of the three tiers. Those with confidential security clearances only access basic confidential information or need access to secure government sites. Confidential clearances must be reinvestigated every 15 years.

Secret: secret security clearances are the mid-level of the security clearance tiers. Information disclosed to those with a secret clearance can “cause serious damage to national security” if revealed and must be reinvestigated every 10 years.

Top Secret: top secret clearances deal with access to classified information that is detrimental to national security if revealed. Those with top secret clearances must be reinvestigated every five years.

The main difference between the three tiers of security clearances is the damage the information can cause to national security and the level of background information and examination the candidate must be subjected to and convince the federal government that they are eligible to gain and maintain access to.

Top-Rated, Award-Winning Federal Employment Attorneys

Your first government position where you need a federal security clearance can bring forth lots of questions as you navigate the clearance application and background investigation process. Our federal employment attorneys can help you navigate the security clearance appeals process if your security clearance is denied or revoked.

Are you facing a security investigation, a proposed indefinite suspension or a notice to deny or revoke your security clearance? Call our security clearance appeals attorneys at (202) 350-3881 or fill out our online contact form to schedule a consultation to learn more about the security clearance appeals process.