Eligibility Guidelines for a Security Clearance

When an individual’s job requires access to national security information, they must obtain a security clearance from the federal government. A security clearance is a type of background check used to determine an individual’s trustworthiness with restricted information. Who needs a security clearance, and who exactly is eligible?

Who Needs Security Clearance?

Any company that contracts with the federal government to send, receive, or develop national security information will require employees needing access to that information to obtain security clearances. This commonly includes people working for the military or intelligence, diplomatic, or law enforcement agencies. If approved, the federal government will grant the individual one of three levels of clearance, depending on the level of access needed: confidential, secret, or top secret.

Eligibility Factors for Security Clearances

Eligibility requirements differ slightly for each level of clearance, but there are certain requirements every applicant must meet. First, they must be a United States citizen whose job requires them to access confidential information. From there, an applicant must meet the Department of Defense’s National Security Adjudicative Guidelines, which are used to paint a picture of an applicant’s stability, reliability, trustworthiness, and character. The guidelines take into consideration one’s allegiance to the U.S., criminal and personal conduct, substance use and psychological history, financial considerations, and more. Race, color, sex, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and national origin are not taken into account for security decisions.

The Clearance Process

After receiving an employment offer, a job candidate can apply for security clearance. Once the applicant completes the required forms and paperwork, called the security package, the employer will submit it to the Defense Security Service (DSS) for review. DSS launches an investigation into the individual’s background, using fingerprint checks, background checks, interviews, and other methods to collect and verify as much information as possible. After closing the investigation, DSS determines the individual’s eligibility according to the guidelines mentioned above and notifies them of the decision. In some cases, DSS may forward the investigation on to the Department of State Human Resources for further review. The entire clearance process can take six months to a year or longer.

Appealing and Contesting a Decision

For employees whose jobs require access to sensitive information, security clearance decisions can be the difference between secure paychecks and unemployment. If your security clearance was denied, suspended, or revoked, your livelihood could be at stake. You have the right to contest and appeal the decision, but it’s critical to act quickly and with the help of a security clearance lawyer. The legal team at Avery Dooley & Noone, LLP is well-versed in the complexities of security clearance law, and we can guide you through the process of applying, contesting, or appealing a decision. Call Avery Dooley & Noone, LLP today at (617) 489-5300 to schedule a consultation.