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How Do I Get a Security Clearance?


Many professionals in the security industry go straight to the source for their careers – the federal government, and the many federal agencies that are part of our national security complex. But it’s not as simple as walking into the CIA or Department of Homeland Security and handing in an application. For most federal security careers, you have to get a security clearance. And that’s not easy.

What Are the Security Clearance Requirements?

The US Department of Defense has several security clearance requirements. First you must work in a job that requires access to sensitive information. If you don’t work in a job that absolutely requires this kind of information, then you don’t meet the security clearance requirements no matter your background. Most US citizens don’t meet these requirements. Second, to get clearance, you must be a US citizen, either born in the US or naturalized. If you meet these two main requirements, then you’re eligible to start the process for federal security clearance.

The Current State of Homeland Security

Getting federal security clearance is a multi-step process. First, the Department of Defense must recognize you as someone whose job requires clearance. Next, your Facility Security Officer, or sponsor, will submit an investigation request. You’ll receive an electronic application that you will fill out. After that, all that’s left for you is to wait for your investigation to finish. While you wait, the Department of Defense will perform an investigation to see if you meet the federal security clearance requirements. The Department of Defense will let you know the results of your security clearance check. They’ll also tell you which level of clearance you’ve reached according to the security clearance levels chart.

What Is the Security Clearance Levels Chart?

What is the security clearance levels chart? As far as the federal government is concerned, there are five types of information. These types range from levels one through five. Levels are based on how much danger the information could cause the US if it were released. Level one information means no danger. This is where most US citizens are. Level five is for “secret and high risk” information. The numbers in the middle have a moderate amount of risk. The US government grants access based on what you need to know. If your job only requires level three, for example, then they won’t give you level four clearance. The security clearance levels chart itself is a tool that illustrates different levels of clearance, how much risk is associated with each type of information, and how often each level of clearance must be renewed.

How Do I Get a Security Clearance Without a Sponsor?

A lot of people ask how to get a security clearance without a sponsor. The short answer is that you can’t. Security clearance requirements are fairly simple but very strict. Remember that the US government only gives security clearance to people who absolutely need that information. It’s not about checking something off your bucket list, and it’s not just about how trustworthy you are. If you work in a job that requires security clearance, then your job will include having a sponsor. The question of how to get security clearance without a sponsor shouldn’t be an issue for those who legitimately need clearance.

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What Can Disqualify Me from Getting a Security Clearance?

During your security clearance check, the Department of Defense will look for two kinds of disqualifiers: automatic disqualifiers and things that could raise some concerns. As of 2019, the only automatic disqualifier (other than not being a US citizen), is the current use of illegal drugs.

Then there the things that could raise concerns during your security clearance check. These things are potential, but not automatic, security clearance disqualifiers. Potential federal employment background check disqualifiers include past non-allegience to the US, a history of alcohol abuse, compromised emotional health, and having a past criminal record. Though all of these things can raise concerns, they’re not automatic federal employment background check disqualifiers. In these cases, the Department of Defense examines the surrounding circumstances. For example, a criminal record during your teenage years may not count among security clearance disqualifiers, especially if you haven’t committed any crimes as an adult.

Are There Any Secret Clearance Disqualifiers?

All of that said, some of the above “red flags” will disqualify you from reaching the “Top Secret” level of clearance. These are the secret security clearance disqualifiers, so-called because they keep people from reaching that “secret” level. As stated earlier, the security clearance levels chart has five levels of clearance. If you have any secret clearance disqualifiers, you may reach a lower level of clearance. However, these secret security clearance disqualifiers will prevent you from progressing any further. Secret clearance disqualifiers include felony convictions, illegal financial dealings, lying to the government, DUI convictions, and several others.

Related:

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