Five Tips for Getting and Keeping a Clearance

1. Get a Head Start

Expecting an offer for a position that requires a security clearance or Public Trust? The forms required can be tedious and overwhelming. Even inadvertent discrepancies and incomplete information can lead to greater scrutiny in investigation and even, in some cases, adverse decisions.

Get a head start by reviewing the SF-86 (for security clearances) or SF-85P (for Public Trust positions) before you are faced with a deadline.


2. Check Your Finances

Financial issues are the most common category of concern that leads to the denial, suspension, and/or revocation of a clearance or public trust position. Checking your credit report before the government does and speaking with a security clearance attorney about how to best address any issues may help mitigate this risk. We recommend continuing this practice on an annual basis.

The federal government has an extensive resource page on credit reports and entitlement to free annual credit reports from the three credit reporting agencies.


3. Understand Your Reporting Requirements

Clearance holders have an affirmative obligation to know their reporting requirements, which vary depending on the type of clearance held. Review these standards closely and regularly, make sure you are up to date on any agency-specific reporting requirements, and seek legal counsel or contact your FSO if you have any questions regarding your obligations.


4. Understand What May Impact Your Eligibility

Clearance eligibility may be reassessed when the holder is up for reinvestigation or when new information raises a concern under the Adjudicative Guidelines. The Guidelines cover numerous topics including finances, foreign influence, criminal activity, alcohol and drugs, and even compliance with employer policies. Understanding which behaviors may put your clearance at risk, and how to mitigate concerns, is vital to maintaining a clearance or Public Trust position.


5. Don’t Recreate the Wheel 

Clearance holders are often required to complete another SF-86 either for a new position or because they are up for reinvestigation.


  • Anyone who has already completed an SF-86 should refer to their prior answers in completing a new application.
  • For those using e-QIP, prior answers may auto-populate.
  • When reviewing prior answers, however, keep in mind that any misstatements on the prior form should be corrected on the new application.
  • Keep a copy of every application you complete.

Security Clearance Blogs


Security Clearance Practice

Elaine L. Fitch

Photo of Mary E. Kuntz, Partner, DC employment law firm KCNF

Mary E. Kuntz

Co-chair of the Security Clearance Practice

Photo of Elizabeth M. Baker, associate with DC employment law firm KCNF

Elisabeth Baker-Pham

Co-chair of the Security Clearance Practice

Photo of Aaron Herreras Szot, associate with DC employment law firm KCNF

Aaron Herreras-Szot

Photo of Elizabeth I. Newman, Retired Partner, DC employment lawyers of Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman and Fitch

Elizabeth L. Newman

Retired (2015)