How to Apply for Security Clearance

Written by paul bright
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How to Apply for Security Clearance
The application process for federal jobs may include a security clearance. (signing a contract image by William Berry from

Working with the military or federal government may require more stringent requirements than the public sector, including completion of a security clearance application. While the application asks personal questions pertaining to criminal history and finances, your federal employer needs to ensure you can receive and protect classified information. Failure to follow instructions could prevent obtaining a security clearance, which in turn could block the progress of your career.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Personal computer with Internet access
  • Appropriate clearance application form: SF 85, SF 85P or SF 86

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    How to Apply for Security Clearance

  1. 1

    Contact your hiring authorities and security manager to find out what clearance level you should apply for. This will determine which application you will use. Your clearance type should be in your official job description.

  2. 2

    Log on to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website to download or print the application. The SF85 Questionnaire will be needed for a Favorable background check, while the SF86 Questionnaire is needed for a Confidential, Secret or Top Secret clearance. The SF 85P will be needed for positions of trust.

  3. 3

    Follow all application instructions carefully as you answer each question. Any unanswered questions could delay the clearance investigation. Take into consideration the length of history each application requires. For any information to which you don't have answers, explain why in detail.

  4. 4

    Bring your application to your security manager. If he will submit it via hard-copy mail, you will have to sign the signature release forms. If you submit it electronically, he will grant you access to the e-QIP website where you will transcribe your information.

  5. 5

    Locate a police station---civilian or military---that has fingerprinting capability. Have them complete your fingerprints on the SF87 fingerprint cards. When complete, give them to your security manager. If they submit prints electronically, make sure you get the appropriate submission codes from your security managers.

Tips and warnings

  • Run a credit report before you submit your application. Identity theft and incorrect negative credit information may cast an unfair light on your financial trustworthiness.
  • Falsification of application information for the purpose of gaining federal employment is subject to federal punishment.

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