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Can a Felon Get a Security Clearance?

Can a Felon Get a Security Clearance

Finding a job can be hard. There are many hoops to jump through. You have to gather paperwork, find good referees, and provide credentials.

Having a steady work history can help. The gaps to clarify are however a problem for felons. Felons serve at least a year in prison. Explaining this can be tricky.

More so when it comes to jobs with security clearance. Can a felon get a security clearance?

Let’s first discuss what this clearance is and why felons can be affected.

What Is a Security Clearance?

Security clearance allows access to certain classified national security info. This is up to and including their level of clearance. It may also grant access to certain restricted areas.

This clearance is needed for certain federal, military, and contractor jobs.  Those granted clearance must sign non-disclosure contracts.

Security clearances are given by federal agencies. Some agencies that require this include:

  • Federal law enforcement. Like Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
  • Intelligence community. Like the Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency (NSA)
  • Diplomatic services. Like the State Department and USAID
  • Civilian military agencies

can a felon get security clearance

Within any federal institution, there are different categories of jobs. These classifications are:

  • Non-sensitive positions
  • Public trust positions
  • National security positions

All these jobs require a background check. However, the depth of inquiry may vary. There are three levels of security clearance for national security jobs. These are:

1 Confidential – Gives access to info that may cause harm to national security. If disclosed without authorization it requires re-investigation every 15 years.

2 Secret – Gives access to info that may cause serious harm to national security. If disclosed without authorization it requires re-investigation every 10 years.

3 Top Secret – Gives access to info that may cause exceptionally grave harm to national security. If disclosed without authorization it requires re-investigated every five years.

Decisions on who gets security clearance are made by the Bureau of Human Resources. It is under the State Department.

Different state bodies may be used for carrying out the background check. Another body then uses the report to decide on clearance.

How to Get a Security Clearance?

The process is similar to most other jobs. A person applies for a position and goes through an interview process. if they are successful then they will be offered the job.

This job offer is conditional on the applicant getting the required clearance.

Consent forms and questionnaires must be filled. An extensive background investigation is then undertaken.

This probing will depend on the position and its required level of clearance. The inquiry is conducted by a government agency. They provide a report but are not the ones to make a decision.

This inquiry can take a long while. It often ranges between a few months to a year. Backlog and priority usually influence this timing.

can felon get a security clearance

Steps to this investigation include:

1 Submission of the completed security package. This goes to the State Department’s Office of Personal Security and Suitability.

2 The package is reviewed for completeness. It is then entered into the case management system.

3 Fingerprint background checks are done. A national agency record check is also done. Learn more about what shows up on a fingerprint background check.

4 Delving into key events in the person’s history is done by an investigator. There are also interviews of contacts from the candidate’s past and present history.

5 An in-person interview is done with the candidate.

6 Education, work history, and references are all confirmed. Additional contacts provided in the package are also interviewed.

7 The investigator identifies all jurisdictions in which the person has lived, worked, and schooled. A check is then done with law enforcement agencies in those jurisdictions.

8 The investigator prepares a report and submits it to the security clearance adjudicators.

9 The adjudicators follow the adjudicative guidelines for security clearance in making a decision.

10 The candidate is informed of the decision.

Disqualifiers for Security Clearance

This process can be worrying for felons. This is because in evaluating a candidate, the government wants to ensure you have good character. It is easier for people to acquire professionally qualifications.

It is however tougher to prove moral character as a felon. Traits they consider include:

  • Trustworthiness
  • Reliability
  • Discretion
  • Stability
  • Strength of character
  • Sound judgment
  • Loyalty to the US

All this defines if you can protect the national security interests of the nation.

A felon is not disqualified just because of their record. Certain factors may however relate, making someone unfit.

Those with drug addictions and deemed mentally incompetent are automatically disqualified. Those dishonorably discharged from the military are also disqualified. This result calls into question their loyalty to the country. The same will apply to those accused or convicted of treasonous acts.

If a juvenile commits a crime under the influence or coercion of an adult then leniency may be applied. This is especially the case in murder cases.
Many felony crimes can bring into doubt a person’s reliability, judgment, stability, and trustworthiness. Even non-violent crimes like fraud and theft touch on trustworthiness.

Any crime can be an obstacle to gaining security clearance. It is not just convictions. Especially if they repeatedly occur.

Those whose offenses from many years ago and were a singular event are viewed more favorably. To boost your chances, you need to provide full disclosure. You must also prove that you have completely changed for the better.

Making an Appeal

As these inquiries are done by federal authorities, there is no way to lie. Even crimes that have been expunged or pardoned must be divulged. Failure to do so indicates dishonesty.

But this does not mean you should not pursue such relief. You will have earned the right because you have proven that you are now law-abiding. And a contributing member of society.

Know that there is also a formal appeal process you can pursue. This is following a denial or revocation of clearance.

The process will vary depending on if you are military, civilian, or a contractor. Consult the applicable agency to find out what steps to take.

The Appeal Board’s decision is final. You cannot appeal further for at least a year from the date of the final decision.


Felons should not feel defined by their past. You should still make a trial for jobs that require clearance. You will not know if you will succeed until you try it.

And, even if you fail, there are other options. Our list of highest paying jobs for felons can help you find a better career. With much less stressful probing.

Remember that with any job, being honest is vital. Any omission or discrepancy may be viewed negatively.

Want to know what shows up on a background check? Run one on yourself. It will help ensure you give full disclosure.

Try to be as comprehensive as possible. It is not just convictions.

You also need to reveal any arrests or charges that may not have ended up in prosecution.

Do not underestimate the amount of details federal agencies can dig up on you.

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