Many defense candidates will need a security clearance if they’re selected for a position in the defense industry. Security clearances are formal authorizations to interact with classified information. Essentially, the credential asserts that an employee has undergone a suitable background check based on the sensitivity of the data they’ll work with during the course of performing their duties.

While many candidates who are new to the defense sector might assume that security clearances are quick, they’re actually lengthy processes. They dig far deeper than the background checks associated with jobs at more traditional companies, as they need to ensure that the employee doesn’t pose any risk to national security.

Here’s a look at how long it takes to get a security clearance.

How Long It Takes to Get a Security Clearance

Security clearance timelines vary, though most are completed within 60 to 120 days of the application submission. A top secret security clearance typically takes the longest, as that’s the highest level available. The reason is that the required background check for a top secret clearance is more comprehensive.

The fastest security clearance is usually confidential. That’s the lowest level clearance available, so while it’s still a robust process, it doesn’t require some steps you’ll find with the higher-level clearances. Secret is a mid-level clearance, so the timeline usually falls between confidential and top secret.

However, while 60 to 120 days is the norm, that doesn’t mean some security clearances won’t take longer. The process may extend beyond 120 days for a variety of reasons, which we’ll discuss below.

Factors That Impact Security Clearance Timelines

Typically, there aren’t many factors that will accelerate a security clearance timeline. The process is multi-step and comprehensive, so they aren’t completed ahead of schedule in most cases.

However, there are numerous situations that cause delays. In some cases, security clearances take longer because there’s a mistake or there’s missing information on the application. With these, the initial paperwork may require revisions, and resubmission or supporting documentation might be required.

For clearances requiring interviews with the applicant and other individuals, such as family members or friends, delays can occur if there are scheduling conflicts. Frequent moves – even if justified and easily explained – complicate the background check process, potentially lengthening it regardless of whether all provided information is accurate.

If any concerning information is revealed during the security clearance assessment, that also alters the timeline. Not all troubling information leads to automatic disqualification. Instead, some situations lead to further analysis, and that’s time-consuming.

For example, your financial situation is potentially cause for concern. High amounts of debt compared to your income is viewed as risky since those in dire straits are potentially more likely to exchange sensitive information for cash from a third party. Past convictions that aren’t automatically disqualifying are also red flags. Similarly, questionable personal behavior revealed during the investigation may make more checks necessary.

Finally, the stated 60 to 120-day figure is an average, not a guarantee. Currently, top secret clearances specifically take an average of 155 days to obtain. The reason is the complexity of the investigation, as well as the general rising demand for clearances, both of which lead to altered timelines.

Ultimately, getting a security clearance is a lengthy process, but it is a necessary part of working in the defense industry. Are you ready to explore opportunities in the defense sector? Partner with the Staffing Resource Group to gain access to fantastic open positions. Contact us today.

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