Security Clearance Investigations

By John V. Berry, Esq.,

We are often asked about the process for security clearance investigations for government contractors and federal employees. There can be many questions for those applying or re-applying for a security clearance.  Our goal is to assist clients in the early stages of the security clearance process because doing so has the potential to alleviate more significant security clearance problems later on.  The following is the usual process involved for a security clearance investigation.  

Security Clearance Pre-Submission

This is a relatively new development and generally applies to private contractors, not government employees. Some private employers have begun to utilize their own forms for pre-screening potential candidates prior to presenting them with an employment offer. The goal with pre-screening, which is not used consistently throughout the private sector, is for an employer to avoid a potential denial in the security clearance process for a potential hire.

Completion of the SF-86/e-QIP

The most common first step in the security clearance investigations process is for an individual to begin the security clearance process by completing the SF-86/e-QIP electronic submission.  The submission is detailed and takes time to complete.  It is very important for an individual to take their time to ensure that the answers given are accurate. An otherwise successful security clearance application can be challenged if the information submission is not accurate. It is very common for an individual to make mistakes in the completion of the SF-86 if they are not careful.  These mistakes can prevent an individual from successfully navigating the security clearance process.

Assignment of the Investigator

Once the security clearance documents has been submitted, a security clearance investigator is assigned to review the case and potentially interview the individual seeking to obtain or retain a security clearance.  Prior to an interview, the investigator may contact an individual’s current employer (even if asked not to) and credit report information.  Agency records checks may also be conducted on close family members. The investigator will typically go through the documentation and identify potential issues of concern to follow up on in preparation for the interview. The investigator will then schedule an interview with the applicant or clearance holder to discuss any issues.

The Investigative Interview and Follow-Up Interviews

Once the investigator has reviewed the e-QIP (SF-86), then they will begin their investigation in full.  When contacted, individuals should strive to make the scheduling process an easy one for the investigator.  Delays or difficult schedules on the part of an applicant can lead to delays in the process of a security clearance.  It is important to bring valid photo identification, like a state driver’s license for the investigator to review prior to the investigation.

During the interview, discrepancies found during the investigation will be brought up to the individual for explanation.  There were will inquiries into past employment, law enforcement background of the individual involved and references will be reviewed. Following the interview, additional follow up may be needed by the investigator where additional documentation or an additional interview is needed in order to complete the investigation.

Investigative Recommendations

Following the investigative process a recommendation will be made as to whether or not the individual should be cleared by an adjudicator. If a positive recommendation has been issued, the clearance should be granted.  If a negative recommendation is issued, appeals options are available through the adjudicative process.


If you need assistance in the security clearance investigation process, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at

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