Changing Jobs While Holding a Security Clearance

By John V. Berry, Esq.,

One of our major practice areas involves the representation of government contractors and federal employees in security clearance law matters.  We frequently speak to employees who have issues or concerns relating to their security clearances and are seeking a new position elsewhere.  We decided to put together some tips for employees that are changing positions in the context of holding a security clearance.

This article discusses the issues of changing jobs and offers some tips for employees about to leave their current employment and who are seeking a new cleared position.


Recommendations when Leaving an Employer with a Security Clearance.

  1. Attempt to Leave Your Existing Employer on Good Terms: It is critically important to leave your employer on good terms when taking a new position with another company. Otherwise, bad feelings can lead to a security clearance issue. The better the departure, the less likely that an individual will have issues relating to your security clearance in the future. Keep in mind that a former employer can still report security concerns about a former employee even when they have left their employment.  I recommend the cordial departure approach with supervisors and the company and that the individual take every step possible to keep their former employer happy while you leave.  Doing so can minimize the risk of receiving a negative clearance report later.
  2. Become Knowledgeable about the Status of Your Clearance Before You Leave: It is important to know the status of your clearance before you leave. Too often we have seen a person accept a new position but not realize that their security clearance was out of scope or pending re-investigation, possibly leaving them without an active clearance when they leave. There is also the possibility that a negative incident report is pending which is unknown at the time of departure. It is important to keep in touch with an existing security officer and your new company’s security officer. This is a major potential problem where an employee has left their position thinking that all is okay, but then later find out (usually after 2 weeks at the new job) that there is a problem with their security clearance which often leads to a termination.
  3. Have the New Employer Check Your Status Before Leaving the Former Employer: The individual leaving employment should confirm and re-confirm with the new employer’s security office the status of their security clearance. This is especially the case where an individual maintains a security clearance in one system, i.e. the Department of Defense JPAS database and attempts to move to a position with an Intelligence Community agency (i.e. NSA, CIA, NRO, NGA) which is covered by a different database known as Scattered Castles. Sometimes these two databases do not sync well which can cause issues and delays.
  4. Employees Having Security Incidents Should Take it Slow Before they Leave: One of the most common problems that we come across is when an individual knows that they have an incident report but they still attempt to move to the new employer before their security issue is adjudicated and cleared. If an individual knows that they have an incident report pending they are typically much better off by staying with their existing employer who will likely keep them employed while the matter is adjudicated. The new employer is far more likely to tell an individual, only after they have left their prior employment, that their clearance has an issue and that they can no longer hire them.
  5. Don’t Take Employer Items When Leaving: When there is a potentially difficult transition, i.e. when the employer is upset with an individual leaving their position for another job it is important to be very careful what the employee takes when with them when they leave the office. Our firm has had numerous cases where an employee leaves one employer under less than favorable circumstances and then the employer claims the loss of confidential information and reports the employee to clearance authorities. In particular, an individual should be very careful in what they take from their computer and in taking any printed files from the office. If there is any question, get permission from the employer.  Some clients have been reported for taking company emails, files or other information, even if not classified which results in significant security clearance issues. Taking care of these issues now avoids significant security clearance issues later.


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


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