Generally, you will be required to complete the same questionnaire for all security levels. Although different investigations are used for various levels of access, they all look at the same types of information that you will need to provide:
The amount of information you are required to provide will depend on the level of security clearance for which you have been nominated. For example, the investigation for a Top Secret Clearance covers the last seven to 10 years of your life. The investigation for a Secret Clearance only covers the last five years. If unfavorable information surfaces, a deeper investigation into your background may be warranted. The government-derived clearance forms ask questions that include both past and present information such as:
A “Yes” answer to any of these questions will be followed up on by the clearance agency. While it could potentially be cause for disqualification, a “Yes” answer is certainly not automatically grounds for disapproval.
Honesty is the best policy when completing government applications and forms.
You must provide accurate, complete, and honest answers to all of the questions on your security questionnaire. Incomplete or inaccurate information can delay the process because this information is required for issuing your security clearance. False information is prohibited by law and punishable by fines and imprisonment. Remember, the information you provide will be verified during your investigation. Remember, when you sign your security forms, you are certifying completeness and accuracy under the penalty of prosecution.
The U.S. Office of Personnel Management supplies standard forms used government wide, including the Questionnaire for National Security Postions, commonly known as the SF86.
Generally, you will be able to fill out information through a web-based automated system called e-QIP, Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing. This e-QIP allows you to enter, update and transmit your personal information over a secure Internet connection to the requesting agency.
It is in the best interest of the government for you to successfully complete the SF86. It is a costly process for the government to research and diligently go through each application. Officials want you to pass. But many applicants are denied because of careless mistakes or omissions that raise red flags for the investigators.
Review the SF86 well before you begin to fill it out to determine exactly the kind of information you will need to provide. You must be accurate and thorough. Do not skip any question, even if it does not apply to you. In that case, your answer would N/A for not applicable. Be sure to fill out the supporting documentation such as the signature and authorization forms.
If you have any questions about what to put in your security questionnaire, see or call your security officer, and then answer the questions to the best of your ability. If you doubt whether to provide certain information, it is always best to provide the information (and any clarification, if necessary). Your omission of adverse information may be interpreted by adjudicators as falsification of your security forms. That could cost you your clearance. In some cases, how you have dealt with a problem or issue, such as a credit problem or substance abuse problem, may demonstrate good character and judgment, and may work favorably for you.
Before you sit down to fill out this form, you should collect all the documents needed to prove who you are and support the information about your life and your answers on the SF86:
There are several different categories of information you will have to fill out in the SF86. Below are some helpful hints so you don’t make common mistakes that may delay the process for you to obtain a security clearance.
Where Have You Lived
Where You Went to School
People Who Know You Well
Mental & Emotional Health
Illegal Use of Drugs or Activity
Use of Alcohol
Use of Information Technology Systems