Who Pays for the Clearance Process?

Many IT jobs these days require a security clearance. It can be expensive; each step of the investigation to clear your name is extensive. If you’re considering an IT role that requires a security clearance, this article will help you understand the costs, processes, and who pays. 

How Much Does an IT Security Clearance Cost? 

A security clearance allows a technology or other type of professional to have access to specific secure information. These clearances are issued by many of the U.S. Government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security or the CIA. 

The simplest and lowest level security clearance is called the National Agency Check, which costs about $154. While that might not sound bad, the higher the security clearance, the more complex the investigation, and therefore, the higher the cost. Some security clearance designations run up to $3,000. So, who pays for this? 

There is a misconception that IT contractors end up paying for their security clearance. Instead, the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB), which runs the candidate screening process, receives funding for these checks through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Revolving Fund. An applicant cannot initiate the security clearance process, only the federal agency that is attempting to employ your services. The hiring officials at the agency seeking to hire you are the ones that determine if you need a specific security clearance to do the work. 

Say you are a new employee for the Department of Defense. When it’s time for your background check, the OPM will pay. This includes fingerprinting, interviewing, background checks, prior history investigation, and more. Some of these clearances require investigators to dig back seven to 10 years in your history, while other types of clearances have no historic timeframe at all.  

It costs money aeach step in the process of security clearance. These clearances also only cover a certain time period once they are issued, requiring an additional extensive check-in five, 10, or 15-year increments. Sometimes these investigations are conducted randomly—it depends on the department and the clearance level. 

Some of the types of security clearances available through federal agencies today include: 

  • Confidential—Allows you access to information that could damage national security if disclosed. This level requires reauthorization at 15-years.
  • Secret—Grants access to information that could cause serious damage to national security if disclosed. Secret clearance must be reauthorized every 10-years. 
  • Top Secret—Gives you access to information that could cause exceptionally grave damage to national security if leaked. This is the highest level of security authorization and must be reauthorized every five years. 

There is also an interim security clearance, allowing temporary work on classified material. This security clearance can be obtained in about 90-days. 

Could You Be Denied a Security Clearance? 

There are various reasons why you might be denied a specific security clearance. Every case is assessed individually, with very specific guidelines consistent with the level of clearance and the agency trying to hire you. If you end up being denied for a security clearance, the agency will notify you of the problem and give you the steps for filing an appeal. As part of the process, you are allowed to dispute any negative information that stops you from receiving the clearance.  

If you’re considering a government position, talk with the team at Blackstone. We help IT professionals use their skills in all kinds of jobs, including the government. Call on us today. 

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