Reasons for Security Clearance Denials: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

September 8, 2023
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

Obtaining and keeping a security clearance can be one of the most important elements of your career as a federal employee or contractor. The process is difficult, and plenty of applications are denied every year. Understanding the reasons why applications get denied and what you can do about it can help you get the clearance you need for your career. If you have questions about your application, a federal security clearance lawyer can provide you with valuable guidance. 

The Most Common Reasons Why Clearances Are Denied

When applying for a security clearance, the government is considering whether you are a trustworthy person who is loyal to the United States The vast majority of denials are based on one of the following reasons: 

  • Financial problems. Open bankruptcy proceedings will definitely cause your security clearance to be denied, but closed bankruptcy cases can also be problematic. Delinquent debts will also result in a denial of your clearance, but carrying excessive debt may also result in a denial. Unsatisfied civil judgments will also result in a denial. 
  • Criminal charges or convictions. A single non-violent misdemeanor may not be an issue, but a pending felony charge or conviction will definitely result in a denial. The government pays particular attention to criminal charges that involve allegations of fraud, dishonesty, or financial impropriety. 
  • Substance abuse. A history of alcohol or drug abuse can jeopardize your security clearance. This can include charges and convictions for drug possession or DWI, but also other evidence of substance abuse. 
  • Evidence of foreign influence. This can include belonging to particular organizations or even personal relationships that call your loyalty to the United States into question.
  • Dishonesty or concealment during the application process. Lying or a lack of candor in preparing your application can result in a denial of your clearance. Failure to cooperate with your investigation can also result in a denial. 

Applicants should be aware that even minor issues can result in a denial, things like unpaid parking tickets or unpaid bills. If denied, the government must provide you with a Statement of Reasons (SOR). The SOR will explain the reason for your denial. At this point, we recommend that you contact a federal security clearance lawyer to discuss your options as soon as possible.    

What You Can Do to Avoid Rejection

No one is perfect, and almost everyone has issues that they need to disclose in their application for a security clearance. While some of these issues can jeopardize your clearance, there are things you can do to minimize that risk. On the flip side, there are also things that you can do to almost guarantee that your clearance will be denied. Here are some steps you can take to avoid rejection: 

  • Be transparent. If you have made mistakes in the past, it is far better to disclose them than to try to cover them up. 
  • Provide candid, detailed, and complete answers. A vague response is much more likely to be more problematic than a detailed answer. Do not attempt to shade the truth or only tell part of the truth. Make use of the “additional comments” sections to explain the circumstances surrounding the issue. 
  • Get your financial house in order. Pull a copy of your credit report and review it for inaccuracies and other problems that require your attention. Bring any delinquent accounts current and pay off whatever debts you can. 
  • Prepare for your interview. The interview will involve discussing much of the same information included in your application. Therefore, you want to make sure that your answers are consistent and that you do not omit any pertinent details that may create the impression that you are being evasive.
  • Confirm Your Loyalty to the United States. For those who are dual citizens or have other connections to foreign countries, be careful when taking advantage of privileges granted by those foreign countries. For example, traveling on a United States passport instead of a foreign passport will help confirm your security clearance. 

If you have issues in your past that you are worried may jeopardize your clearance, the best thing to do is talk to a federal security clearance lawyer. They can assess the potential issues, help you complete your application, and even represent you at your hearing. A lawyer who has experience with the federal security clearance process will give you the best chance at having your clearance granted.  

Contact Federal Security Clearance Lawyer J.W. Stafford Today

Whether you are applying for your first time or facing a renewal, federal security clearance lawyer J.W. Stafford can help you navigate whatever challenges you face. Call us today at 410-514-6099 or contact us online to schedule a consultation.