Things You Will Need
Decent credit, honesty, good record-keeping skills.
Step 1Get hired by the government or by a company that has classified contracts with the U.S. government. An individual cannot apply for a security clearance on their own. They must be sponsored by a company with classified contracts in place.
Step 2Gather your personal records. You will need to know addresses and phone numbers for previous employers and supervisors. You will need addresses and phone numbers for schools you have attended. You may also be asked to provide phone numbers and addresses of friends, family members and neighbors. Review the SF-86 form found here to prepare.
Step 3Get your affairs in order! Ensure you are current on bills and/or any outstanding debt. You may want to review your credit report to determine if now is a good time to apply for a security clearance. This is taken from the Defense Security Service website: "An individual who is financially overextended is at risk of having to engage in illegal acts to generate funds..."
Step 4Complete your security questionnaire honestly and thoroughly. If you are submitting your questionnaire online via OPM's eQIP system, be sure to provide answers to your "Golden Questions" that you will never forget. This will save you time should you ever need re-investigation (typically every 5 or 10 years).
Step 5Submit your questionnaire and be patient. You may receive an 'interim clearance' quickly after a criminal history check. The full investigation process can take up to 2 years to complete!
Be open and honest throughout the process and have patience awaiting your final investigation. Don't try to compare your experiences with others holding clearances. There are too many variables involved and each case is different, with different investigators and different subjects. One persons investigation may take 4 months and another 18 months. Hang in there.
Tips & Warnings
Be honest throughout the entire clearance process. The government investigator assigned to your case will have access to multiple sources to validate your claims. It is much better for the applicant to explain a situation than to try and hide it.