Loyola University Chicago

Career Services

School of Law

Government Security Clearance Information

Security Clearance in the Federal Government (PDF from www.makingthedifference.org)

In recent years, the existing security clearance policies for some government agencies have become more stringent many other agencies have added security clearances to their hiring processes. The following is a brief overview of some of the key factors in the security screening processes used by the U.S. government.

  • Agencies that do security clearances include the DOJ, the CIA, and the Department of Defense. For the DOJ and U.S. Attorney's Offices, the FBI runs the security clearance check, and the background investigation for full-time employment is quite extensive.
  • Security clearance can take longer if students have dual citizenship, and dual citizenship with some countries (such as Iran) can sometimes make security clearance virtually impossible to obtain.
  • Students who are married to a non-citizen or who have lived outside of the U.S. for many years in the past decade (unless they were participating in a U.S. government program such as the military or the Peace Corps) will find it harder to receive clearance.
  • Drug use and past drug use continue to be taken seriously by the DOJ. This is a particularly difficult issues as admitting to even minor drug use may lead to rejection, and lying is committing perjury.
  • For the DOJ, a clear "one-year rule" exists. Applicants who have used narcotics less than one year prior to their application will be barred automatically from employment. Any other drug use is reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • Of major concern to the DOJ is any current drug use, use during law school, and repeated use of any "hard" narcotics, such as cocaine.
  • At the DOJ, there is an absolute post-bar prohibition on any drug use, including marijuana.
  • The FBI's policy requires that applicants have not used marijuana in the past three years or other drugs in the past ten years.
  • The CIA requires that applicants have not used illegal drugs within the past 12 months and carefully evaluates any use prior to that year during medical and security screening.
  • Other key issues for the security check are: defaulted student loans, neglected financial obligations, or failure to comply with tax laws. Failure to file or pay taxes may preclude a candidate from passing the background check.
  • In the past, some individuals have been flagged for further questioning because of admitted use of prescribed antidepressant drugs to ensure that these drugs did not impair their ability to function at work.