When it comes to security clearances, the timeline for approval nears the top of the list of applicant pet peeves. The only thing worse than the hours it can take to fill out your SF-86 is the months it might take for your security clearance to be fully adjudicated. Fortunately, there’s good news for clearance applicants. Following a few simple steps will help speed along your adjudication, and make the first day of your new cleared job come a lot more quickly.

1. Get a paper copy of the application form (Standard Form 86—SF86). Complete the paper copy of the SF86, before attempting to complete the electronic (eQIP) version online. You will save yourself a lot of time and frustration.

2. Provide complete and accurate information. Too often applicants fail to list short-term employment, residence, education, and other seemingly unimportant information. When an investigation turns up missing or discrepant information, it adds extra time to the investigation.

3. Postal Zip Codes are critical. A wrong Zip Code will result in part of your investigation being sent to the wrong investigative office, and the case could languish for weeks before the error is noticed.

4. Get a free credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com and review it before completing an SF86. Something you were unaware of may appear on the report and cause delays.

5. When entering the “Name of Person Who Knew You” in the Residence Section of the SF86, list neighbors. Avoid listing relatives in any section of the SF86, except Section 17—Spouse and Section 18—Your Relatives And Associates.

6. Don’t indicate dual citizenship just because you were born in a foreign country, unless you are certain you have dual citizenship. Go to www.opm.gov/extra/investigate/IS-01.pdf and check the citizenship laws of foreign county where you were born.

7. If you have dual citizenship and a foreign passport, surrender the foreign passport to your security office and indicated in the Comment section of the SF86 that you have done this. Your security officer will have to attach a statement to your SF86 stating the same thing. Also indicate in the Comment Section of the SF86 your willingness to renounce foreign citizenship. Do not contact any foreign official regarding the passport or citizenship, unless you are instructed to do so by a representative of the U.S. Government.

8. If you had mental health or substance abuse counseling in the past 7 years, contact the facility where the counseling occurred and determine if they will accept a standard government release for medical information. If not, get a blank copy of their release and take it with you to your personal interview.

9. If you left a job under less than favorable circumstances, explain the situation in the comment section of Question 13C of your SF86, and give the name and/or position of the person who terminated you or asked you to quit.

Taking these steps may seem like a hassle now, but they’ll save both time and hassle in the long run.

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