Will a seedy past affect your ability to obtain a security clearance? Not necessarily, but it does mean you may need assistance navigating the security clearance process.

When you apply for a security clearance, time is money – literally. Delays in obtaining a security clearance may leave you benched, and unable work for the government or a defense contractor. Long term delays may lead to an offer being rescinded completely.

How long does it take to process a clearance? That’s highly variable, with the process for obtaining an interim clearance taking as little as two weeks, to final determinations for complicated applications taking as long as two years. Top secret security clearances can take twice as long as secret security clearances.

How do you know whether or not you need help? If multiple questions arise as you fill out your SF-86, consider getting professional assistance. Your facility security officer may be able to help, but keep in mind that you are ultimately responsible for the information you submit.

If you have a criminal background, complicated employment history or other potential issues, bringing in help will ensure you are mitigating issues rather than leaving an incomplete story that an adjudicator will need to interpret.

You wouldn’t think twice about calling in professional help with your tax return for Uncle Sam. Consider getting help when you’re applying for a job with him. The return could be worth the investment.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at ClearanceJobs.com. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer