Are there any per se disqualifications to a security clearance?

There are very few automatic disqualifiers for a security clearance, however there are a few established by law.

For Collateral Clearances (Secret, Top Secret): Current use of illegal drugs

For Special Access Programs (SAPs), Restricted Data, or Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (SCI) Access: Same as above OR

  • Conviction of a crime for which you were sentenced to – and actually served – over one (1) year confinement;
  • A discharge from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  • A determination of mental incompetence by an approved medical authority.

Technically, it is possible to receive a waiver even for these issues, but practically-speaking I would not count on it. Applicants should further be aware that the following issues, although not per se disqualifiers, generally have the same impact:

  • Refusal to surrender a foreign passport
  • Recent felony conviction(s) or recent convictions of crimes involving a moral turpitude component (e.g. theft)
  • Current or recent financial support to or harboring of an illegal alien
  • Current and significant unresolved debt

If DOHA reverses the denial of my clearance is there any way I can recoup lost pay as a result of the months of cleared work?

Yes! (But it is extremely challenging). See my forthcoming article on this very issue.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

Related News

Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials, revocations, and the security clearance application process. He is a former investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management). For more information, please visit Readers will also find a low-cost, self-help option for obtaining copies of their security clearance background investigations and DISS/Scattered Castles records at