The length of the security clearance process – from initial investigation to final adjudication – is highly subjective. End-to-end processing times vary by vast margins – with some secret investigations taking a matter of weeks and others, years. In 2016 processing delays are significant, due to the OPM hack and budget issues. As of today, initial Secret clearances are now taking 116 days, Top Secret clearances are taking 203 days, and Periodic Reinvestigations are taking 227 days to complete. And those are just the averages.

Some wonder if having previously held a security clearance will help expedite their clearance investigation later on. Unfortunately, having previously held a clearance won’t make your new clearance investigation process any faster. Others wonder if having family members with security clearance will make their investigations go any faster. The answer to that is also, no.

It’s also important to remember that agencies vary in clearance processing times. The three letter agencies are notorious for lengthy security clearance processing times, particularly in complicated cases.

What Can I Do to Speed Up the Clearance Process?

One of the biggest pet peeves of the security clearance process for both employers and candidates is the unpredictability of processing times. Sometimes cases sail through in days or weeks. At other times, cases can languish for weeks or months. And while interim security clearances used to be a saving grace, with candidates able to get access in an average of five days, even interim security clearances are sometimes taking months to adjudicate today.

If you’d like to speed up the security clearance process, one of the best steps you can take is to be incredibly careful in how you fill out your SF-86. While it’s possible to correct an error after you submit your SF-86, that’s only going to slow the process down. Even if you don’t submit an SF-86 filled with errors, if it’s sloppy, you’re simply adding extra work for your background investigator.


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