During the security clearance investigation process, the U.S. Government investigates the background of a candidate to determine the applicant’s suitability to protect classified information. Depending on the security clearance level, the investigation and adjudication process can be lengthy. While the investigation continues to determine a final clearance, the U.S. Government may grant a temporary and limited interim clearance at the Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret levels.

What is an Interim Security Clearance?

An interim clearance is a temporary and limited granting of access to classified information. This is a privilege that allows an applicant to perform on classified work in a temporary capacity until their background investigation is completed. It is routinely granted during a security clearance investigation and ends immediately upon the conclusion of the investigation – with either a clearance grant or denial.

How long does it take to get an interim clearance?

The interim clearance does not have a time constraint, but is tied to the investigation. If the investigation does not determine any adverse information, the interim clearance may be granted. While the formal investigation can take many months, interim clearances have been granted within days of the original security clearance investigation request.

How long does an interim clearance last?

An interim clearance will remain in effect until the final clearance is determined, or adverse information is discovered. For example, if an applicant has an interim clearance granted at the Secret level, their status will continue to be interim until granted the final clearance. Once the final clearance at the Secret level is granted, the interim is no longer necessary. If the final determination is a clearance denial, the interim clearance will also cease.

What can I access with an interim clearance?

Applicants who are granted interim security clearances at the Confidential and Secret levels can access Confidential and Secret information.

Likewise, those provided interim Top Secret security clearances will be authorized access to Top Secret information.

What are the limitations of having interim clearances?

Those with Interim Secret and Confidential clearances are not eligible to access Restricted Data, NATO Information, and COMSEC information.

Those with interim Top Secret are only eligible to access Restricted Data, NATO Information, and COMSEC information at the Secret and Confidential levels.

Does an interim clearance transfer?

Technically, if an employee changes employment in the middle of an investigation, the investigation can continue as long as the need to perform on a classified contract exists. If an interim clearance is granted, it will follow the employee to the next cleared contractor facility (if there is still a need).

If you consult a few Facility Security Officers (FSOs) about this, you’re likely to get  theoretical answers – since not too many people change jobs within a few months of hire. For an interim to be granted in a matter of hours and a final to be granted in months, it would be pretty rare for an employee to seek a new position during the interim clearance period.

However, if an employee did do this, their clearance should be listed as interim in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS) and the investigation would continue after the employee enters the new organization (and as long as the need exists). The gaining security manager would just accept the new employee under investigation, and with an interim, into the organization in JPAS. Interim clearances should be captured in JPAS and status should transfer with the applicant.


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Jeffrey W. Bennett, SAPPC, SFPC, ISOC, ISP is a podcaster, consultant and author of NISPOM, security, and risk management topics. Jeff's first book was a study guide for security certification. Soon after, Jeff began writing other security books and courses, and started his company Red Bike Publishing, LLC. You can find his books, ITAR, NISPOM, PodCast and more @ www.redbikepublishing.com.