The clearance process can be long and confusing for people with a complicated professional or personal life, but what happens if it just gets stuck? “Audrey,” a Foreign Service Officer candidate, explains how her clearance investigation stalled and has not moved in almost 2 years.
How were you sponsored for a clearance?
I was interested in working with the Foreign Service for the past five years. With the Borne Fellowship, I was able to bypass the first two parts of the process, then after passing the FSOA [Foreign Service Oral Assessment), the State Department initiated the investigation. My investigator was very casual, very friendly, and really put me at ease with the process. I had to supplement the SF-86 with information the investigator requested, but nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
What do you think delayed your clearance?
During the investigation I started dating a guy from Iran. I updated my investigator immediately and that was it. When my boyfriend and I decided to get married, I informed the investigator, and he called me for clarification. Honestly he seemed a little disappointed. I think he had been working really hard to get my clearance through and that he was disappointed because he thought either it would be delayed, or I wouldn’t get a clearance at all. A different investigator followed up later, then the long silence began.
What resources did you use to deal with your investigation?
Regarding my marriage, I consulted with two lawyers specializing in clearance adjudications for foreign national spouses. I looked through Defense Department cases involving foreign spouses. The take away from all this was that I was taking a big risk marrying a foreign national, especially one from Iran.
What is your status now?
It’s been almost exactly 2 years now since my investigation started. I really have not followed up on it in a while. I’ll call the number I have sometime, but the extent of the answer is just going to be “it’s still in process.” I’m not in a huge hurry.
How do you think this situation will be resolved? Is it worth the wait?
Hopefully, the investigators will find that my marriage is not a security threat, especially since my husband’s attachment to Iran is pretty limited. I’m hoping for a good resolution, however if that does not come to be, I’m thinking about other jobs that require a lower clearance or no clearance. With these government careers, it’s a case of applying, moving on with your life, and if they offer you the job, they offer you the job. You’ve got to compartmentalize and pretend like the job isn’t an option until it suddenly is. As for whether it’s worth it, I think these delays are only hurting the US. The best candidates are going to find other things to do. The best candidates are going to reroute their career paths to find something that doesn’t take this long just to walk through the door.
What advice would you give to someone applying for a cleared position in your situation?
It’s really a commitment if you want this type of job. It’s something you need to start thinking about years in advance. One of my friends once told me while we were still in grad school “I imagine myself to already be in the Foreign Service and I’m behaving accordingly.” You need to be mature. You need to make sure the face you display to the world is one that is a good representation of the American people. This is especially true for your social media presence and for the people you associate with. A security clearance is a continuation of your interview. Make sure you keep a professional demeanor throughout the process, and present yourself like a well-organized and responsible person. This is not only a process to protect the US’ secrets, but also to protect you and your family. Trust that whatever determination they make, it’s made with your best interest in mind.