Some government positions don’t require a security clearance, but do involve access to sensitive information. These positions are deemed positions of public trust. While frequently referred to as public trust security clearances, public trust codifies a level of eligibility to access sensitive information. Individuals applying to public trust positions will fill out an SF-85P.
Many applicants for positions of public trust wonder if it will be ‘easier’ to obtain a public trust than a Secret or Top Secret security clearance. But a public trust is granted based on the same adjudicative criteria used to make security clearance determinations. What is significantly easier is the scope of the investigation. Generally, suitability for a public trust can be granted based on a simple automated check of things like credit and criminal history. But if you have issues in your background – whether it’s significant financial issues or a recent criminal background – don’t expect to readily obtain a public trust.
A favorable federal government suitability determination is the first step to a sensitive position. And it allows the government to grant limited access to sensitive information without the full costs of a security clearance background investigation.