The ClearanceJobs Blog is a place where you can read, discuss, and receive answers to your questions on the government security clearance process, forms, how to obtain a clearance job, and background investigation issues. While filling out either a Standard Form 85 or 86, it is important to be truthful and accurate. One individual on the forum had a question about past employment terminations:

“Currently filling out an SF-85 Questionnaire for a non-sensitive position – a NACI tier 1 investigation. In the past I quit two jobs without providing a two-week notice. I’ve left both of those jobs because of health issues. Nothing to do with quitting before knowing I would get fired, or anything involving misconduct at work. I realize that not providing a two-week notice is looked down on, potentially burning down bridges. Would this cause an issue in obtaining a favorable NACI background check?”

The NACI Tier 1 Process

The National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI) is a background investigation primarily for federal employees who will not have access to classified information. This investigation is appropriate for positions designated as public trust positions that require responsible and trustworthy employees, but with no national security impact.

In 2015, the government began implementing revised National Investigative Standards. The new standards are a five-tier system including six types of investigations. The NACI investigation is used for clearances at the Tier 1 level.

As of this writing, the NACI is current for 5 years, and the elements include a completed National Agency Check where federal agencies databases are queried and a law enforcement check. Written correspondence is required to verify education, employment and character references.

The process includes:

  • eApplication.
  • Validating date and place of birth.
  • Submission of fingerprints and a check of databases for prior federal investigations.
  • Verification of citizenship or legal resident status.
  • Local law enforcement agency checks at places of employment, residence, or school attendance of six months or more during the past 5 years.
  • Automated Records Checks (ARC) for information regarding the applicant’s criminal history, involvement in terrorism, validity of Social Security number, education and employment history, employment conduct, military discharge, and Selective Service registration, as appropriate.
  • Expandable Focused Investigation (EFI) to develop and resolve identified security/suitability issues.

One security investigator replies, “Should your future include higher clearance opportunities, this Tier 1 investigation – and any detail that goes with it – will be accessed and included into future investigations. Getting the details as accurate as possible now will help your odds in the future. Your first investigation (no matter the type) is the foundation for all future investigations. A file is kept, it is usually reviewed, and can be compared to whatever future investigations take place.”


Unless you are legally required to do so by a formal employment contract, leaving without giving a two-week notice is not normally an issue, since many states are “right to work” (you are not legally required to give notice). Most employees not covered by an employment contract are considered employed at-will, which translates to neither you nor your employer is required to provide a notice prior to terminating employment.

However, it’s considered polite to let your company know that you are leaving your post so they can devise a plan in finding a replacement. It’s possible if you have burned bridges, and that this employer’s response to an investigator could be that you left employment without good standing. Always ask the question, could you be hired back? If you have there is any uncertainty, you should include information on the standard forms for those employment circumstances and timeframes.

If your position was covered by an employment agreement, the terms of that contract would apply unless you are leaving for good cause. These situations where leaving without notice could be advisable:

  • Sexual misconduct
  • Hostile work environment.
  • Payment issues or wages withheld for an unreasonable length of time.
  • You’ve been asked to do something unethical or illegal.
  • Personal or family circumstances that require you to leave.
  • A crisis has happened such as health issues.
  • Physical abuse.
  • Mental health being endangered by job stress.

Security investigators look at the reasoning for leaving a job, and not necessarily the timing of your termination. In any case, security clearance applicants should keep two tips in mind: be completely accurate and honest in what you include in the form, but don’t overshare information that isn’t requested or that isn’t necessary.

Much about the clearance process resembles the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” This case-by-case system is meant to consider the whole person, increase process security, and allow the lowest-risk/highest-need candidates to complete the process. However, it also creates a  lot of questions for applicants. For this reason, ClearanceJobs  maintains – a forum where clearance seekers can ask the cleared community for advice on their specific security concerns. Ask CJ explores questions posed  on the ClearanceJobs Blog forum, emails received, and comments from this site.

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 7+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸