Interim security clearance determinations are made in order to allow individuals applying for an initial security clearance to get on the job faster. Final clearance determinations can take months or years, but interim security clearances can often be issued in weeks. That allows individuals, whether working directly for the federal government or with a contractor, to begin work as they await their final clearance determination.

If you’re denied your interim Top Secret or Secret security clearance, it may seem discouraging. You may even wonder if you should continue with the process, particularly if you’re not getting a paycheck while you wait. But don’t lose heart – 20-30% of all interim security clearances are denied, but that is vastly different than the figure of final clearance denials, which hovers around 1%.

Your interim Top Secret security clearance may be denied for a number of reasons. It’s all about risk mitigation for the government. If there are any red flag issues that appear in the SF-86, the government will deny the interim security clearance in order for the investigation to take its course. A denied interim should not lead an applicant to assume their final clearance chances are tanked. Common issues that could result in a denied interim security clearance are prior criminal conduct, debt, foreign contacts, or even inconsistencies in the security clearance application.

How to increase my chances of an approved interim

In order to increase your chances of having an interim security clearance approved, make sure to carefully complete all aspects of the SF-86. This should be assumed for anyone, but sloppiness or issues that should be mitigated but which aren’t, are sure to cause interim clearance denial. Individuals who are naturalized citizens or with significant debt should likely plan on having their interim clearance denied and be prepared to wait for a final clearance determination.

denied interim? Don’t Opt Out of the Security Clearance Process

The final takeaway: Just because your interim security clearance is denied, don’t deny yourself the chance of a final favorable security clearance determination. A denied interim is not a precursor to a denied final security clearance. It’s simply a reflection that the government isn’t willing to allow you access to classified information for months or years while you await a final determination. The good news is with security clearance processing times dramatically improving, the average applicant who is denied an interim security clearance only has to wait an additional month or two for a final favorable security clearance – not a year or more.

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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