We post the average security clearance processing times, including for those across the intelligence community. Not surprisingly, they’re higher than what you find in the DoD, but they’re also in many ways misleadingly positive – security officers have pointed out that posted figures only indicate when the investigation begins – not the 3-5 months they can languish on a desk. And it also disregards the fact that the figures leave out the 10% of security clearance applications that fall on the lengthier side. And that’s how you come up with the six-year security clearance applicant.

After six years of waiting, an applicant was finally denied access to classified information through his application to the CIA. The letter he received states that another document (AKA the Statement of Reasons) is coming with an explanation for the denial and instructions on requesting a review of their decision.

The applicant wonders if his application was rejected because of time spent in Russia. Here’s the timeline:

  • Dec 2015: Applied to graduate studies program while in grad school by the advice of initial point contact that they met at an academic conference.
  • March 2016: Interviewed and accepted COE for Targeting Analyst Position instead of grad studies program.
  • Jan 2018: Did medical, psych, and 2 polygraphs. First poly was very smooth. Second, was scolded about time studying in Russia.
  • Jan 2017-Nov 2021: Crickets, follow-ups, and routine check-ins when going overseas or relocating.
  • Dec 2021: Rejected

Was told I passed my poly, psych and medical in 2018 by my program officer and that I was just awaiting adjudication. I’ve had many POC’s due to high turnover, some more open than others. I’ve spent some time in Russia and Kazakhstan because of school/studies, but maybe this time presented a red flag? FBI twice paid me a visit to ask questions about a public diplomacy program I participated in Russia and inform me of some concerns they had about some Russian participants in the program being affiliated w/ Russian intel. I know for sure that they contacted at least one other American participant. Program was very academic in nature, but it’s assumed that when you’re an American in Russia, somebody affiliated with Russian intel is watching/around. I’m not naïve. Wondering if the Russia exposure could have led to denial? I was always very transparent with POC about programs I was participating in/language studies abroad, etc., and framed it in a way that benefitted the agency by having the knowledge and exposure. They never, not one time said not to go, and my initial POC was even very encouraging to go to Russia as much as possible, hinting that Langley was less paranoid about this than other agencies. Wondering if this Russia exposure led to my denial. Feedback would be appreciated.

One user comments that if the FBI is involved in the investigation, it can’t be good. While that is true, it isn’t a failsafe path to security clearance denial. The issue may be – what was the applicant’s involvement after the FBI came calling? How transparent were those conversations? And were there red flags the applicant should have been aware of in the program prior to participating?

Anything that was left out should be a red flag. Russian ‘exposure’ may not be the issue, but if the individual profited or received funds from the Russian government as a part of the program, that is likely to be an issue.

Will studying in Russia alone disqualify you from obtaining this job with the CIA? In general, no. Foreign travel – or even an academic scholarship, may be received and not result in denial. But certainly any activities, contacts or patterns of continuing involvement will be scrutinized.


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 ClearanceJobsBlog.com – 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.

Related News

Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 8+ 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! 🇺🇸