The SF-86 is a daunting, 127-page form in which you try to remember (almost) everything that’s happened in your life. While you should always take your time and answer each question as completely as possible, mistakes can and do happen.

It could be a nonmaterial mistake, like incorrectly entering dates in the employment section. Or it could be a far more serious mistake, such as purposely omitting something you think might lead a background investigator to scrutinize your security clearance further. While it may have seemed fine at the time you filled out the form, the more you think about it, the more you realize that it should be on your SF-86, even if it casts you in a negative light.

No matter the reason, mistakes on your SF-86 call into question your honesty and integrity – and potentially your eligibility for a security clearance.

What to do if you’ve Submitted Your SF-86 and there are Mistakes

But what should you do if you’ve already submitted your form?

You can start by writing a letter to your security manager or your background investigator. Tell them exactly what mistake you made and give them the correct information. If you end up talking with them over the phone, ensure there is a paper trail showing your attempt to rectify your error. Follow up any phone conversations with an email confirming what was said and any additional steps you’re taking. Do NOT wait until an in-person meeting with the background investigator to reveal your mistakes. The investigator may have uncovered them himself by then, and their report can show that they confronted you with your mistakes, rather than the other way around.

Honesty is Key – Before and After Submitting

While it would have been better to be honest in the first place, being honest after the fact is the next best thing. Even if you purposefully left something off your SF-86, you’ll save yourself a lot of headache if you bring it to the light before the background investigator digs it up.

You aren’t the first person to forget something on your SF-86, and you certainly won’t be the last. Forgetting something doesn’t mean you’re destined to have your security clearance denied, but you should take steps to mitigate your error as soon as possible.

A clean SF-86 will help you get your security clearance faster, so take the time to fill out your application properly in the first place. Reviewing your application before submitting it can help you catch errors before they become a problem.

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Brynn Mahnke is a freelance writer specializing in researching, writing, and ghostwriting for clients in the career, finance, SaaS, and B2B/B2C niches. She focuses on writing case studies, whitepapers, ebooks, and articles showcasing the value her clients bring to their customers. When she isn't writing, you can find her running, cycling, or wrangling children. She can be reached through her website or at