Completing the SF-86 is a precursor to getting a security clearance, and it can be an intimidating process. It’s incredibly long, asks you about things in your past that you may be less than proud of, and you have to come up with references who have known you for nearly a decade.


There’s no getting past the length of time it takes to fill out what used to be a 127-page document. The process might be digital now, but you should know that if you’d rather procrastinate just a bit longer, you should take our quiz to find out if you’re REALLY ready to fill out your SF-86.

Security clearances are only issued to those who need to access classified information. And while the SF-86 is required, that’s not the only step aspiring clearance holders need to take.

The SF-86 is just a precursor to the investigation, which can take varying amounts of time. That’s right, you’ll probably need to answer even more questions during the investigation process. You may even need to eventually take a polygraph test, depending on your level of clearance.

It’s a crime to knowingly conceal information on your SF-86, and doing so can end in a criminal conviction along with a permanent mark on your record. Filling out your SF-86 correctly makes it more likely that you can get an interim clearance so you can start working sooner.

It can take a few months for full security clearance approval, so interim clearance can make a major difference in your timeline for starting your new job.

So go ahead, gather your information, and start filling out your SF-86. Your future self (and future employer!) will thank you.



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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