Lying about foreign travel is a red flag when you’re applying for a clearance. But what if a reference lies (or misremembers) information about you and it conflicts with what you disclosed on the SF-86?

JJunction writes on the ClearanceJobsBlog:

I’ve been in the process of getting a clearance for a top-secret position and something pretty weird happened. For background, I have not travelled outside the country in the last 7 years and said so on my SF86 and in the interview with the investigator at my location. A little while later the investigator calls me and said that it was uncovered that I had traveled outside of the country for my last school (university), which would have been within 5 years ago. This absolutely did not happen and denied it.

I’m blown away by this. I’m trying to stay calm and be smart about what I do. I’m mainly wondering if it’s a good idea to contact a lawyer who specializes in this area. I’m also wondering if it’s a good idea to talk to my boss and/or tech lead about this, my job (contractor) is expecting me to get the clearance. I was also thinking about calling the school.

I’m scheduled for my polygraph in a little bit.

Anyways, I’m just posting this because I’m bewildered about what to do.

It’s important to note that security clearance adjudicators don’t usually base a security clearance denial or revocation on the word of a single reference.

Denials don’t come from testimonies; they lead investigators to records

In addition to “calm downs” and “holy overreactions”, investigators noted on the thread that information developed over the course of investigations can come from a record or source that is not necessarily credible. When discrepancies come up amongst subject interviews and the information noted on your SF-86, applicants are given the opportunity to comment. “All you have to do is say ‘I disagree with that information and have not traveled anywhere as previously discussed,’” one says.

Your investigation will run its course and if this is the ONLY issue you’re worried about, your passport would be reviewed, and additional sources interviewed.

One subject interview with misinformation or a case of bad memory is not going to make or break your security clearance application.


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. This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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Katie Keller is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ 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! 🇺🇸