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Timetable for Application and Approval

The process of acquiring a security clearance historically has taken anywhere from several months to several years to complete. This timeline depends on several factors including the backlog of applications, the depth of the investigation required, whether significant issues are uncovered, and the adjudicative process.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 mandated that clearance agencies must make a determination on at least 90 percent of applications for a personnel security clearance within an average of 60 calendar days after investigators receive the forms. A 2010 General Accountability Office study found that most of the agencies reviewed took from 62 days to 154 days to complete the process.

The higher the clearance level, the deeper the investigation into your background, and the more time it is likely to take. If complicated issues come up during an investigation, it will likely take even longer.

Expect the investigation to take longer if you have:

  • Lived or worked in several geographic locations or overseas;
  • Traveled outside of the United States;
  • Relatives who have lived outside of the United States; or
  • Background information that is difficult to obtain or involves issues that require an expansion of your case.
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