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I saw a job posting that requires Active DOD Secret Clearance. I was wondering if there are any lifestyle restrictions if I were to work for that company. I like travelling internationally and wonder if I would not be allowed to anymore.

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    Not enough for an answer as I did not hold that clearance in USA, but I did hold quite high SC in Poland. There were not as much restrictions as that you had to disclose various activities and be 100% honest about what you were doing, the restrictions usually come if you are on the gov side of things, not as civilian with SC. – Tymoteusz Paul Jul 29 at 17:34
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    @Old_Lamplighter: It is quite common here that a question about some non-US country is answered with an US answer and gets a lot of upvotes, so why not once the other way around? – guest Jul 29 at 20:06
  • @guest not a fan of that either. – Old_Lamplighter Jul 29 at 20:17
  • @Old_Lamplighter: Me too. However, I think this here is a nice reminder to the community that this is not only a US forum and that people should put their country in their questions and answers. – guest Jul 29 at 20:20
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    @Old_Lamplighter There could very well be similarities (even if high-level or abstract) that would be worth mentioning in a comment. – xander Jul 30 at 6:02
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Just for clarity's sake, DoD Secret is not a Top Secret clearance. Those are separate levels of restricted access. Additionally, requiring an "active" clearance means you must already be cleared for classified work. Most companies can hire someone without a clearance, if it's obvious they will be able to obtain one, but they will almost always preferentially hire someone who is already cleared.

To begin, you would have to fill out SF-86 (standard form 86), which can be found here. Note that an average citizen cannot just fill out this form and get a clearance. You must be sponsored by a company with active classified contracts.

The SF-86 will require you to answer many questions such as 10 years of employment and residency information, all historical police records, any use of drugs, any previous criminal charges involving firearms, alcohol, drugs, or other felonies, whether or not you've ever advocated for overthrow of the US government, etc., etc.

You will also be required to disclose any mental health issues which may affect your "judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness even if you are not experiencing such symptoms today."

You will also have to provide numerous witnesses for each category within the form, and these witnesses will be contacted and interviewed about your "judgement, reliability, and trustworthiness." Things which may make it difficult to receive a clearance which haven't already been mentioned include (but are not limited to) extra-marital affairs, abnormal sexual fetishes, contacts with foreign nationals (primarily only if they're from countries which the US is not on good terms with), history of bad credit, and poor debt to income ratio. Basically, if the US government thinks you can be easily black-mailed, you'll be considered ineligible for a clearance.

So are there any lifestyle restrictions?

Yes, if any of the above applies to you. Also yes, even if they don't. In the case of your example about foreign travel, all foreign travel must be disclosed to the FSO (facility security officer) several months in advance. They will then brief you on security risks in the region you're traveling to (the federal travel advisory map can be found here) and you are not permitted to travel to certain countries (hopefully you weren't planning on taking a trip to Iran or China anytime soon, anyway).

Also, if you smoke marijuana, even if it's legal in your state, that makes you ineligible for a clearance, as it's still illegal at the federal level. The DoD tends to have more leniency here, and you'll be eligible if you can show that you haven't smoked marijuana within a few years, but YMMV. There has also been DoD guidance that use of CBD oil must be disclosed as well.

Note that any of the items which can make you ineligible for a clearance can also cause you to lose your clearance (and job) if they come up after you're already cleared. You're also required to undergo a re-investigation every so often (I believe it's 10 years for Secret, 5 years for TS)

There's also one tidbit to remember: the SF-86 is a lifetime contract. Receiving a clearance means you've sworn to uphold the national security of the US for the rest of your life, even if you change citizenship. This even includes going to websites like WikiLeaks - if you see classified information in a non-cleared environment, you are required by law to disclose it, even if you no longer have an active clearance.

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  • +100 if I could – Old_Lamplighter Jul 29 at 21:19
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    @confused no. You cannot apply for a security clearance yourself. Your employer has to do it on your behalf; and they can't do so unless they have a specific project they want to put you on that you will need a clearance to do. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Jul 30 at 3:37
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    If you're interested in getting into secure defense work, the phrase you should be looking for in job postings is "able to acquire and maintain a security clearance". That phrasing means that the company can wait several months after you've been hired to bring you in to any secure aspects of the job. Typically that means you'd be doing something with a system that doesn't become classified until specific configuration parameters are entered or real data is being processed. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight Jul 30 at 3:38
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    This answer is very good. The advice can be further extended into any controlled substance. Specifically, you cannot even take pain pills that require a prescription without said prescription. Most of not all jobs that require a TS also call for routine and random drug screening. While you could fill out the form. You cannot actually submit the form to anyone. Only the security manager can that. They will want to review your application before you submit it. Any delays due to easily preventable errors could mean months of delays or result in your clearance being denied – Donald Jul 30 at 12:03
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    +1 Only other thing I can think to add would be this: DO NOT LIE ON THIS FORM. If it asks you about a conviction, tell the truth. Even if you were told the records were sealed or similar, tell the truth – Kevin Jul 30 at 21:20
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I've held clearance in the past. "Secret" clearance is not terribly hard to get and comes with no general restrictions. You're expected to be financially and personally responsible, and you're expected to report suspicious contacts (e.g. people aggressively asking for secret details about your projects/activities).

Secret clearance will not impact any of your travel activities. It is not until you get into Top Secret/SCI access that anything begins to impact your travel. Even that level of access typically does not significantly impact travel specifically, but there will likely be certain areas/countries where it might raise questions during an audit. As with any clearance, you will be expected to respond truthfully and report anything suspicious during your travels there.

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  • Secret clearance will not impact any of your travel activities. That was not true about 5ish years ago. My understanding is that it is not as restrictive as my coworkers with TS/SCI, but I did have to report foreign travel in advance, provide itineraries and contact information, and report anything abnormal when I returned. I would say it was "minimal impact", not "no impact". – Thomas Owens Jul 29 at 20:58
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    @ThomasOwens: When I said no impact, I was referring to the idea of no denials that are not already denied to standard citizens. I did not say there wouldn't potentially be paperwork involved. TS/SCI may actually have restrictions disallowing travel to specific regions for any unofficial purpose. – Joel Etherton Jul 29 at 21:42
  • This answer isn’t accurate with regards to travel. You must also disclose all foreign travel if you hold a Secret clearance – Donald Jul 30 at 12:07
  • @Donald: again, disclosure isn't restriction. My answer does not say you won't have to disclose it. My answer says the clearance of secret will not result in a denial of a trip. Please read the actual (and entire) answer. Your comment clearly indicates that you did not. – Joel Etherton Jul 30 at 13:05
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    @JoelEtherton - I actually did read your question, before submitting my comment, I read it again and still don’t agree it’s accurate – Donald Jul 31 at 4:25
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When, very early in my career, I was offered a "secret project" by a college professor which would have required such a Clearance, I thought about it very carefully, then politely declined.

I've never regretted that decision. I think that there are plenty of good-paying jobs out there which "I can legally talk about," and I managed to find them in sufficient number. Yes, I fully understand the need for the restrictions that go with access to government secrets of any sort, but I declined to personally subject myself (and my family, and my neighbors, and my dogcatcher ...) to them. To me, "the cost/benefit ratio" simply wasn't there – and, "being quite-necessarily locked to a government pay scale" didn't appeal to me too much, either.

And, financially, "I did pretty well." 🤷‍♂️

My choice.

The final decision is yours alone.

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Have you considered reaching out to the company's HR department or sending an email to the Department of Defense?

I mean, we could try doing some googling (maybe someone here has got Active DOD Secret Clearance, but I'd suspect that's not going to be the case) - but would you trust that googled information over asking the source?

Both of those groups have a vested interest in giving you good solid information on the question. So why not reach out and ask them?

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  • This isn't an answer, it's something you'd say in a comment while voting to close the question. – mxyzplk - SE stop being evil Jul 29 at 20:48
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    Why do you think no one here has personal experience with this? It's not like it's all that rare. – Kat Jul 30 at 3:07

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