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I'm currently in the process of being hired with a federal contracting company in the US and I'm going through the secret clearance process for the first time. I've filled out all the paperwork and done all that's required, but I'm unclear on what happens after I'm cleared for work. Specifically:

  • If I'm not hired by the company, and I am cleared, will I retain the clearance for the two year period after I'm cleared?

  • If I'm hired by the company and I quit or are fired, what happens to my clearance - and if it's still active afterwards, does it just migrate to the FSO of the new company?

  • If there is no FSO at a new company - they might not require a clearance - is all "upkeep" with my clearance done with the initial sponsor?

  • Does the company that's sponsoring me invest a large amount of money into this, and will they have some future hostility or bitterness towards me if I'm not hired? (in case of me reapplying to them at some point)

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    They're starting the (expensive) process before you're hired? Or are they just having you do the paperwork now and they'll submit it if they hire you? – Monica Cellio Jun 5 '14 at 3:10
  • You won't know if you are actually cleared until much later mroe then likely. What likely will happen is they will hire you, and you keep your job, based on the final results of the security clearance process. – Ramhound Jun 5 '14 at 10:54
  • @MonicaCellio security clearance is always done before as it can take several months specially for TS/DV. – Pepone Aug 13 '14 at 7:53
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    @Pepone be wary of the word "always". My previous employer required everybody to get security clearances but didn't start the process until they were hired, putting them on projects that didn't require clearances in the meantime. Unless an employer does only classified work (or is located in a classified facility), that's possible. – Monica Cellio Aug 13 '14 at 12:45
  • If this is the US then you can't event start to get a security clearance unless you have a job requiring the clearance. There is no, we won't hire you until your clearance comes through. The company has to commit to the employee before the government will do its part. – Dunk Aug 14 '14 at 21:53
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Having gotten and let expire a few clearances over the years, I can answer a few of these.

  • Once you are given the clearance, it is yours, you are the one cleared, not the company. If you are not offered a position, but were granted the clearance, you will be able to apply at other positions with the same clearance requirements. The new FSO will just "transfer" (lack of a better term) the clearance over to them.

  • If you are fired or otherwise leave the company, I am not sure exactly what they call the status of the clearance at that point, but for all practical purposes it is active (or idle or something, but readily re-activated) for 2 to 5 years depending on the nature of the clearance.

  • If you go to another company that does not need the clearance, no upkeep will happen and if you don't use the clearance within the expiration period, it will expire. That said, if you have had one before, companies are more likely to take the chance on you getting one again.

  • Clearances are very expensive, although the lower level secret or government trust (non DoD type, but still government) will cost less. It is hard to say if they will have "hostility" to you or not, that will depend on the reason you did not start with them after they applied for the clearance.

It has been my experience, that companies will hire you and have you start while the paperwork is in process. Typically though they will wait for what is known as an interim clearance, basically a simple background check that will be issued in a few weeks. This means that things look good, and you will likely get your clearance so the company can have you start, although you don't actually have your clearance so you won't be able to access classified information yet.

I have never had a company put in for a clearance unless they intended to hire me. So unless you get denied, I would think that you will be hired once they receive either the interim or full clearance. Secrets don't take all that long, so it is possible they may wait for the full clearance to come in, especially if they would have no other role for you should it be denied.

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    I just left a company where I had a clearance and went to a company that doesn't care. This answer matches what I was told by the security officer at the company I left -- if my new employer doesn't care it'll age out and I don't need to do anything else, or if they want to re-activate it within the window it'll be easy. – Monica Cellio Jun 5 '14 at 3:12
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If you are putting the paperwork together for a clearance, chances are good that the company intends to hire you, as the costs of getting an employee a clearance means that they will only do so if they have a use for you.

  • Once you already have the clearance and it is not being used, then it remains in "current" status for two years, unless you do something which would cause it to be pulled by the DoD.

  • If you quit, then the clearance should remain, which would require the new company's FSO to get in contact with your former FSO to get the information transferred. If you were fired, however, it depends on why you were fired. If it was for disciplinary reasons, then you are very likely to lose it, as your company will explain why you were fired and no longer need the accesses. Being fired for disciplinary reasons also carries a heavy implication that you cannot be trusted. Otherwise

  • If there is no need for the clearance at your new company, then it will not be maintained, which means that it will lapse after a period of two to five years, depending on the clearance. Of course, once you've had a clearance, if it is from expiration, rather than being pulled for any reason, then a company is likely to take a chance on you getting one again. After all, you were trusted to have one once, so long as you didn't lose it for the wrong reasons.

  • Clearances are very expensive, but a company is not likely to invest in one unless they already intended to hire you in the first place. If the situation did change during the process, or at the last minute and they couldn't hire you, there shouldn't be any hostility. If you changed your mind, then there might, though the reason for it could be understood. It all depends on the reason for it.

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