I have been hired for a great consulting job, but until my security clearance is resolved I am being paid to do nothing.

The agency that hired me are aware that it will take another 2 weeks (at least) for my security clearance to be resolved as a result of unforeseen circumstances.

Basically, I recently moved home, and in the move, I lost some key documents including my passport and birth certificate. It is going to be at least two weeks for these to come through, and these are needed to pass the security clearance.

However, the agency has insisted that I start straight away, so I started on Monday, using a visitors pass (this is a government position) but I can't use my computer or access the network.

I completely understand the requirements. I just don't understand why I am there! Especially because they are paying a rather nice day rate to sit and do nothing.

I would rather work on my other projects for the next two weeks, and then start working for this company, once all of the admin is resolved.

How do I relate this to the agency without burning bridges? Any suggestions?

  • Many companies wouldn't hire you until the security check had passed, in which case you'd still be waiting but you wouldn't be eating. This is more courteous (and hopefully keeps you from getting impatient and going to work for someone else). Meanwhile, as others have said, there are undoubtedly nonconfidential technologies you will need and could be starting to learn or refresh...
    – keshlam
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 3:14
  • There is a good chance that you are not the first person in this company in a similar situation. I would assume that they have some plan for your first days.
    – r.ams
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 10:18
  • "It is going to be at least two weeks" Is the agency/client aware of this?
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 10:48
  • It's fairly common for contractors to get hired while waiting for their clearance. They won't charge the government and pay out of their pocket, so you should take it they place great trust in you. It wasn't always like that. In the meantime could you get paperwork out of the way such as the onboarding papers?
    – Dan
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 13:37

7 Answers 7


It's an all too common situation in cleared positions I'm afraid. There's not much you can do. A few suggestions:

1) Training: Does your company offer any? Is there an unsecure computer you can pull up and learn something new?

2) Can you move around in your facility, talk to your co-workers, take on some unsecured clerical/other unsecured work that you'd be capable, even if it's "other duties as assigned"?

  • 6
    Even without computer access, it might be possible for your boss to recommend a book for you to read. Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 0:03

You're being paid, there is no problem unless you make one. And it's pointless doing so as they have to satisfy protocols and red tape so you can't do more than draw attention to the fact that you're sitting on your hands. And it's your error that created the issue in the first place.

Find something constructive to do, explore your environment, meet and greet and relax. Ask if you can bring in your laptop if you have one.

The agency doesn't care, they need you in there so they can get paid, that is their only focus.


Ask your manager. We can offer suggestions here on how to remain semi-productive but ultimately it's up to your manager to decide how you spend your time.

If you have other paid work or personal projects that you don't mind taking time unpaid for then go ahead and suggest that option. Make it clear that you can drop those the second your security clearance goes through as they're presumably paying you to avoid losing you and get you in the action as soon as possible.

  • Since he's a contractor working through an agency, they are paying him so that they can get their cut from what they are billing the government. They don't want him off the clock, because they lose money. It's also likely that they have goals for number of hours to bill, so when their contract is up they can go back and say "this is how many hours this work took last year, we need more this year". Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 13:35
  • @DoyleLewis Perfectly possible, but he'll need to ask his manager to be sure, along with what he should be doing (or appear to be doing) until he gets his clearance.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 16:10

I admire your ethics but since government has very deep pockets and almost no supervision, you contracting company is abusing this fact by putting you there to do absolutely nothing. If you are so inclined, you can bring this up to the person you are reporting to, at this government agency and have him address it. There is not much you can do at this point

  • There's the question whether you want to do this. The result could be no payment until your clearance goes through, a rather pissed of agency and so on.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 8:55

This is a common situation in jobs that require a security clearance. Frankly, there's no need to make a big deal of it. Remember that everyone who works there and has a security clearance went through this. You are not the first one.

As far as the government is concerned, paying people to do nothing while they wait for clearances is just part of the cost of security. Worrying about this would be like worrying about how much time you spend waiting on line to show your ID to the guard, or worrying about the cost of building a fence around the base. Yes, the organization should make efforts to minimize these costs, but they're not going to throw out security rules just because sometimes they're inconvenient.

I presume that everyone involved knows that you are waiting on your security clearance. If someone says something to you that indicates that they don't, then explain briefly.

I definitely would NOT complain to your boss or anyone else about it, or initiate a conversation that could be construed as a complaint. They know the problem. Odds are that there's nothing they can do about it: security policies are made at a very high level, no one you can talk to has the authority to change them, unless you're working at the White House or the Pentagon (or the equivalent in your country if you're not U.S.) You're new on the job. Don't start out by complaining about things that no one there can do anything about. Don't make yourself annoying.

As to what to actually do: If your boss hasn't given you anything to do while you wait -- which I guess he hasn't or you wouldn't be asking -- ask him if there's something specific you should do. If he has little or nothing to give you, spend the time reading manuals or technical books or something of that sort. That's what I did. The best thing you can do is something that will benefit the organization, or benefit you professionally. If there is some way you can learn about the organization without making a nuisance of yourself, do it. At the least you could take some time to wander around the building and get a feel for where everything is (assuming you're allowed to wander the building without a clearance).


Bring your personal laptop, and hotspot (or tether your phone) and find something to do in that time. Don't attract attention (social networking). Look as if you are occupied. Study some new technologies that interest you, and do some tutorials. But avoid doing "project" work on their dime.

The agency can't do anything, nor can the manager because the clearance process is out of their hands. So don't be a pest. Be patient, and collect your check. This is par for the course.

  • In places that require clearance, if he's required to be there he may not actually be able to bring in a personal laptop or hotspot.... Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 23:52

Your experience is completely normal. The clearance issues can consume a lot more time than you think, sometimes months. And since the government pays the agency for you to be there, so you should be there.

If you still feel uncomfortable, you can bring this up to your manager in an informal daily chat, just to be sure nobody thinks you are happy with not doing anything.

Just be careful for not taking too much attention for being completely free, it may annoy your coworkers even it's not your fault at all.

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