The security clearance process is initiated by the agency or government contractor after the applicant accepts a conditional offer of employment from that agency. Typically the applicant will be directed to complete a Standard Form 86 (SF 86) , or the electronic web based version, e-QIP (Electronic Questionaire for Investigative Processing).

There are various levels of a security clearance an applicant can acquire. The level depends on the sensitivity of the information being accessed by the applicant. For all levels the applicant must display loyalty, reliability, trustworthiness and an overall good character.

Each agency has established its own unique adjudication process. However, The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducts the vast majority of all personnel background investigations for the Federal Government. Agencies periodically conduct reinvestigations of individual’s suitability every 5 years.