As a contractor, it can be very rewarding to pursue and obtain a security clearance. This helps differentiate you from your competition, and many non-government employers find it helpful in gauging whether you are a trustworthy and committed employee. Here are a few tips to help you ensure you have what you need to get cleared.
Traveling outside of the U.S. is good for your broader employment experience and education, but it’s important to have all that information logged somewhere you can refer to as you go through the background searches required for security clearance. Extensive time abroad can, in fact, lengthen the clearance process.
All time spent outside of the US in the last ten years must be reported (unless you were on US government business). Record the day, month, and year when you begin and end a trip. Keeping up with where you live is just as important as travel, especially if you stayed in a place for 90 or more days. Document all your addresses and maintain the contact information of your landlord to use as a reference as well.
Keeping track as you go will help you accurately recount these details without having to chase them down when time is of the essence. Even if you spend time in a place without formal street addresses (such as Peace Corps service in a remote village), write down any indicators that will enable an investigator to confirm your information.
The people you have relationships with, especially while abroad, can also impact your clearance process. Hiring agencies researching your clearance case need to know about all your interactions with non-US citizens. As you build relationships with people from outside the country, make a note of the day, month and year when you began contact, as well as your most recent contact with them. As much as possible, research their affiliations with foreign governments or employers. If you have a member of your immediate family serve as a consultant, intern or employee for a foreign agency, you will need to disclose those contacts and contracts.
While this can be especially difficult if you travel extensively, or if you have family or friends living abroad, focus on those with whom you have had the closest ties or most interaction with over the last seven years. That will give the researchers the information they need as they clearance process proceeds.
An important part of background investigations are built on gathering information to determine whether you are a reliable, trustworthy individual, of good conduct and character, and loyal to the U.S. That means that your security clearance depends heavily on the relationships you have with friends, colleagues, roommates, or other associates whose combined association with you covers at least the last seven years. These individuals will be called on to speak knowledgeably about you, your character, and your activities. They cannot be family members, and ideally, they should currently live in the U.S.
When preparing for a security clearance background check, select people from different parts of your life and career. These individuals should speak to your conduct outside of the U.S. as well as here at home. If it’s needed, prepare your contacts by reminding them of when you first met, what activities you did together, and what you’ve been doing since you met. That little extra preparation can help make sure they are ready to answer the questions the background check will require them to answer accurately and fully.
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