Processing Applicants

A personnel security clearance is an administrative determination by a certified adjudicator that an individual is eligible under national security standards for access to classified information. In order to make this determination, a personnel security background investigation is conducted. The information collected must be sufficient to allow an affirmative or negative determination of a person's eligibility for access to classified information. The security clearance process begins when a company determines that an employee or candidate for employment requires a personnel security clearance to access classified information in order to perform the duties of his or her position. If the applicant has never held a personnel security clearance, or if their previous clearance was terminated more than 24 months ago, this is referred to as an initial clearance. The employee must complete an Electronic Questionnaire for Investigations Processing (e-QIP), signature pages and submit fingerprints electronically for all initial investigation requests.

The Facility's Security Officer (FSO) or designee initiates the e-QIP using the Defense Information System for Security (DISS) based on the new Federal Investigative Standards. In some instances, the FSO will receive indication from JPAS that an investigation is not required for the applicant. If this happens, the FSO should check Procedures for Industrial Clearance/Investigation Requests to determine if “Break in Service” should be indicated or contact us. The prime contract number is a required field in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System for personnel security clearance investigations. DCSA may reject investigation submissions that don't include the prime contract number, as shown in the associated guidance.

Upon successful initiation of e-QIP via DISS, the Security Management Office (SMO) will receive a DISS notification with e-QIP account user instructions and Personal Identification Number (PIN), which is also referred to as a Registration Code. The FSO will provide the e-QIP account user instructions (including the PIN / Registration Code) and the applicant will access the SF86 via the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) e-QIP system. The applicant completes the e-QIP and digitally signs their certification and release forms as part of Click to Sign (C2S) feature within the system. The FSO reviews the security clearance package for completeness and provides the employee with written notification that review of the security questionnaire is for adequacy and completeness and the information will be used for no other purposes within the company in accordance with the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM), DoD 5220.22 Manual.

Certification and Release(s)

  • When the applicant opts to electronically submit their signature pages, the FSO can select the ‘Documents’ link which will display all electronically signed signature and release pages. Once all pages have been successfully signed by the applicant, the FSO releases the e-QIP to VRO for review and approval.

  • If the subject opts out of C2S, the FSO should verify the submitted signature pages are generated by the e-QIP system with the specific request number.

  • Certification and Release forms may be scanned and submitted via Safe Access File Exchange (SAFE) to with “SF86 Release Pages” in the subject line. While completing the SAFE request following these specific instructions: Under the Recipient Information - When manually entering the email address, ignore the warning “Do not send SAFE packages to group email accounts.” VRO confirmed the group email address works for the process. Under Email Settings select the first three check boxes only, Encryption and Notifications.

The FSO submits the security clearance package via DISS to the Vetting Risk Operations (VRO), an element of the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency. Note: VRO does not accept Tier 5 Investigations formerly known as Single Scope Background Investigations (SSBI) submitted as Secret clearance requirements for Automation Data Processing (ADP)/Information Technology (IT) positions, or (NACI) for Homeland Security Presidential Directive – 12 (HSPD-12) positions. Requests for investigations that don’t need access to classified information must be submitted in accordance with procedures available from the Government Contracting Activity (GCA).

Additional clearance request submission instructions:

  • Identify the Government Customer When Requesting an Investigation

  • Completing the 2018 SF 86 in e-QIP

  • If SCI eligibility is required through the military services, DISS must reflect an SCI SMO. Additionally, DIA and NGA require an SCI nomination package.

  • The FSO can confirm OPM has received the investigation request by checking the SII in JPAS, which will show a "Received" status. For initial investigation requests, the FSO must submit fingerprints electronically to OPM within 14 days of the “Received” status date. (Note: VRO recommends FSOs submit electronic fingerprints the same day as submitting the e-QIP)

  • The FSO can confirm OPM has opened the investigation by checking SII in DISS which indicates a “Scheduled” status.

In a memorandum dated July 29, 2010, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence issued a requirement for Department of Defense (DoD) components to transition to electronic capture and submission of fingerprint images in support of all background investigations by December 31, 2013 (e-Fingerprint memo). This requirement extends to contractors cleared under the National Industrial Security Program. Consequently, DCSA no longer provides FD-258 cards and Industry must either submit fingerprints electronically through DMDC’s Secure Web Fingerprint Transmission (SWFT) or use one of several other alternatives.

The FSO can confirm the fingerprints have been processed by checking SII in JPAS which indicates a “SAC” closed. Fingerprint results are valid for 120 days

Effective October 1, 2016, all fingerprints associated with SON 346W must be submitted electronically to the Office of Personnel Management, or the fingerprint will be rejected. This will also result in the rejection of any investigation requests if an electronic fingerprint is not received within 14 days of the investigation request being received by OPM. Fingerprints are required for initial investigations and should be submitted through SWFT immediately after the e-QIP has been released to the VRO. Please note, it is not necessary to associate the e-QIP number with the electronic fingerprint file.

VRO reviews all industrial applicant security clearance packages for completeness prior to forwarding to the organization that conducts the investigation. Interim Secrets and Interim Top Secrets can only be granted based on the following criteria:

  • Favorable Review of the SF-86

  • Favorable FP check

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship

  • Favorable Review of the Local Records, if applicable

Once the Advanced products are returned from OPM, VRO will then make an interim Top Secret determination for cases with no previous eligibility.

In the case where an applicant has already had a clearance eligibility or completed investigation by another Federal entity, VRO can check the files and systems available to them to determine if the applicant already has a clearance eligibility or completed investigation by another Federal entity to leverage. Further information about interim clearances may be found here.

The Investigation Service Provider (ISP) reviews the security clearance package for completeness to open the investigation. If the package is incomplete, the ISP and VRO will coordinate with the FSO to resolve issues to prevent the unacceptable status. If unable to resolve the unacceptable issue the request will be "Terminated by ISP." Once the request is accepted by the ISP, the investigation process begins.