Obtaining Security Clearance

Detailed Instructions Now Available for New SF86

On June 3, 2011 the Defense Security Service (DSS) posted “A Quick Reference Guide for the Newly Updated Standard Form 86” (QRG). “This QRG contains detailed field descriptions, step-by-step instructions, and a link to a printable form to help you determine what information you need to gather.” Unfortunately the printable form (July 2008 version) has not yet been updated to the March 2010 version.

This QRG provides 15 pages of detailed instructions for completing the SF86—much more comprehensive than anything previously published by DSS or the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). There are several errors and discrepancies in the QRG when compared to the internal instructions in the SF86 posted at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Reginfo.gov website.  For example the QRG indicates that only 7 years of residence information is needed for NACLC/Secret; whereas the OMB version indicates that 10 years of information is needed and make no distinction between NACLC/Secret and SSBI/Top Secret. There are also “years of coverage” discrepancies for the sections on “Where You Went to School” and “Employment Activities.” The section on “Use of Alcohol” leads off with “This section requires you to provide information regarding your illegal use of drugs. . . .” The section on “Relatives” indicates that a yes or no response is possible, and if a no response is selected the program will skip over this section and proceed to the next section.

Despite the errors, DSS should be applauded for creating the QRG. Hopefully within the weeks to come, they will correct these problems and expand on what they have already provided.

A sorely needed new capability to transmit attachments by scanning and uploading or by faxing has apparently been added to the SF86 e-QIP. This will enable to applicants to submit supporting documents directly to the Defense Industrial Security Clearance Office or other Government security office.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    Let me be the first to say, well maybe anyway, that conducting an SI with the new 2010 SF-86 is a f*cking pain in the ass.

  2. Avatar

    Hi Fed –

    The 2010 86 hasn’t hit my workload yet…but I am dreading it. I don’t think that prompting SUBJs to explain their issues in their own words in e-QIP is a good idea.

    I see a lot of this in my future: ‘…although SUBJ wrote ABC123, SUBJ actually meant DEF456 (discrepant)…’ I am already frequently doing this – usually due to the poorly worded questions in the Foreign Activities section of the 2008 86.

    I haven’t used the Compact Copy yet. Do all comments print out on the Compact Copy? Or am I going to have to brief every case in PIPS?

  3. Avatar

    I am dreading the new SF-86 for exactly what Blue’s Clues said. With the quality requirements and the unobtainable ACDs we have it is going to S-U-C-K!!!!!

  4. Avatar

    My company is seeing cases with the new SF-86 but it hasn’t updated it’s briefing tool software to match the new questions and drop-down feature. This is going to get worse before it gets better.

  5. Avatar

    The Compact Copy is just that. It prints out an abbreviated version which makes it a pain in the ass in an SI. I guess one could always use the 30 page full form. Good fun. The best part is the font and the question layout, it’s..it’s…madness…

    …madness??? This is SPARTA!!!!!

  6. Avatar

    I have not had the pleasure yet. I’ll be on the beach this week, so I’ll have a cold one for you.

  7. Avatar

    BW needs punished!
    The beach? When this sf86 crisis is rearing its ugly head….the nerve… 😉

  8. Avatar

    Hi Adjudicator,

    Any more news on DoD hiring adjudicators at Fort Meade? I’m seeing lots of contractor ads (active TS/SCI required) but no federal job ads.

  9. Avatar


    Sorry, but random unrelated question, I have been in eternal adjudication (approaching a year). What in God’s name takes so long? Do they decide I am only a so-so candidate and that I shouldn’t be processed as quickly as everyone else? That my background is too complicated and it will take forever to do? What really goes into adjudication?

    Many thanks in advance!


  10. Avatar

    I heard that Adjudications takes a stack of the Investigator’s reports, walk up a flight of stairs and then throw the reports down the stairs. The heavier reports will go the farthest and those are the ones adjudications let pass, due to being heavier, they are better written with more information. The reports left at the top of the stairs get scooped up for another day of tossing.

  11. Avatar

    Hah! I knew it! Thanks for confirming my theory. 😉

  12. Avatar

    Adjudicator 101

    You are right, so I ended my beach excursion early in the name of all that is golden in the world of background investigations. I did not have the heart to continue jet-skiing, riding the banana boats and everything else the beach had to offer when I knew my fellow inv’s were tossed to the wolves. And, Oh ya, I ran out of vacation time 🙂

  13. Avatar


    The theory is strong, but what will they do from this point forward, because every report I have done in the past 3 months has been HUUUUUUUUGE. At this pace, the adjudicators will only be able to tote one at a time to the stairwell.

  14. Avatar

    They’ll have to use forklifts!!!

  15. Avatar

    Thanks for the help guys. I am pretty sure my file was huge. I would have expected it to drop like a rock down the stariwell.

  16. Avatar

    Calling Adjudicator 101…are you there, Adjudicator 101?

    Any new information on DoD adjudicator positions?

  17. Avatar

    sorry for the delayed response! I have been….well….adjudicating! haha.
    Fed Investigator is totally right. I have 4 flights and can only carry one case at a time.

  18. Avatar

    unfortunately, with the move actually in progress (to Ft. Meade, MD on June 27) all cases are on hold. Our system is being transferred (last cases entered yesterday) so the cases are being set aside for the information to be entered into JPAS when we are back up. The shooting point is July 8. I would be amazed if anything but adverse decisions and Statement of Reasons (denial, revocation, etc) were sent until that date. So, I would say you not hearing anything is a good thing at this point. One year is long to wait, but this is not a good time to request a clearance, regardless. Is there ever a good time? Prolly not.

    Blues: no new information. Lots of people leaving and with the hiring freeze ~ management is unable to fill the empty slots. I will promise you that I will get on here and update when I do know of some openings though. Just for you Blue. hell, at this point, you can have my slot, this place is a mess. Between retirement of the elders and those with limited time before moving to Ft. Meade I am suprised that anything gets done.

  19. Avatar

    Judging from your name, you prolly have foreign influence issues. Right? INS checks take a notoriously long time, especially if it comes back from OPM with “re-submit”. Get your ducks in order if you know what issues are in the file; saves time later.

  20. Avatar

    Adjudicator 101,

    Yea, not my real name, of course, but you are correct in guessing I have foreign influence concerns. What does “re-submit” mean?

    Thanks for the response! Happy Adjudicating/Paper Dropping!

  21. Avatar

    It means that that OPM did not get the verification they needed from INS/ICE and we, as adjudicators, need to go out and get it; holding it up much longer by waiting also for INS’ answer. You can expedite by having copies of Naturalization certificates of any foreign born individuals (immediate family) living in the US, or alien registration cards, etc. Documents.

  22. Avatar

    Adjudicator 101,

    Thank you for your promise to keep me updated. I see a real opportunity in this whole BRAC move cluster for those of us who aspire to become DoD adjudicators and are willing to relocate to Fort Meade.

  23. Avatar

    Does anyone request that info of extended family? Mine is huge and most are in the US…maybe that is why it is taking so long.

  24. Avatar


    If you submitted a SF-86 Questionnaire (vs. SF-85-P) for your investigation, citizenship information is required for your following relatives:

    1. Mother
    2. Father
    3. Step-mother
    4. Step-father
    5. Foster parents
    6. Children (including adopted and foster children)
    7. Step-children
    8. Brothers
    9. Sisters
    10. Step-brothers
    11. Step-sisters
    12. Half-brothers
    13. Half-sisters
    14. Father-in-law
    15. Mother-in-law
    16. Guardians

    Citizenship information includes place of birth (city, state, country), current home address and document number (if applicable). A document number would be applicable for any of the above listed relatives who was born outside of the United States AND possesses one of the following United States issued documents:

    1. FS-240 or 545
    2. DS-1350
    3. Alien Registration
    4. Citizenship certificate
    5. Naturalization certificate
    6. U.S. passport
    7. Other (explain)

    No document number is necessary for any relative who is a U.S. citizen by birth in the United States (this does not include U.S. citizens born abroad).

  25. Avatar

    Posing a request/ question to actual or recent former Adjudicators. I have a good strictly civilian job, yet I’m considering a job via a military contractor where I would need a secret clearance and get an interim to start. My request is can I submit my parameters to someone who could give me a rough idea of my chances of actually getting cleared to the secret level. I can’t afford to end of unemployed and reading about the SF 86 makes me nervous, becauses it’s somewhat subjective with a lot of variables.

    I’m US born w/o any bad issues but did have an arrest around 10 years ago. Have also been fired from a couple of jobs but last time was over 3 years ago.


  26. Avatar

    Are we having fun yet?

  27. Avatar

    Hmmmm, I did have to create an excel spreadsheet for my extended family, to include names, birthdates, address and land line number among other things. What does one even do with that info? Would they use it for verification with INS/ICE? Thanks for answering all my silly questions.

  28. Avatar

    ABSO-Friggin’-LUTELY! You can almost be guaranteed an adjudication position in the FT. MEade location, if you want it, especially since you have investigator background… There are more needed positions than they have filled right now. The freeze on hiring is your only block. When that is lifted; and the positions are listed (word of mouth in office for us), I will let you know.
    Sudabeh, the most important info regarding foreign family members is this: make sure that if they live in the US that they are here legally and that you can prove it with some form of documentation copy of green card, visa, naturalization certificate, etc). INS/ICE will give what they have and the adjudicator is tasked with getting the ones that INS/ICE doesn’t get. That is the hold up. Have copies for the investigator, but, as discussed earlier, they don’t always get married up with the investigation, so you should keep copies too and make sure the investigator makes note in your subject interview that you provided documents for specific family members. You won’t know which ones until you are contacted with an interrogatory requesting the information because sometimes the investigator is not privy to all of the investigation details. If you have it available when asked ~ excellent for you.
    Fed Inv, can you sing me a song? I’m bored.

  29. Avatar

    Your question raises a dilemma. When considering foreign influence, adjudicators often take into account whether the foreign (non-US citizen) relative/associate is aware of the Subject’s defense related job and security clearance status. If you don’t already know all the information requested on the SF86 for your foreign relatives and associates, usually the relatives/associates want to know why you are asking them for this information. If you tell them reason, it will be held against you by the adjudicator if foreign influence becomes an issue in your case. If you already know all the information about your foreign relatives/associates, it’s difficult to claim that you barely know the relative and that your contact with them is very casual and infrequent. These are important factors when determining the degree of potential influence a foreign relative/associate may have. I recommend that you do not ask any of your foreign relatives/associates for information about them that you do not already know. If you don’t know the answer to a question on the SF86, just indicate that you don’t know.

  30. Avatar

    Mr. Henderson hit the nail on the head. It is important to volunteer to an investigator HOW you obtained information regarding foreign national relatives. For example, perhaps you spoke with your mother (with whom you have significant contact) and your mother gave you information regarding your foreign national relatives with whom you do not have close or continuing contact. Do not initiate contact with any foreign national only to obtain information needed for the security clearance process unless it is someone with whom you already have significant contact. Not everyone is able to provide 100% of all information required on the SF-86 and SF-85-P. Just tell the investigator that you don’t know the information and why you don’t know the information.

  31. Avatar

    What I want to sort out is this: is the family member that is currently in the US a legal citizen/resident of the US? If so, documents.
    If not, (they live in ______insert country) their job, contacts, etc. If they are not in the US, minimal contact is a “good thing” for adjudicating.

  32. Avatar

    In HR 1540 On way for Congressional approval.

    `Sec. 1564b. Security clearance adjudications

    `In carrying out a security clearance adjudication of a member of the armed forces, the Secretary of Defense shall give special consideration to any such member with a record of a foreclosure on the credit report of such member.’.

    (b) Regulations- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this section, the Secretary shall issue regulations to carry out section 1564b of title 10, United States Code, as added by subsection (a).

    (c) Clerical Amendment- The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by inserting after the item relating to section 1564a the following new item:

    `1564b. Security clearance adjudications.’.

  33. Avatar

    Cool. I followed everything properly then. I am just going craaazzzy waiting. 😐

    Thanks for the help guys — it is nice to have you all hanging around in the same forum.


  34. Avatar

    Sing us a song, you’re the piano man…

  35. Avatar

    Adjudicator 101: I am hope an intelligent person like yourself could infer from my ROI that when I report a SJ went to Canada for five days to fish and relax and on a cruise to the Caribbean for seven days to “x” country, “y” county and “z” country where he did sightseeing, shopping and eating these were both vacations and I don’t have to put the word “vacation” in my ROI? Yet the reviewer reviewing my case wants me to put the word “vacation” in my ROI. Oh and SJ marked “pleasure” for both of these trips on his case papers when he listed them. These stupid little things are what frustrate me the most. They are happening more and more!!!

  36. Avatar

    Investigator –

    Same here. I just dealt with a brand new reviewer who tore an almost 20 pages SUBJ interview to hell only due to her personal preference in wording. I’m sure you know what I mean – the wording changes ordered DID NOT change, in any way, the meaning or gravity of the testimony. Didn’t even clarify the testimony! BS. Icing on the cake after suffering through a 4+ hours SUBJ interview, painstakingly reconstructing the testimony in my ROI and scheduling/sending leads on the 10+ developed activities.

    “Quality” is the flavor of the month. There seems to be a great divide between what a reasonable person considers quality work vs. what review is pushing these days. But, to be fair, it really isn’t review’s fault either – this is all coming from the new OPM contract rules. The new contract will include hefty financial disincentives for each case that requires additional work or re-work.

  37. Avatar

    Sorry for any typos or grammar mistakes on my above post. It has been a long day of multiple ESIs and multiple sources.
    I understand quality is important and I am all for it but this little stuff is just ridiculous. We got a memo from OPM recently that specifically indicated we did not need to reiterate what was already listed on the case papers yet I am still getting “quick fixes” as our company calls them, asking me to put some additional wording in my ROI that was already listed on the case papers. Big waste of time.

  38. Avatar

    Investigator, as far as I am aware, the guidance to not “reiterate” what is on the case papers only apply to those ESI’s which are done on the 2010 SF86, the brand new branching logic one. All others have to follow the old guidance.

  39. Avatar

    Your reviewer is an idiot! The crap they make you guys re-work is a waste of time. Now, if their was a ‘pleasure trip’ listed to … say, Iran. Then let’s elaborate! I don’t look too much into pleasure or even business trips to Canada, UK, etc. The verbiage of pleasure and vacation difference is very petty and shows a total lack of simple common sense.

  40. Avatar

    That section of HR 1540 will have no affect on DOD adjudications. Remember the Smith Amendment and the Bond Amendment. DOD’s response was to give every adjudicator the authority to grant a waiver, effectively (and correctly) castrating the intent of the legislation. Congress has no business (and no legal authority) telling the Executive Branch how to adjudicate security clearances. The Executive Branch has exclusive authority regarding the protection of national security information. As long as these bills contain escape clauses and vague language, DOD and the Executive Branch will tolerate and effectively ignore them. If the law offers no way around it and it offends the authority of the Executive Branch, then its constitutionality will be decided in the courts.

  41. Avatar


    Repeating info is non-sense. I keep hearing they are separate living documents. That’s a croc, but if they are staple the damn casepapers to the ROI!!!!!!!

  42. Avatar

    Okay, another random question, if you all would be so kind:

    How long does it take to verify foreign family members through INS/ICE…I think I have about 20 (God help me) here in the US. Are they processed individually, or as a group?

    How do they check into people who aren’t into the US? Is that a lengthy process too? Because that is about another 20 for me…sigh.

  43. Avatar

    On a standard ANACI and NACLC they do not verify US citizenship/resident alien status of relative. For an standard SSBI the US citizenship/resident alien status of immediate family members (i.e. mother, father, siblings) who were born outside the U.S. is verified. It doesn’t matter where they currently live. I don’t know how long it takes. It’s not possible to verify foreign citizenship.

  44. Avatar


    This is an error safe zone–the only one we get 🙂

  45. Avatar

    Thought of you today Adjudicator 101. I had an ESI where the SJ listed two trips to Canada on his case papers. He is in the military and was traveling from the continental US to Alaska and had to drive through Canada to get to Alaska both times. As I typed up all of the additional information about these foreign trips in my ROI I thought to myself this is a waste of time.
    On another note, today is my company’s statistical deadline for June for Inv to transmit cases. I transmitted 22 ESIs for June. That is in addition to all of the other sources and records I transmitted as well. Not too bad in my opinion yet my TL wanted to know why more cases did not go out. I will never be able to please them.

  46. Avatar


    Tell your TL to go xxxx himself. I must admit, I do not have your problem. 22 is a solid caseload. I would never make it with you guys!!!!

  47. Avatar

    22 was just the number of ESIs. I made a total of 44 transmissions for stat June.

  48. Avatar

    With these new ESI’s 22 of those is enough for one person with type time. Just had a five hr ESI. Have never had any longer than 3.5 hrs.

  49. Avatar

    Wait until you get the new and improved 2010 SF86!!


  50. Avatar

    The anticipation is killing me.

  51. Avatar

    With the ever-increasing new “quality” demands added on to the pre-existing inherent demands of the investigator job, who would ever work this job if they had other options? Or what kind of people are they going to get to work this job? Playing phone tag for sources/records, traffic and constant driving, endless report writing and admin work (after fighting traffic and sweating making appt times), constant deadlines and continuous work, the asinine re-opens,…

    But alas, the economy and job outlook is not too rosy so alot of us tell ourselves that there are a lot of people who would love to have our jobs and we try to keep a positive attitude until we can find something else.

  52. Avatar

    Is it ok to ask someone I work with on a continuing basis (I see him 2-3 timws a week) if he is a US citizen?

  53. Avatar

    Hello, here is my concern and i hope you guys can help.
    I am in the process of completing the SF-86 but i am really concerned About the relatives section because i have a Relative that lives in the same town where i live but she is not a legal resident. I am affraid that if i go a head with this application she Will be deported. Should i just totally give up the posibility of getting this Job For fear that she and her family might be deported?
    I know the questions is very especific, if the relative lives in USA is he/she legal resident?, does he/she has a visa? or other? I am not sure if under the section other is where I have to explain that that relative is not legal. If i put that she has a visa( which it is already expired) they want the number. Should i just leave that in blank? What shold i do? I would really appreciate your help in this.


  54. Avatar

    @Ironman, list whatever information you know about the relative, no one is expected to have all of the information asked about relatives documents, so leaving blank information is okay. These applications are not used by anyone else OPM to complete the background investigation. (only exception is the admission of serious criminal conduct or a life is in danger).