How long should I wait before applying for federal jobs or jobs that require clearance if I received a suitability denial not a clearance denial?

How long should I wait before applying for federal jobs or jobs that require clearance if I received a suitability denial not a clearance denial? Based on the history below will I ever be eligible for clearance with any federal agency or contractor? What if I wanted to apply to CIA or as an Foreign Service Officer?

My main questions are listed above. The following post is going to be long. So thank you in advance for bearing with me if you read all the way through it. I’m going to categorize issues rather than go in chronological order. Please note I am from a low income background. I didn’t know many people with security clearances prior to applying. A few people encouraged me to lie. I did not and told the truth. I even corrected mistakes in my subject interview after I noticed them reviewing my SF86.

I applied for a paid internship with the Department of State interviewed thinking I wouldn’t get the interview. I received an interview and took if for the experience and a month later received an offer. I submitted an SF-86 and sat for an interview with an investigator two months later. Last month (about 8 months after submitting the SF-86) I received an early termination letter based on suitability. The letter stated it was not a clearance denial. I appealed within the given time frame, however the they decided the termination was final.

I lived in China from 2013-2016 and Hong Kong from 2016-2017. I moved back in 2017 to attend graduate school. This is important and relates directly to all of the following issues.

Drug Use – This was the reason listed on the suitability denial. Use, unbecoming or illegal conduct, and inability to prove substantial rehabilitation. My subject investigator actually didn’t spend a lot of time on this area, she never asked who I used with or anything like that. Mostly she just wanted a time frame. I regret that I used drugs and it makes me sick to think that I’ve potentially screwed up my future. I can’t change what I did. I take responsibility for those choices. They were terrible choice but choices that I made nonetheless. I haven’t used in a year and intend to never use again.

Prior to moving to China I NEVER used drugs. I ways always a good two shoes and pretty straight laced. I was never a cool kid and to be frank didn’t have a lot of friends or expansive social circles. Suddenly in China I had an instant social circle. Most people make terrible decisions in high school or undergrad those years came really late for me. I completely regret it and feel ashamed to think about it. All of my use was social and occurred at parties with people I no longer have contact with.

Over 2 years starting in late 2015 -2017 I experimented with the following:

Ecstasy – 2 times between. Last use 2016

Cocaine (snorted)- 3 times. I originally listed 2 on my SF-86 and corrected this later in the subject interview. Last use 2016

Marijuana (smoked) 6-9 times. Most of my use was in China/Hong Kong and ended in April 2017. The biggest issue here is about a month prior to getting an interview I smoked pot in the states in a place where it was legal. This was late 2017 and was a 1 time incident. I forgot to list this on my SF86 because I forgot about that incident. I did correct it in the subject interview without being prompted.

I have not used anything since and it’s almost a year at this point. I never intend to use drugs again. I have changed my social groups and don’t talk to anybody I used drugs with overseas. The person who supplied stateside I’ve met exactly one time. I’ve never seen her since that incident.

Obviously hindsight is 20/20 and now after reading this site I know I never had a chance. Again I’m from a low income background and there aren’t many people to advise me on this matter.

Other issues: None of these were listed as a reason of denial.

Taxes- I failed to file taxes in 2013, 2014, and 2015. When I found out the issue, I filed 2016 and 2013-2015 within a month in April of 2016. I had 2017 taxes filed in early March of this year. I never owed the IRS any money though. Basically, I there was a miscommunication between my mom and I. I thought she was helping me file taxes stateside and she thought I had filed them in China. My mother and I didn’t have the strongest relationship during this period we would talk maybe once every 3 months. Dad passed away ages ago, so there was no possibility of going to him for help.

Foreign Contacts: I had several but none of them would have been people I used drugs with. My subject interview spent most of our time on this area. However, nobody to my knowledge was a spy or involved in government. Mostly I just listed a bunch of English teachers. At the time of SF-86 I was still dating my now-ex. They were a foreign national (not Chinese) and we dated for 3 years. We broke up around the time I received the first suitability denial letter. They were from a poor rural family in his home country and didn’t have any government contacts to my knowledge.

Foreign Travel:

I traveled to several countries outside of China.

How likely am I to receive clearance in the future? Is there any chance I can start applying for internships again before I graduate? Am I just completely ■■■■■■? How can I prove substainal rehabilitation?

I’m proud I told the truth. I regret doing drugs and am terrified I’ve screwed my future up. I’m also super frustrated because now that I’ve started my program I’ve run into military people who have suggested lying is the way to go and federal employees who have clearances and do things they shouldn’t or have lied to get clearances. Please note I do not hang out with these people regularly.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and respond.

I would wait at least 5 to 7 years before considering employment with any agency. This passage of time will bode well for your future. And do not get into any trouble again. Every decision you make from now until the next 5 years or so will be under extreme scrutiny.

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You MAY get a clearance in the future. Some department other than State may be a better bet.

You have to understand the concerns. First, drug use within a month of your interview? That’s just foolish and shows a lack of maturity and a lack of understanding of what you are asking of the government. As far as the federal government is concerned, grass isn’t legal anywhere in the U.S. But, using outside the country, where you may not be breaking any laws is a red flag because you have far more risk of being compromised by foreign agents.

How are you so sure that no one you were with in China isn’t an agent? They may have been recruited AFTER you were with them but they still have information on you. There is no one in China that can’t be corrupted by the government. That’s the kind of government they have.

Lying on the application really isn’t an option. Investigators will be interviewing friends and family. Anyone who knows your history could slip up and say something that would make you look like you were hiding something. Even if it didn’t come out right away, you would have to worry about it throughout your career. Thirty years from now, you could lose your job because you lied on this first application.

For most agencies, you need to be clean for at least 12 months if you were never a regular user. Different agencies have different standards. Age is a mitigating factor but you don’t say how old you were when this happened.

You have not ruined your career but you have made it more difficult to get it started.

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Ed and the WIz captured it well. Though maybe included for context the low income portion seems to me as grasping for pity. Not to be harsh, but it comes across as " I am not responsible." Otherwise you own all other info, and that is the starting point. I think a minimum of 3 years with zero drug use, and 100% tax filings is the minimum. If the majority of foreign contacts were casual, let them fade. The Chinese specifically are masters at building long term connections with foreign visitors, and encouraging them to participate in non legal activity while there. Why? To hold something over your head and possibly get you to spy for them. It is hugely possible some of those people reported on you daily to their handlers. Their names are known to our Intell agencies. Though never an outward sign of getting you to spy…the life pattern is familiar. Do you wonder in the slightest how you were able to use drugs in a society known for harsh authoritarian treatment of criminals? It is very plausible you were set up from the start and they allowed your behavior knowing they were trying to get their fingers into you later. Did any of them ask you to seek government work? There are cases where Americans, many teachers in China, accepted work and pay for jobs. Eventually thinking they could accept cash and beat the Chinese at their own game. Foolish. One even agreed to seek employment at the CIA. Our Intell folks trailed them and photographed them with known Chinese agents while they were in China. Yes we do that too. (all unclassified BTW). Long story short, the guy applied for a clearance, lied on his poly and they sprung the trap. He never had access to classified but thought he could play the Chinese and collect money. Never giving a thought that they would either kill him or simply report him to our Intell agencies had he refused to give them info. They will throw you away in a heartbeat. This guy ended up in prison.

Thank you for your reply.

Would you advise for any clearance including contractors?

Thank you for taking the time to reply.


Never thought of it this way, although to be fair I was mostly friends with expats but the same principle applies I guess.

12 months is soon, but I assume like the other posters you are advising waiting 3-7 years?

Thank you for taking the time to reply

[quote=“amberbunny, post:4, topic:4829”]
Though maybe included for context the low income portion seems to me as grasping for pity.
[/quote] That was not my intention but reading it I see your point. I did not include that in my appeal and will make sure to avoid doing so should I ever apply again in the future.

Thank you for this advice. Most of them already have but I will be conscious not to rekindle them in any form.

Mostly I was using with other Expats (usually from ally nations). But your point like Ed’s is still valid as they could also have been corrupted by the Chinese or spies for their own governments I suppose.


No . . . I’m not recommending 3-7 years. I’m suggesting that you bring this up when you interview and allow the security people where you are interviewing to make the decision about submitting you. They will have a better idea of who they can clear for what agency than anybody here.

But, I would caution you that you should be looking for employment in the private sector at the same time. Your clearance will take time even if you get it. Eighteen to 24 months isn’t out of the question.

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Following the adjudicative guidelines, and being frank, open and honest as you seem here, is the solution. Owning the events, takes away any power they have to blackmail you in the future. And trust me the Chinese have enough influence and spies to know who gets cleared here. By disclosing everything should any rekindle the relationship with you, report it. You will need time and distance to mitigate this but it can happen. I agree with Ed on a minimum of 3 years and it may take 5 years due to it having a foreign connection of any sort.