How Hard Is It to Get a Public Trust Clearance: From Dreams to Reality


Career Consultant and Blog Writer.

Are you worried about how hard is it to get a Public Trust Clearance? The difficulty of obtaining a Public Trust Clearance can vary based on individual circumstances and the specific requirements of the position. It involves a thorough background investigation and evaluation process. Factors such as financial responsibility, criminal history, and foreign influence can impact the outcome. While the process can be challenging, understanding the requirements, being honest and thorough in the application, and addressing any potential concerns can increase your chances of success.

Public Trust Clearance is an essential security clearance level required for various government positions and contracts. If you’re considering a career in government or contracting, you may wonder how difficult it is to obtain a Public Trust Clearance. In this article, we will explore the intricacies of the process, the requirements, and the challenges associated with getting a Public Trust Clearance.

Understanding Public Trust Clearance

Public Trust Clearance is a mid-level security clearance issued by federal agencies. It grants individuals access to sensitive but unclassified information and positions that involve public trust. This clearance level ensures that individuals in these positions do not pose a risk to national security or public safety.

Requirements for Public Trust Clearance

To be eligible for a Public Trust Clearance, applicants must meet specific requirements set by the hiring agency. These requirements typically include:

#1. U.S. Citizenship

Public Trust Clearance is generally granted to U.S. citizens, although certain exceptions may apply in rare cases.

#2. Background Investigation

Applicants must undergo a comprehensive background investigation to evaluate their character, loyalty, and reliability.

#3. Financial Responsibility

The applicant’s financial history, including credit score and debt, may be considered to assess their trustworthiness.

#4. Employment History

A thorough review of the applicant’s past employment, including references, is conducted to ensure their integrity.

#5. Drug Use and Criminal Record

Any history of drug use or criminal activities can negatively impact the chances of obtaining a Public Trust Clearance.

Application Process

The application process for Public Trust Clearance typically involves several steps.

  • It begins with submitting the required forms and documentation to the hiring agency.
  • The agency then initiates the background investigation, which includes interviews, fingerprinting, and checks with references.
  • The applicant may also need to complete a security questionnaire and provide additional information if requested.

Investigative Process

During the investigative process, various aspects of the applicant’s life are examined. This may include interviews with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Investigators will scrutinize the applicant’s financial records, education history, and travel patterns. The purpose of this investigation is to determine the applicant’s reliability, trustworthiness, and potential vulnerabilities to exploitation.

Factors Affecting Public Trust Clearance

Several factors can impact the success of obtaining a Public Trust Clearance. These factors include:

#1: Adverse Credit History

A significant amount of debt or a history of financial irresponsibility can raise concerns about an individual’s susceptibility to bribery or blackmail.

#2: Criminal Record

Certain criminal offenses, especially those involving violence, drugs, or national security, can disqualify an applicant from obtaining Public Trust Clearance.

#3: Substance Abuse Issues

A current or recent history of substance abuse may raise questions about an individual’s reliability and ability to maintain the required level of trust.

#4: Dishonesty or Misrepresentation

Providing false information or withholding relevant details during the application process can lead to disqualification.

#4: Foreign Influence

Close relationships or connections with foreign nationals may be seen as potential security risks, as they could lead to undue influence or compromise.

Challenges in Obtaining Public Trust Clearance

Getting a Public Trust Clearance can be a challenging process. Some common challenges include:

Challenge #1. Lengthy Processing Times

The application and investigative process can take several months or even longer, leading to delays in starting a new job or project.

Challenge #2. Complex Background Checks

Investigators thoroughly examine an applicant’s background, requiring them to provide extensive documentation and information.

Challenge #3. Mitigating Adverse Factors

If an applicant has an adverse credit history, criminal record, or other disqualifying factors, they must present mitigating evidence to demonstrate their rehabilitation or positive changes.

Challenge #4. Uncertainty of Outcome

Even with a strong application, there is no guarantee of obtaining Public Trust Clearance, as the final decision lies with the federal agency.

Tips for Successfully Obtaining Public Trust Clearance

While the process may seem daunting, there are strategies to increase your chances of successfully obtaining a Public Trust Clearance:

Tips #1. Maintain Financial Responsibility

Keeping your finances in order, paying debts on time, and addressing any credit issues can demonstrate your trustworthiness.

Tips #2. Be Honest and Accurate

Provide truthful and complete information throughout the application and investigative process. Honesty is vital for establishing trust.

Tips #3. Address Past Issues

If you have a criminal record or adverse credit history, provide context and evidence of rehabilitation or steps taken to rectify the situation.

Tips #4. Cooperate Fully

Respond promptly and thoroughly to any requests for additional information or interviews. Cooperation demonstrates your willingness to comply with the process.

The Importance of Public Trust Clearance

  • Public Trust Clearance is crucial for positions involving public trust and access to sensitive information.
  • It ensures that individuals with this clearance level are reliable, loyal, and committed to upholding national security and public safety.
  • Without proper clearance, individuals cannot be entrusted with classified or sensitive information, which could jeopardize important missions or projects.

Comparison with Other Clearance Levels

Public Trust Clearance falls in the middle of the security clearance spectrum.

  • It is less extensive than Top Secret and Secret clearances but more rigorous than the basic Level of Trust clearance.
  • The level of investigation and scrutiny increases with higher security clearance levels, which reflects the increased level of access to classified information.

Common Misconceptions about Public Trust Clearance

There are a few misconceptions about Public Trust Clearance that need to be addressed:

  • Public Trust Clearance Equals Guaranteed Approval: While it is a required level for certain positions, approval is not guaranteed, and each case is evaluated individually.
  • Only Government Employees Need Public Trust Clearance: Contractors, consultants, and individuals working on government contracts may also require Public Trust Clearance.
  • Public Trust Clearance Is Permanent: Public Trust Clearance must be maintained throughout employment. Certain factors, such as changes in personal circumstances or behavior, can lead to revocation.


Obtaining a Public Trust Clearance can be a rigorous and time-consuming process, but it is necessary for various government positions and contracts. By understanding the requirements, challenges, and tips for success, individuals can navigate the process with greater confidence. Public Trust Clearance ensures that those entrusted with sensitive but unclassified information uphold the highest standards of integrity, loyalty, and trustworthiness.

How Hard Is It to Get a Public Trust Clearance: FAQs With Answers

Can a non-US citizen get a public trust clearance?

Public Trust Clearance is typically granted to US citizens. However, there are certain exceptions where non-US citizens may be eligible for public trust positions based on specific requirements and the nature of the position. It is essential to consult with the hiring agency or employer for clarification on eligibility criteria.

What is needed for public trust clearance?

To obtain a Public Trust Clearance, you will generally need to meet the following requirements:
U.S. citizenship or specific exceptions for non-US citizens.
Undergo a comprehensive background investigation.
Demonstrate financial responsibility and good credit history.
Provide a detailed employment history.
Maintain a clean criminal record.
Avoid substance abuse issues.
Keep in mind that specific agencies or positions may have additional requirements, so it is essential to review the specific guidelines provided by the hiring agency.

Who can get public trust clearance in the USA?

Public Trust Clearance is available to individuals who are US citizens or meet specific exceptions. It is required for various government positions and contracts where individuals are entrusted with sensitive but unclassified information that involves public trust. This includes both federal employees and contractors working on government projects.

Is there an interview for public trust?

Yes, as part of the application and investigative process for Public Trust Clearance, an interview is typically conducted. The interview aims to gather additional information, verify details provided in the application, and assess an applicant’s character, trustworthiness, and reliability. The interview may cover topics related to personal background, employment history, financial matters, and potential vulnerabilities.

What disqualifies you from public trust clearance?

Several factors can potentially disqualify an individual from obtaining Public Trust Clearance. These include:
Significant financial irresponsibility or high levels of debt.
Certain criminal offenses, especially those involving violence, drugs, or national security.
Dishonesty or providing false information during the application process.
A current or recent history of substance abuse.
Close relationships or connections with foreign nationals that may pose a security risk.
Each case is evaluated individually, and mitigating circumstances or evidence of rehabilitation may be considered.

How do I know if I have public trust clearance?

If you have been granted Public Trust Clearance, you should have received official notification from the federal agency that conducted your background investigation. You can also reach out to the agency’s security office or human resources department for confirmation. They can provide information regarding your clearance status and any expiration dates.

How long does it take to get a public trust clearance?

The processing time for Public Trust Clearance can vary depending on several factors, including the volume of applications, the thoroughness of the investigation, and any potential complexities or issues that may arise during the process. Generally, it can take several months or even longer to complete the background investigation and receive a final determination.

How to obtain a public trust clearance?

To obtain a Public Trust Clearance, you typically need to follow these steps:
Research the specific requirements and guidelines set by the hiring agency.
Complete the required application forms accurately and thoroughly.
Provide all necessary supporting documentation, including identification, employment history, and financial information.
Undergo a comprehensive background investigation, which may include interviews, fingerprinting, and checks with references.
Cooperate fully with investigators and promptly respond to any requests for additional information.
Maintain open communication with the agency’s security office or human resources department throughout the process.
Await the final determination on your clearance status, which will be communicated to you by the agency.