FAQ: Medical and Security Clearance

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What is involved in the medical clearance process?

The requirement for pre-employment in the Foreign Service is that the applicant must be medically cleared for “worldwide assignment.” Family members, however, must be medically cleared before traveling overseas to accompany an employee on assignment at U.S. Government expense. These medical fitness standards are more rigorous than those of most other professions as some overseas posts may be remote, unhealthy, or have limited medical support.

I'm a breast cancer survivor. It has been 10 years since I've shown any evidence of cancer in my regular screenings. Can I be cleared for appointment?

A full medical report from the oncologist is required to establish the type of follow-up that is needed. If, after 10 years, you are taking no medication for the breast cancer and your only follow-up care is an annual mammogram, there is a good possibility that your condition would not limit your medical clearance.

My ten-year old child is in a special education program and will need to continue to receive special education assistance for the foreseeable future. What are the implications for her medical clearance?

For any child who has special education needs, the Individual Education Program must be forwarded to Medical Clearances for further evaluation through MED’s Mental Health Services. Because of the special education needs, your child is likely not worldwide available and would have the limited, Class 2, medical clearance. This means that approval of an overseas post from Medical Clearances will be necessary prior to your child’s inclusion on your travel orders.

I have lived with Type I diabetes since I was a child. It is managed and I am completely capable of giving myself the necessary injections. Is this a limitation to a full medical clearance?

The standard for diabetes control is based on frequent blood glucose monitoring, testing for hemoglobin A1C every 4-6 months, and having access to emergency services in the event of a diabetic crisis, as well as routine monitoring by specialists as required. Due to conditions at some posts, one may encounter profuse sweating, diarrhea and vomiting, or other unforeseen chemical changes that may affect blood sugar levels very quickly and require the need for emergency care. The specific type of insulin you need may not be available in many locations worldwide and it may not be possible to ship insulin to you at such locations. Given this range of considerations for the treatment and control of your diabetes, it is not likely that you would be worldwide available.

I'm 39 years old. I had a mild heart attack three years ago and was hospitalized briefly. I've had no further cardiac events and my doctor monitors me regularly. I am otherwise in good health. Does this history pose a clearance problem?

We would carefully evaluate the type of monitoring you require. Because your doctor monitors you regularly, it is not likely that you would be worldwide available. There are numerous Department of State posts where no cardiologist, indeed no physician at all, would be available to care for you.

If I am cleared medically for any post in the world but one of my family members is not, won't the Department of State simply assign me to one of those places where all my family members can accompany me?

Accepting employment as being cleared for worldwide assignment means that the Department may send you to any assignment in the world without regard to the ability of your family members to accompany you. Although in many cases it may be possible to locate an assignment where all family members can accompany you, there is no guarantee of this and, if the medical clearance for your family members does not change, the same problem will repeat itself with each assignment throughout a career.

What kind of security clearance is a TS/SSBI?

TS/SSBI means Top Secret/ Single Scope Background Investigation.

For all Top Secret, Q and SCI clearances, an SSBI is conducted. Basically, that’s the type of investigation that involves interviewing people you know and verifying everything for the past 10 years (or until age 18, whichever is sooner.)

All potential FSOs must be Top Secret cleared, thus 10 years of information is required.

Diplomatic Security will use a ”spider web” system.  They’ll ask your references for names, then then they’ll possibly interview those names and then get more names and keep going as deeply as they need to in order to satisfy whatever it is they’re investigating. Hopefully, all of the references and resulting supplemental names will form the “web” allowing them to see the whole picture of your character.

I'm 28 years old with a Master's degree. I've spent most of my 20's living off student loans and credit cards. I'm employed, I make my minimum payments and I've never been delinquent on any debts... but my debt to credit ratio is horrible. My backgr

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Does a security clearance from a previous internship at the State Department speed up the process?

Upon completion of your internship, your security clearance automatically expire. If you d0 another internship 6 months later, you’ll have to go through the entire process again.  For an intern, the clearance leaves when you leave.

What is a Class 2 Medical Clearance?

There are two types of medical clearances, Class I I which is unlimited, and Class II which requires some limitations on the posts you may be qualified to be posted to.

I have always been extremely responsible with all of my finances and have regularly paid all student loans, bills, and credit card on time. Will a foreclosure on my record prohibit me from passing the security clearance to become and FSO?

We have asked a few DIRs for clarification on whether a foreclosure or short sale, which has become common due to the recent downturn in the housing crisis, will impact a potential FSO’s chances of passing a security clearance. The general response has been that your overall financial background will be considered. If you have been responsible but due to a job loss or divorce have had to go in foreclosure, it should not impact your chances, but you will need to be able to properly explain the cause of any blemishes on your credit history.

I have pins and rods in my back. Can I be cleared for appointment?

A medical condition such as yours should not inhibit you obtaining a medical clearance, but may limit the posts you are qualified for if medication or treatment/monitoring is needed.

Will having fair credit due to student loans not yet paid in full and past delinquencies that have been resolved prevent me from being issued a Top Secret Clearance?

As long as you are not delinquent in your federal student loans, it should not be a matter of concern.  The major items that discourage employment are serious delinquency that collectively indicate a repeated failure to stay in good standing with credit lines.  If credit has been repaired and you have exhibited a good history for a few years, that can be overcome as well.

Can anyone who passed the medical clearance in 2010 / 2011 let me know if they do a hair test or just a urinalysis?

The medical clearance consists of blood and urine testing.  We have no heard of hair samples being requested for testing from anyone as of yet.

I've been deliquent with my credit cards, and they were all closed out due to non payment. I am in the process of paying them off and my credit score is very low. How will this affect me?

In most cases a potential FSO will want to show an established history of timely payments on their debt obligations before registering for the FSOT.  If you have re-established your credit cards and can satisfactorily explain the cause of the delinquencies (divorce, loss of job, etc.) your past problems should not count against you.

The main thing they’re looking for is a history of responsible choices.  If your credit history presents continual delinquency, you should strongly consider discussing your situation with a Diplomat in Residence.  There is no specific credit score or debt to income ratio – each candidate’s selected is based on their collective history of choices, both financial and personal.

What if my spouse has a foreclosure on her record?

During your security clearance you will be provided an opportunity to provided a written explanation of the extenuating circumstances surrounding any financial blemishes such as a foreclosure, short sale, bankruptcy, etc.  Depending on your credit profile, payment history, and personal situation a decision will be made as to whether your situation warrants the granting of a security clearance.

The impact of our current foreclosure crisis has put many in this situation and it should not be a reason to dissuade yourself from pursuing the FSOT.

Will a bankruptcy more than 13 years be a problem. It no longer shows up on my credit report. Will I need to declare it?

The security clearance covers the last 10 years of your personal and professional life – If you have demonstrated a solid history of sound financial stability, meaning you have minimal debt obligations and satisfactory payment history, a bankruptcy from 13 years ago will have minimal impact to your obtaining a security clearance.

I have a fully controlled medical condition (epilepsy) that requires me to take a prescription everyday. It is filled every 3 months through the mail. Would this be an issue to full medical clearance?

Depending on the results of a standard physical and consultation with a medical professional, a condition such as epilepsy should not disqualify you for a medical clearance, but may limit the locations you are able to serve.  We suggest contacting your local Diplomat in Residence (DIR) to see if there can be further clarification as to the limitations of such a condition on being posted overseas.

My fiance has a felony from over 7 years ago. Will this affect my chances and when we get married, will he be allowed to travel with me?

We have submitted this question to a DIR – will update with an answer as soon as we can.

Is Asthma a disqualifer for a medical clearance?

No, asthma is not a disqualifies for a medical clearance, but it may factor into your ability to be posted in certain countries.

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