What Is Public Trust Security Clearance?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

What Is Public Trust Security Clearance?

By Bryan Driscoll, J.D.

Public trust security clearance is the lowest level of additional background screening that the federal government requires for applicants of certain jobs.

Man writing on clipboard while sitting at open laptop

Government jobs can have lengthy employment applications and even lengthier screening processes. Part of the screening process for many federal government jobs is getting a security clearance. By understanding what security clearance you'll need and taking proactive steps, you can ensure you're more prepared than other applicants for the same position.

Security Clearance

The federal government requires a security clearance for many jobs because of the work involved. Even if the daily duties don't require knowledge of confidential material, it's common to see some confidential material pass across your desk from time to time. Because of this, it's important that federal government employees receive a security clearance.

There are three different levels of security clearance available:

  • Top Secret
  • Secret
  • Confidential

Note that public trust is not actually a security clearance. Public trust positions do, however, require additional background screening because of the confidential nature of the position.

Public Trust

When you apply for a position with the federal government, you will fill out many forms. One of those forms is Standard Form 85 (SF85). All public trust positions require completion of this form.

SF85 is seven pages long and will require you to release certain confidential information to the federal government for review. Providing false information on this form is a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison. If you think you may have something in your background that would prevent you from qualifying for a public trust position, consider seeking professional legal services to help you navigate the form. Paying for a professional for assistance is still better than lying on these SF85 forms.

During your application process and on the SF85, you will have to disclose information such as:

  • Medical records
  • Financial records
  • Marriage and divorce records
  • Child support information
  • Employment history
  • Residential history

It's important to note that, because public trust positions require employment history for the past seven years, your job search will no longer be kept confidential from your current employer. The federal government will contact your current employer for information on you, your work ethic, and your work history. If you reach this point in the application process for a federal government position, you need to be sure you have told your current employer you are looking.

Public Trust Positions Require Honesty

When you're applying for a public trust position with the federal government, the best advice you can receive is to be honest. Lying can literally put you in jail.

The federal government isn't looking for the perfect person, as that doesn't exist. What they are looking for is someone who provides full disclosure. Public trust positions require just that—trust. Your federal government must trust you to review and hold confidential information. Starting your relationship off with a lie is the worst thing you can do a sure way to have your application removed from consideration.

The federal government will dig deep when you apply for a public trust position. It would be beneficial for you to know what's in your background before they do so you can prepare yourself.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.