The Foreign Affairs Information Technology (FAIT) Fellowship is not only a unique opportunity for highly qualified, diverse college students to receive academic funding, internships and mentorship from the U.S. Department of State – it is also a path to your career in the Foreign Service. Part of your eligibility for the FAIT Fellowship program is your ability to enter the Foreign Service upon completion of the program. So before you apply to the program, you should be aware of the clearances that you must be able to obtain and maintain to stay in the program.

Top Secret Security Clearance

As soon as you are selected for the Fellowship, the Department of State will request that you complete and submit an application within about two weeks. You’ll be asked to submit fingerprints to the Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security as the first step in the security clearance process. The background investigation includes interviews with current and previous contacts, supervisors and coworkers. Candidates who do not receive a security clearance are ineligible for the fellowship.

How long does it take to get a security clearance?

The time needed for security clearance determination processing varies depending on a number of factors. The security clearance process involves a comprehensive background investigation, conducted by the U.S. Department of State in cooperation with other federal, state, and local agencies. This investigation provides the information necessary to determine a candidate’s suitability for appointment to the Foreign Service and for a Top Secret security clearance.

Candidates who hold dual citizenship, have had extensive travel, education, residence and/or employment overseas, or who have foreign contacts, a foreign-born spouse, immediate family members, or relatives who are not citizens of the United States, should be aware that the clearance process will take longer to complete.

What factors are considered?

The process considers such factors as: failure to repay a U.S. Government guaranteed loan or meet tax obligations; failure to register for the Selective Service; past problems with credit or bankruptcy; unsatisfactory employment records; a criminal record or other violations of the law; drug or alcohol abuse; and less than honorable discharge from the armed forces.

Worldwide Medical Clearance

Since you’ll be serving overseas as a Foreign Service Specialist after successfully completing the FAIT Fellowship program, you’ll need to be able to obtain and maintain a worldwide (“Class One”) medical clearance. Such clearances may only be issued to candidates whom the Office of Medical Services deems able to serve at the most isolated and restricted overseas posts.

Medical exams are done at the State Department during the orientation period. The medical clearances often take a couple of weeks, although the process can be longer depending on the situation. Fellows will receive decisions on their medical clearances from the State Department.

How is the Medical Clearance Determined?

The Office of Medical Services of the Department of State determines a candidate’s medical fitness and ability to serve overseas. Many Foreign Service posts are located in remote areas with extremely limited medical support. Each fellow, therefore, must meet rigorous medical standards in order to qualify for the required worldwide medical clearance. Medical clearance determination by Medical Services is based on its thorough review of each fellow’s medical history and a physical examination, including an individual assessment of his/her specific medical needs and the medical capabilities of Foreign Service posts to meet those needs.
The Department’s Office of Medical Services determines whether a candidate is medically eligible for assignment to all Department of State posts worldwide. While a candidate may effectively manage a chronic health condition or limitation within the United States or in specific areas outside of the U.S., the Office of Medical Services might well determine that the same individual is not eligible for a worldwide (“Class One”) medical clearance.

What are the Conditions at Isolated and Restricted Posts?

Some posts could face extreme isolation due to limited air and other transportation services, and unreliable Internet, telecommunications and postal and delivery systems. Any of these limitations can have a severe adverse impact on the availability of required medical services and supplies or delay timely medical evacuations. Some countries have inadequate infrastructures such as a poor or negligible public health care system, poor sanitation, unreliable electricity and a lack of potable water. There may also be infectious and communicable diseases, such as malaria, dengue fever, typhoid, tuberculosis, rabies, encephalitis, and gastrointestinal diseases. There may be no health unit at the post and next to no local medical facilities. The local emergency room, for example, might be completely inadequate, without ventilators, defibrillators, x-ray capabilities, etc. There are often no blood banks or limited medical supplies and medications available locally. Due to political instability, security could be a concern. Fellows should be aware that these posts are neither few in number nor confined to a specific geographic region. There are numerous posts where conditions appear similar to that of the U.S. but which also suffer from some of these restrictive characteristics. As a result, stress levels among employees may be very high.

Suitability Review

Once you’ve completed the background investigation and medical examination, a State Department Suitability Review Panel will examine your file (minus any privileged medical information) to determine your suitability for employment with the Foreign Service. The Suitability Review Panel has the authority to terminate your candidacy.

What is the Purpose of the Suitability Review?

The attainment of U.S. foreign policy objectives depends substantially on the confidence of the public (both American and foreign) in the individuals selected to serve in the Foreign Service. The Department of State, therefore, requires the highest standards of conduct by employees of the Foreign Service, including an especially high degree of integrity, reliability, and prudence. Given the representational nature of employment in the Foreign Service, employees must observe proper standards at all times. The purpose of the suitability review is to determine, from the candidate’s total record, whether the candidate is indeed suitable to represent the United States.

What Factors are Considered in the Suitability Review?

In evaluating suitability, the Suitability Review Panel takes into consideration the following factors:

  • Misconduct in prior employment, including marginal performance or inability to interact effectively with others.
  • Criminal, dishonest, or disgraceful conduct.
  • Misrepresentation, including deception or fraud, in the application process.
  • Repeated or habitual use to excess of intoxicating beverages affecting the ability to perform the duties and responsibilities of the employee’s position.
  • Trafficking in or abuse of narcotics or controlled substances.
  • Reasonable doubt as to loyalty to the U.S. Government.
  • Conduct which clearly shows poor judgment and or lack of discretion which may reasonably affect an individual or the agency’s ability to carry out its responsibilities or mission.
  • Financial irresponsibility, including a history of not meeting financial obligations or an inability to satisfy debts.

Where to Find More Information

More information about clearances can be found at https://careers.state.gov/work/foreign-service/specialist/information-management-specialist-selection-process/. You can also download a PDF document with this information on the Resources page.

Read more about the other eligibility requirements in this article and on the How to Apply web page. If you have questions, please send us an email at FAITFellowship@twc.edu.