Can You Pass a Government Background Check With a Felony?

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Felony arrests are considered by case.
Felony arrests are considered by case. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Government background checks can be utilized for a variety of reasons, including employment consideration, military service and security clearance qualification. The existence of a past felony conviction will be taken into consideration for all background checks, with the reason for the check determining it's importance. In nearly all cases, failure to disclose a felony conviction will disqualify an applicant automatically.

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), along with the Department of Defense and several other agencies, are responsible for government background checks on job applicants, contractors and even existing employees. According to the OPM, negative information on a criminal history report will be evaluated according to its recency, seriousness and relevance to the position. For example, an applicant for a local position with the Department of Agriculture may pass a government background check with a 20-year-old felony conviction for drunken driving.

Military Service

Government background checks for military service applicants are mandatory, but a felony conviction may not automatically disqualify an applicant. While most branches of the military have moral conduct standards, an applicant's criminal history is evaluated in much the same method as used by the OPM. A criminal history waiver is possible for a one-time felony conviction, but convictions in involving drugs, drunken driving or past military misconduct are grounds for automatic disqualification.

Security Clearance

Government background checks, including an extensive criminal history search, are used in conjunction with an application for security clearance, or an upgrade of existing clearance level. Various presidential appointees, cabinet officers, agency heads and staff who may work at the White House directly for the president must also pass a stringent background check where a felony conviction could factor heavily into the outcome. As with other cases, the relevancy of the crime to the reason for the check will be considered.

Non-Employment Background Checks

While employment-related situations are the most common reason for a government background check, there are other circumstances where a felony conviction may also play a part. U.S. citizens may be asked for proof of a clean criminal history for use abroad, including situations such as foreign adoption, school attendance, employment or some business matters. Again, the circumstances surrounding the felony conviction may be considered. A clean criminal history may be necessary when applying for travel visas to certain areas, import/export certification or major international financial transactions.

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