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Who Receives Secret Service Protection?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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The original intent of the US Secret Service had little to do with protection. At first, the agency’s sole intent was to investigate and prevent counterfeiting of US dollars. In 1901, however, President William McKinley was assassinated, and one result of this was assigning Secret Service agents to protect the life and well-being of the subsequent presidents. Since then, protection has been extended to other government officials, some well-known politicians and visiting dignitaries, and former presidents and their families, at least for some period of time.

There are a few people who always receive protection, including the current US president, vice president, and sometimes other high-ranking officials who might succeed the president. For instance, the speaker of the house might, under some circumstances, be entitled to Secret Service protection, especially if a situation arose where the vice president or president were in danger. Wives of the president and vice president, and their children under age 16, are entitled to protection too.

At one time, former presidents received Secret Service protection for life. This changed in 1996, and now former presidents and first ladies are only entitled to this protection for ten years after their service to the country. The protection can continue, however, especially if ordered by the current president. Essentially, the president has the authority to extend protection to anyone or to any event, such as a meeting of high-ranking officials, that might carry potential danger. Also, presidents in office may extend it to all of their children, not just those under the age of 16.

Vice presidents typically do not have Secret Service protection after their term of service is up, unless some threat or danger exists. If the vice president runs for the office of president, however, he or she — and all other major candidates in the primary and general presidential election — are likely to receive protection. Just how soon this is provided may be based in part on the profile of the candidate and any possible early threats, which are not that uncommon, to a candidate’s life.

Another way in which the Secret Service functions is to protect foreign heads of state or visiting dignitaries with high profiles. Visits may be arranged contingent on guarantees of protection, though heads of state may also bring their own version of the Secret Service with them. When a number of foreign dignitaries meet with the president, additional Secret Service agents are usually employed to create the safest environment possible for all concerned.

Some people are allowed to refuse protection if they do not desire it. Though President Clinton has lifetime protection, and is the last president to receive it, unless laws change, he could refuse the services of Secret Service members. Generally, a president or vice president in office cannot refuse protection because of the high security nature of these positions.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a America Explained contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon1007113 — On Jun 03, 2022

MAY 22nd, 2022!?


Christensen should receive a pink slip for this non sense, seeing as ban-guns-OBAMA signed a law in January 2013, restoring SS protection to all former US presidents and their spouses FOR LIFE


By anon1001983 — On Aug 08, 2019

Check your facts. Obama signed a bill giving secret service protection to the former presidents and first ladies for life

By anon249012 — On Feb 19, 2012

Wouldn't Secret Service protection also apply to the White House Chief of Staff since he is so close to the POTUS?

By anon125869 — On Nov 10, 2010

According to the Secret Service website, under the new law, presidents who are in office before January 1, 1997 will continue to receive Secret Service protection for their lifetime. Individuals elected to office after that time will receive protection for 10 years after leaving office.

Therefore, President Clinton will be the last president to receive lifetime protection and President Bush is the only president affected by the limitation at this time.

By anon100437 — On Jul 30, 2010

Thank you. the information was informative. Mr G

By sunshine31 — On Jul 22, 2010

I really learned a lot. I just want to say that Secret Service agents generally earn between $51,000 to $108,000. The salary depends on the rank as it is a government position.

They usually won’t consider anyone older than 37 years of age and a potential applicant has to have a bachelor’s degree or at least three years of some sort of security or law enforcement detail.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a America Explained contributor, Tricia...
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