How to become Security Cleared

Find below everything you need to know about becoming security cleared and the various levels of security clearance.

Firstly, what is Security Clearance?

'Security clearance' is a status granted to individuals that allows them access sensitive or classified information, this could be at a government or commercial level. Essentially this means background checks and a vetting process, the more sensitive/restricted the information/area the deeper and more rigorous the checks. The main SC levels (and time it take to receive clearance) are, more detailed information can be found further down the page:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard BPSS (14 days)
  • Counter Terrorist Check ( 30 days)
  • Security Check (30 days)
  • Developed Vetting (95 days)

And the main Security Clearing bodies are:

  • The Defence Vetting Agency (DVA – who processes around 150,000 checks a year)
  • National Security Vetting (NSV)
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
  • Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)

How do I get Security Clearance

In order to become security clearance certified you must be requested for clearance by an employer, you can not apply for clearance as an individual.

Please be aware of the following:

  • Security Clearance is granted for a specific period of time depending on the employment term or for a particular project – it is not granted indefinitely, however typically your clearance will last for approx 12 months after the project.
  • Security Clearance can be verified and transferred to a new employer if required.
  • If you do not have the Security Clearance required for a particular role you would not be able to start your employment until clearance has been obtained.
  • You do not have to be a British National in order to gain Security Clearance.
  • You will have to meet the criteria required depending on the level of clearance.

There are four main types of national security checks and clearances:

Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) and Enhanced Baseline Standard (EBS)

BPSS and EBS are not classified as ‘formal’ security clearances. Instead they are designed to provide employers with a good level of assurance of a possible candidates trustworthiness, integrity and reliability if given access to working with confidential information.

Counter Terrorist Checks (CTC)

This level of clearance is required for those employees who require access to information regarding national security and unrestricted access to certain government and commercial establishments.

Security Check (SC)

Security check is for people who have access to secret information and occasional access to top-secret information. The security check process involves a Basic Check (BC) plus UK criminal and security checks and a credit check. This is predominately used in the government.

Developed Vetting (DV)

Developed vetting represents the highest level of security clearance and is only granted to those individuals who require substantial unsupervised access to top-secret information or for those working within intelligence or government security agencies. The clearance process involves a security check, a DV questionnaire, financial check, references and a detailed interview.

Do you need security clearance to be able to apply for an SC vacancy?

No but it really really does help. To be honest it’s only understandable, imagine if you were the client, would you take the risk of offering the job to somebody who hasn’t been checked, only to find out six weeks later they failed?

This is why a great many vacancies state that it is highly recommended to have a current SC level clearance check in place or those with current SC level clearance are encouraged to apply.

Sadly it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation, you want the job but won’t get an interview because you aren’t SC cleared, and you can’t get SC clearance because individuals can’t apply to be cleared, only companies can sponsor an individual. However, bear with it, there are lots of permies and contractors getting SC cleared jobs and contracts who do either have a current SC certified or have never been SC cleared.

Please be aware that additional security checks and clearances may be needed depending on the company.

Should the above information feel slightly overwhelming, remember that the advantages of being part of this particular niche of job, outweighs the clearance process. You will have…

  • Job security
  • Increased advantage of being considered for a position
  • Increased salary (as much as 24% more according to job boards and recruiters).
  • Greater job opportunity-can open doors to employment opportunities that may not have been opened otherwise.

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