Security Cleared Contractors

Being a security-cleared contractor can result in some seriously interesting work. Find out how to become a security cleared contractor in our guide.

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If you’re a contractor and you intend to work with sensitive or confidential information, it is possible that you may need security clearance. Becoming cleared can sometimes seem like a complex process, so we created a guide to outline all you need to know.

What is security clearance?

Security clearance (also known as security checking), is a status granted to individuals that allow them to 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 and restricted the information or area, the deeper and more rigorous the checks.

Why do I need to become security cleared?

Many contracts will require you to undergo some sort of clearance process if you are dealing with sensitive information. The process is intended to protect against threat by thoroughly vetting a contractor through various methods. This will differ based on what check is required but generally follows the same process.

How do I become security cleared?

You cannot apply for security clearance individually – your organisation must do it on your behalf when you apply for a role. You must be sponsored by a client who has contracted you to work on a specific project. Depending on the level of clearance required, you will be required to provide more sensitive information, but most will ask for the following as a minimum:

  • Your nationality and immigration status to prove your identity
  • A Criminal Record Declaration form

Higher levels of checks could ask for more information around your background, a credit check and sometimes more information around your criminal history. Depending on the level of security clearance required will indicate how long the process will take, but this can be anywhere from 2 to 12 months on average.

The main Security Clearing bodies are:

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

There are four different levels of security checks and clearances available. Your role will dictate what level of clearance is required:

security clearance

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

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

Basic Personnel Security Standard is not a formal clearance process but a pre-employment check. It is usually carried out by a recruitment agent before any further security checks are done. BPSS is intended to provide a good level of trustworthiness and integrity from a worker and is required in the following circumstances:

  • Workers in the public sector 
  • Armed Forces (both temporary and permanent)
  • Private sector workers undertaking government projects

Counter Terrorist Checks (CTC)

A Counter Terrorist Check is a clearance required for those who work closely with public figures or who have access to sensitive information. In order to gain a Counter Terrorist Check, it is usually required that you have been a UK citizen for at least 3 years.

A CTC will involve the following:

  • A BPSS, which is normally undertaken as part of the standard recruitment process
  • Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Security Record Check

Security Check (SC)

A Security Check is the most common type of clearance and is required if you will have access to sensitive or government information on an occasional basis. An SC will comprise of the following elements:

  • A BPSS, which is normally undertaken as part of the standard recruitment process)
  • Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Credit Reference Check
  • Security Service Check

Once all of this information has been gathered, the assessment period will usually take around 1-3 months to complete.

Developed Vetting (DV)

Developed Vetting is the highest level of clearance available and was created for those with unsupervised access to sensitive information. A DV check is comprehensive and will consist of the following:

  • A BPSS, which is normally undertaken as part of the standard recruitment process
  • Company Records Check
  • A Developed Vetting Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Credit Reference Check and review of personal finances
  • Security Service Check
  • Check of medical and psychological information provided
  • An interview with the applicant

Once all of this information has been gathered, a decision will be made as to whether DV status will be granted (this can take up to 9 months to complete). In order for you to be successful, it is usually required that you have been a UK citizen for at least 10 years.

Do I need to be security cleared to apply for a security clearance vacancy?

No, but it really does help. Finding a security cleared role is easier if you are already checked, but this doesn’t mean that you should not apply. However, what you should keep in mind is that if you do not get cleared in time, you will be unable to fulfil the role. 

Most security clearances last up to 12 months after the project finishes, obviously if you re-join a security cleared post within 12 months there is usually no need to go through the process again.

Looking to pay less tax?

Find out how to maximise your take-home pay and become a successful contractor in our free guide. Also covered in our guide is:

  • Getting started – discover which business structure is best for you and how to get started.
  • Your tax and financial obligations – all you need to know about your paying tax, filing accounts and what costs you offset.
  • Making your business a success – learn how to grow your business, how to market yourself and to forecast for the future.

What industries do I need security clearance to work in?

Key industries which involve contractors to be security cleared are as follows:

  • Government and public sector
  • Nuclear Industry
  • IT
  • Aerospace
  • Anti-fraud
  • Biometric
  • Forensic

What are the benefits of becoming security cleared?

Becoming security cleared means that you will have access to roles which you wouldn’t otherwise. In certain sectors such as IT and Financial Services, being cleared can also show your trustworthiness to potential clients

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