What Is Security Clearance?

11 Dec 2021

What Is Security Clearance?

SLR Recruitment Solutions provides specialist resourcing services for clients looking to recruit security cleared or clearable candidates. We are not a list X company and therefore unable to process security clearances directly. This is usually done by the client directly or a third party sponsor. We are interested in hearing from clients and candidates looking to work/recruit in the UK Defence, Security, and Government sectors

Security Clearance provides a certain level of assurance at a point in time as to an individual’s suitability to have trusted access to sensitive information.

To gain Security Clearance, a person must undergo a process of examination and evaluation, involving a background check, before employment is offered to them. The system applies to people whose employment involves access to sensitive government assets, information or personnel.

Security Cleared personnel can include crown servants, members of the security and intelligence agencies; members of the armed forces; the police; employees of certain other non-government organisations that are obliged to comply with the Government’s security procedures and employees of contractors providing goods and services to the Government. Government organisations in particular, including the Ministry of Defence, Central Government, Defence Estates and the Armed Forces, require Security Cleared personnel, as do companies in the private sector contracted to undertake work for these bodies.

Security Clearance is needed to protect against threats from hostile intelligence services, cyber security threats, terrorists and other pressure groups. The results of the vetting process determine who can be given access to sensitive Government information or property.

All candidates who apply for jobs that provide access to sensitive information or sites are asked to complete security questionnaires. The personal details recorded on these questionnaires enable the necessary checks to be carried out. Interviews will also be undertaken, where necessary. The depth of checks varies according to the level of access to sensitive information that the job entails.

How Do I Get A Security Clearance?

You cannot apply for Security Clearance as an individual; instead, Clearance is requested by an employer and carried out by Government agencies.

Security Clearance in the UK requires that your organisation must be sponsored. They must be contracted (or are in the process of being contracted) to work on one or more specific classified projects. Additionally, a company will need to be ‘List X accredited’ in order to act as a sponsor. List X is awarded to companies that have been through a stringent security vetting process and have a need for security-cleared staff and contractors. For large contracts, an officer in the Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) or Defence Logistics Organisation (DLO) will be a sponsor. For staff in sub-contracted organisations, sponsorship will be provided through the prime contractor.

It is important to note that Security Clearance is granted for a specific period of time depending on the employment term or for a particular project. It does not provide a guarantee of future reliability, and all Security Clearances are kept under review to ensure that the necessary level of assurance is maintained. This review is carried out by Government Departments and Government-sponsored contractors, who are responsible for the oversight and ‘aftercare’ of individuals granted Security Clearance. Aftercare can be provided by these contractors where there are minor reservations as to whether Security Clearance should have been granted to an individual.

Security Clearance can be verified and transferred to a new employer if required. If you require Security Clearance for a particular role, in certain circumstances, you will not be able to start your employment until Clearance has been obtained.

The main types of National Security Vetting are listed below, and are processed by the following Government agencies:

  • Defence Business Services, National Security Vetting (DBS NSV)
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
  • Secret Intelligence Services
  • Metropolitan Police Service (MPS)
  • Confidentiality

All personal information gathered during the Security Clearance process is handled in the strictest of confidence by the vetting agencies. In a very small number of cases, where serious risks have been identified, a case may be discussed with the security vetting unit, national security and policing authorities. In an even smaller number of cases, and only with the agreement of the person being vetted, line management may be given some relevant information and be requested to help manage the risk. There is an extremely remote possibility of vetting information being disclosed in connection with criminal or civil proceedings.

Developed Vetting (DV)

Developed Vetting (DV) is the highest level of Security Clearance and is required for people with substantial unsupervised access to TOP SECRET assets, or for those working in the Intelligence or Security agencies. A full DV Security Clearance process comprises the following mandatory vetting stages:

A Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS), which is normally undertaken as part of the recruiting process)

  • Departmental / Company Records Check
  • DV Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Credit Reference Check and review of personal finances
  • Security Service Check
  • Check of medical and psychological information provided
  • Interview with the applicant and further inquiries made, which will include interviews with character referees and current and previous supervisors.
  • On completion of the vetting process, the information collected is assessed and a decision made to refuse or approve DV Clearance.
  • Once Clearance is granted, it is only valid for a pre-determined period, after which a review must be conducted if the Clearance is still required. The DV Clearance process can take up to 9 months before full clearance is granted. Gaining DV Clearance will normally require you to have been a resident in the UK for a minimum of 10 years.

Security Check (SC)

A Security Check (SC, or SC Cleared) is required for people who have substantial access to SECRET or occasional controlled access to TOP SECRET assets. A full Security Check clearance process comprises:

A Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS), which is normally undertaken as part of the recruiting process

  • Departmental / Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Credit Reference Check
  • Security Service Check
  • On completion of the process, the information collected is assessed and a decision made to refuse or approve an SC clearance. The clearance process can take between 1-3 months to complete prior to the candidate starting work. Gaining Security Clearance will normally require you to have been a resident in the UK for a minimum of 5 years.

Counter Terrorist Check (CTC)

A Counter-Terrorist Check (CTC, or CTC Cleared) is a Clearance required for people who work in close proximity to public figures, or who have access to material or information that may be vulnerable to terrorist attack, or whose role involves unrestricted access to government or commercial establishments considered to be at risk from terrorist attack.

A CTC Clearance level does not allow access to, or knowledge or custody of, protectively marked assets, but the Baseline Personnel Security Standard allows a degree of access.

The CTC Clearance process involves the following mandatory stages:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS), which is normally undertaken as part of the recruiting process)
  • Departmental / Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Security Service Check
  • On completion of the vetting process, the information collected is assessed and a decision made to refuse or approve a CTC Clearance. Gaining CTC Clearance will normally require you to have been a resident in the UK for a minimum of 3 years.

NATO / NATO Cleared

NATO has four levels of security classification:

  • NATO Restricted (NR)
  • NATO Confidential (NC)
  • NATO Secret (NS)
  • COSMIC Top Secret (CTS)
  • NATO’s clearance levels function independently of any clearance levels for other nations. However, it is understood that for most NATO nations, granting of a NATO Security Clearance is handled in a similar manner to that of obtaining a National Security Clearance.

Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS, formerly CRB) and Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Services (EDBS)

DBS checks are for positions involving certain activities and high levels of responsibility such as teaching children or dealing with vulnerable adults and can also be obtained for certain other professions such as judicial appointments or RSPCA officers.

In addition to the information provided on a Standard certificate, the Enhanced certificate also involves a police check to ascertain if any other information is held on file that may be relevant for consideration (for instance, information that has not led to a criminal conviction but may indicate a danger to vulnerable groups). The police decide what (if any) additional information will be added to the certificate using the Quality Assurance Framework.

The involvement of local police forces can mean an Enhanced check may take significantly longer to be completed than a Standard check.

An Enhanced check may only be applied for if the applicant’s job role is specified in both the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exception) order 1975 and the Police Act 1997.

Basic Personnel Security Standard (BPSS, formerly Basic Check) and Enhanced Baseline Standard (EBS, formerly Enhanced Basic Check or Basic Check +)

BPSS and EPS are not formal security clearances but are a package of pre-employment checks that represent good recruitment and employment practice.

A BPSS or EBS check aims to provide an appropriate level of assurance as to the trustworthiness, integrity, and probable reliability of prospective employees. These checks should be applied to:

All successful applicants for employment in the public sector and Armed Forces (both permanent and temporary)

All private-sector employees working on government contracts (e.g. contractors and consultants), who require access to, or knowledge of, government assets protectively marked up to and including CONFIDENTIAL.

BPSS and EBS checks are normally conducted by the recruitment authorities or companies to the agreed standard. These checks underpin the national security vetting process, and therefore it is vital that they are carried out properly and thoroughly, and before any further vetting is completed.

Written and posted by PW Consulting Group