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Working in Government – Security vetting / Security clearance

Individuals working for or with the Government may have to undergo ‘security clearance’ depending on the role. Usually, you will be told what level of security clearance you will need.

There are four levels of Government security clearance:-

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) and Enhanced Baseline Standard (EBS)
  • Counter Terrorist Check
  • Security Check
  • Developed Vetting

This information is designed to help you understand what these types of clearance levels mean if you have a criminal record.

Have you been granted one of these levels of vetting/clearance?

We’re always keen to hear from people who have convictions who have successfully managed to be employed in all different sectors and professions. As you will see below, security vetting for Government-related jobs is quite stringent, but equally all this explains is the process. There is very little guidance about whether convictions will prevent you from being employed.

As a result, to help us improve our information, we’re always looking for people to get in touch to let us know if they’ve managed to be successful, so that we can give a better indication of how this works in practice. Please get in touch (your personal details will be confidential).

Baseline Personnel Security Standard and Enhanced Baseline Standard

These are an entry level security check and not looked upon as formal security clearance. They form part of a package of pre-employment checks that represent good recruitment and employment practice. They aim to provide an appropriate level of assurance as to the trustworthiness, integrity and probable reliability of prospective employees.

The BPSS involves verification of identity; nationality and immigration status; employment history and criminal record declaration. A basic criminal record check (through Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS)) will also be carried out which will show any unspent convictions – find out more about these here – link to https://unlock.org.uk/advice/basic-disclosure/.

All Government departments are required to ensure that any individual employed to work in their offices or on their systems comply with BPSS prior to taking up their posts.

You may be asked to consent to a BPSS if you are:

  • Working in the public sector and Armed Forces
  • Working for a private company on government contracts with access to confidential government assets – an example is contractors to the DWP (they have produced guidance available here)
  • Working in roles which involve higher levels of vetting/security clearance, such as the Counter Terrorist Check (CTC), Security Check (SC) and Developed Vetting (DV). The BPSS is not a security clearance whereas the CTC, SC and DV are all formal security clearances obtained through the National Security Vetting process – the BPSS underpins the national security vetting process of these higher levels. If a BPSS is being carried out as part of the groundwork for national security vetting, a full check of criminal records will be made.

The Enhanced Baseline Standard allows supervised access to secret material. The same information is required as that of a BPSS, as well as a mandatory interview and references from people familiar with an applicant’s character in both the home and work environment.

Guidance on the pre-employment screening of civil servants, members of the armed forces, temporary staff and Government contractors can be found in guidance from the Cabinet Office.

Counter Terrorist Checks (CTC)

A CTC is used to prevent persons who may have connections with terrorist organisations, or who may be vulnerable to pressure from them, from undertaking certain security duties where sensitive information may be compromised.

A CTC will usually take six months to complete and is normally valid for 3 years.

To gain CTC clearance, applicants will usually need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 3 years. It may also be necessary to attend an interview with the body completing the checks.

Security Clearance (SC)

This is the most common type of vetting process. It is transferrable between Government departments and covers a wide range of jobs. It is valid for 5 years for Government contractors and 10 years for permanent employees who require substantial access to secret and occasionally top secret assets and information.

To gain security clearance an applicant will normally need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 5 years. The process includes:-

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard
  • Completion of an SC questionnaire
  • Checking identity documents and employment/educational references
  • Checks against UK criminal records
  • Credit reference checks

An example of a CTC/SC Questionnaire can be found here.

Security Clearance will involve a check against police records, and this will reveal all cautions and convictions that are held on these systems. Note – the DBS filtering process does not apply.

Developed Vetting (DV)

This level of security clearance provides substantial unsupervised access to top secret assets or for people working in the intelligence or security agencies. This stringent security check is much more specialised and tends to be job related.

To gain DV clearance, you will normally need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 10 years. There are several stages to the vetting process:-

  • SC Clearance (see above)
  • Completion of a DV supplementary questionnaire
  • Completion of a financial questionnaire
  • A review of the candidates personal finances
  • A medical and psychological assessment
  • Interviews with the candidates referees
  • A detailed interview with the candidate

Some commonly asked questions about DV can be found here.

Useful links

For further information regarding the various levels of check, click here to visit a section on GOV.UK.

Comments

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  1. I would like to know if someone can pass security clearance after being convicted of driving without insurance

  2. i would like to know what happens if a persons details are used on an application without their consent and whom to contact in such a situation

    1. HI

      Without knowing more about the situation it’s difficult to give specific advice. You could make a complaint to the organisation who dealt with the application or alternatively contact the Information Commissioners Office – https://ico.org.uk/.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

  3. If someone committed an offence when they were 19 (possession of cannabis & possession of bladed article in public place) and since then has served their community service, graduated from university and worked staying out of trouble for 6 years. Will they automatically fail security clearance?

      1. Hi

        It’s important to remember that your criminal record is just one part of the vetting process. You will need to disclose your conviction and each application will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Havin a criminal record does not automatically mean that your clearance will be refused.

        Best wishes

        Debbie

  4. Would an arrest and subsequent acquittal at court be discoverable in Developed Vetting? In this situation there’s no convictions or cautions.

    1. Tom how did you get on with this? I work in the nuclear industry but about to apply for a sub contracting role else where and doing an SC for the first time so a bit worried as have an IVA myself

  5. I got my SC Clearance 5 years ago. I did have a criminal record, it was non custodial, fine and compensation for £200. Also the incident was about 25 years ago.

  6. I want to know if there is dismissal due to disciplinary action in previous organisation (within 3 years), would that affect the SC clearance? I assume that SC clearance involves going through the employemnet files etc. If it does affect SC clearance then what is your advise before leaving previous employment? Any sort of deal or reference will help? Let me know. Thanks.

    1. Hi Brian

      As part of the BPSS vetting you will need a basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. You will be asked to disclose every name that you have ever been known as.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

  7. Several people are asking how long checks are taking but I can’t seem to find any reply. My son has been waiting 6 weeks for his internship at the Office of the police and crime commissioner. He is likely to lose the placement if his clearance doesn;t come through soon as he has to do a minimum number of months for it to count as part of his degree. I honestly can’t understand why it takes so long given that there is only him, myself and his dad on this form it’s not complicated!

    1. Hi,

      I have been waiting for months for my Security Clearance.All checks are done except for SC.Their is no time line for this.Sad though,it keeps us hanging.

  8. Hi there – I’ve got a team that work outside of the UK, within Europe. Are there alternatives to SC Clearance that would allow the team to work with UK Government clients? Given they’re not UK Nationals, and haven’t lived in the UK, I don’t believe they could ever be SC Cleared? Thanks

  9. I am living in Scotland and have just applied for a prison officer role in my local area.
    I had a conviction in 2007 for breach of the peace when I was 18 years old in which resulted in 150 hours of community service.

    Fast forward to today and I am now 34 years old with counter terrorism check clearance and I had applied for a prison officer role. I was contacted by them today to state that because of this order in 2007 that is classed as a sentence and I will never be eligible to become a prison officer because of this.

    I’m just looking for someone to put my mind at ease is this the case?

  10. Hi, If you are pending under investigation about 5 years ago will you pass a BPSS and SC? Also, should you tell your employer.

    1. Hi Ebenezer

      To gain SC clearance an applicant will usually need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 5 years. You will be asked to provide a history of all your residential addresses covering that period.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

    1. Hi

      It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll need your own security vetting check. However, depending on the level of vetting that’s being carried out, it may be that your financial and criminal record would be taken into consideration.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

  11. Hi, please could you advise if a curent IVA, (individual voluntary arrangement for debt relief) would prevent a person from passing counter terrorist level checks to work in the civil service.

    Thank you very much.

  12. Do they check your incomes in an SC check, and if you have a night job will your employer find out via an SC check?

    1. Hello,
      A little late for you but if it helps others, basically your employer won’t see this financial info. The SC form is between you and the clearance team. They don’t forward any info you passed to them, nor any info regarding checks they completed to your employer. You will be notified of either successful clearance or rejection, and this is about the only response you will receive and as far as I know (2018 was when I did mine) the response comes to you, not your employer. You then share the good or bad news with your employer when it arrives.

  13. I am applying for SC clearance. Form is asking for my current employer’s address. As I am retired I am unable to complete this part of the form. Does anyone know what I should put. Have emailed NSV and it could be 15 days before I get an answer.

  14. Hi,

    I’ve been living in the UK for five years. However, I spent three months in my home country before returning to the UK in the last five years. I vacated the house in the United Kingdom for three months and then moved into another house when I returned from my home country.

    Can I still apply for SC clearance despite a three-month absence from the United Kingdom? Will I get rejected because I spent three months in another country.

  15. Hi
    If your current role with the government requires SC but your clearance is denied, will you be dismissed?

    1. Hi Libbs

      If you fail SC vetting then it’s probably unlikely that you would be able to do the job that you were employed to do. Depending on your employer and the length of time you’ve been employed, it may be possible for them to move you to another role which doesn’t require this level of vetting.

      Best wishes

      Debbie

  16. As an IT Contractor, who has worked via my own limited company or sometimes known as PSC and in other roles via an umbrella, for the previous history section of the SC form, do I list the places I worked as a contractor or do I just put the name of my limited company and the name of a reference from one of the companies I contracted at? I am confused.
    Basically do I need to list all the companies where I have contracted at or do I just provide my limited company details and then the umbrella companies

  17. Hi
    Who should pay for the CTC check fee, the employer or the employee? Lost a potential job because I couldn’t transfer the £200 required by the recruitment company , who btw gave me only 3hrs to secure the funds

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Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

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