This page answers some of the most common questions that the Secret Intelligence Service is asked.

If your question relates to working for the Service, please refer to the Careers pages.

About the work of the Service

1. Who does SIS collect intelligence on?

SIS is tasked by the British Government to collect intelligence world-wide in support of its security, defence, foreign and economic policies. SIS does not itself decide on the intelligence requirements placed on the Service. These requirements are regularly reviewed by Government and are classified.

The Intelligence Services Act 1994 directs SIS to obtain and provide information relating to the acts and intentions of persons overseas.

  • In the fields of national security with particular reference to the Government's defence and foreign policies;
  • In the interests of the economic well-being of the UK; and
  • In support of the prevention of detection of serious crime.

The Intelligence Services Act 1994 likewise directs SIS to perform other tasks, enabling the Service to conduct covert operations and to act clandestinely overseas in support of British Government objectives.

2. How can I offer intelligence to SIS?

If you believe that you have intelligence of importance to SIS or the British Government, you can contact us via our Contact us page.

If you have information about immediate threats to the UK, its people or property please pass this immediately to the Security Service. If you are in the UK, you may also contact the Police on 999 or the Police Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321.

3. What is the difference between MI6 and MI5?

SIS (also known as MI6) is primarily responsible for gathering intelligence outside the UK in support of the Government's security, defence, foreign and economic policies. It is based at Vauxhall Cross in London under its Chief, Sir John Sawers.

The Security Service (also known as MI5), is the UK's security intelligence Agency responsible for protecting the UK, its citizens and interests, at home and overseas, against the major threats to government security. It is based at Thames House in London under its Director General Jonathan Evans.

4. How does SIS fit into the machinery of government?

SIS comes under the authority of the Foreign Secretary and its chief Sir John Sawers reports to him. The National Security Council, chaired by the Prime Minster, oversees all aspects of Britain's security including the work of the intelligence and security agencies.

5. Does SIS have powers of arrest?

No. As an intelligence agency SIS has no powers of arrest. It works in support of law enforcement agencies but does not have law enforcement powers.

6. How can I become a member of SIS?

Please read the Careers section. SIS recruits high-calibre, motivated and dynamic staff to perform operational, technical and administrative functions in the UK and abroad.

7. How much does SIS cost the British taxpayer?

SIS the Security Service and GCHQ are funded through a single budget called the Single Intelligence Account (SIA). The SIA for the financial year 2010/2011 is around £2.3 billion. Like any other public authority, SIS is subject to stringent financial controls and oversight.

8. Does SIS produce an annual report?

The Chief of SIS produces and annual report for the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister. Its contents are classified. However, the Intelligence and Security Committee and two independent Commissioners publish some information about the work of SIS in their annual reports to the Prime Minister.

9. What does SIS not comment on and why?

SIS is a secret service. In order to protect its staff, its agents and the intelligence it collects SIS does not comment on its activities.

About our History

1. Where does the title MI6 come from?

In the late 1930s MI6 was adopted as a flag of convenience for SIS. It was used extensively during WWII. Although the title fell into official disuse it remains in common use outside SIS. See SIS or MI6? page for further details.

2. Why is the head of SIS know as 'C'?

The first Chief of SIS, Captain Sir Mansfield Smith Cumming RN, signed himself with a 'C' (as the initial letter of his surname) - in green ink. In his honour all his successors have done the same.

3. A relative or friend used to work for SIS or SOE. Can I obtain details of their work?

SOE personal files were released to The National Archive in March 2003 amongst the final papers in a ten year release of the SOE archive.
It is SIS policy not to comment of the identities of former staff or agents.

Other FAQ's

1. Can members of the public visit SIS's Headquarters?

For security reasons, SIS does not offer public tours of Vauxhall Cross. However, you can find out more information about the building on our SIS HQ page.

2. Would the chief of SIS speak at my conference/event?

The Chief is unable to accept invitations to speak at private functions and events.

3. How can I complain?

The Investigatory Powers Tribunal exists to investigate complaints about conduct by various public bodies, in relation to you, your property or communications. This independent Tribunal considers complaints relating to the activities covered by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, and also hears proceedings brought under the Human Rights Act 1998.

Details on how to contact the IPT can be found on their website http://www.ipt-uk.com.

Protecting the
safety and prosperity
of the nation for
over 100 years
The history of SISThe history of SIS