What is Security Clearance?

People working for the Government may come into contact with sensitive information.  The unnecessary or indiscriminate disclosure of sensitive information could damage the security and integrity of the United Kingdom (UK).

In addition, there are numerous groups and individuals who wish to subvert or damage the stability of the UK and/or threaten UK interests.  Ensuring the security of sensitive information is a necessary step towards countering such threats and it is, therefore, necessary for individuals who work for the Government to obtain security clearance.  The process for obtaining security clearance is known as 'vetting'.

1. The purpose of vetting

  1. The purpose of vetting is to ensure that a person's character and personal circumstances are such that they can be trusted to work in a position which may involve access to sensitive information.

2. The application of vetting across Government

  1. There is a standard approach to vetting throughout Government which is directed by the Cabinet Office.  However, Departments have discretion to determine their own processes and make their own decisions.  If a candidate has previously been vetted by another Department, the Department currently considering the candidate will review the vetting work previously carried out and will decide whether to undertake further checks.
  2. Security Clearance does not provide a person with a global pass to all Government sensitive material.  The level of vetting is selected by reference to the particular role or set of responsibilities that the individual will have.  If a person's role or responsibilities change in a way that requires them to have access to a different level of sensitive inormation, their suitability for the new role/responsibilities will be re-assessed and further vetting for a higher level of security clearance may be required.

3. Vetting for candidates to work with or for SIS

  1. There are four main levels of Government security clearance: Basic Check, Counter-Terrorist Check, Security Check and Developed Vetting.  All employees of SIS, individuals seconded to SIS and most contractors working for SIS must hold Developed Vetting clearance; some contractors may only be required to be Security Check cleared.
  2. A Security Check (SC) is required for access to certain Government establishments and for jobs involving access to sensitive information which is classified as 'SECRET'.  The vetting process for SC clearance includes:
    - Completion of a security clearance questionnaire by the candidate
    - Checking identity documents and employment/education references
    - Checks against UK criminal and security records
    - A credit reference check;
    - If considered necessary, checks against the criminal and security records of relevant foreign countries.
  3. Developed Vetting (DV) is the most detailed and comprehensive form of UK vetting.  It is required for sensitive jobs and tasks, which involve long-term, frequent or uncontrolled access to SECRET material.  The vetting process for DV clearance includes:
    - SC clearnace
    - Completion of a DV supplementary questionnaire by the candidate
    - Completion of a financial questionnaire by the candidate
    - A review of the candidate's personal finances;
    - Interviews with a candidate's referees conducted by a vetting officer;
    - A detailed interview with a candidate conducted by a vetting officer.

4. Vetting criteria

  1. The minimum criteria for attaining a valid DV clearance are:
    - The candidate must have been resident in the UK for the majority of the past ten years; and
    - The candidate must have residency information that is verifiable.

5. The vetting process

  • Potential candidates should be aware that the vetting process can be intrusive.  The higher the level of security clearance that is required, the more intrusive the process will be.  It may involve extensive research into the candidate's background, including research on third parties such as the candidate's family members, partners and former partners and referees.  Research on third parties may include checks against criminal and security records.
  • It is important that candidates understand the potential level of intrusion so that they can decide if they are prepared to accept it.  One of the reasons for providing the information in this document is to give individuals the opportunity to decline from applying to work in sensitive areas.  The vetting process is expensive and the earlier a person decides that they do not wish to undergo vetting, the less taxpayer's money is wasted on aborted vetting assignments.
  • It is Government policy that the vetting process is applied fairly and sensitively.  All vetting candidates are treated equally, irrespective of their gender, marital status, age, race, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation or disability.
  • Government vetting sections take very seriously the confidentiality of all personal data acquired during the vetting process.  Access to this information is strictly controlled.
  • All security clearances are regularly reviewed.  The review period varies and depends on the individual circumstances of the candidate and the type of sensitive material to which they have access.  Annual Security Appraisal forms are also required to be completed each year.
  • Normally, a candidate's security clearance will lapse as soon as they have completed the work for which the clearance was granted
  • Where a candidate  is refused security clearance, it is our policy not to give reasons for that decision.