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 http://hub.unlock.org.uk/knowledgebase/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.

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  • Guckan

    Forgive my ignorance but Ive never had to get security clearance for a Job before – is this something I need to apply for is does the prospective employer do this?

  • Orangoboom

    It’s not something that you can just apply for – if you need it for your job your company will approach you about it, normally after you have taken up a position, In order to get Security Cleared you need a sponsor – normally the company you work for (or if it is required for a contract normally the organisation to which you are contracting) or a government office – as they need set up the application for you and give you access to the portal. If your employer hasn’t mentioned it to you and you don’t tend to deal with sensitive information in your role then chances are you won’t need it.

    I am currently awaiting the outcome of my SC Application, will update on how I get on.

  • Guckan

    Thanks for the explanantion, it is something that will be required for a specific job that I have applied for, Im just awaiting a final decision, regarding whether they will offer me th position or not, which should be made during the course of this week. I would be interested to hear how things went for you as well, just so that I know what to expect when I need to go through the process.
    Best of luck with your Application….

  • Orangoboom

    So I eventually got my SC Clearance granted, following a pretty in depth interview (the same interview that they use for DV I’m led to believe). Didn’t expect to get it but was extremely frank and honest about my past and genuinely remorseful for my actions.

    As long as you show that you’ve turned over a new leaf and have nothing to hide I believe you’ll be fine. Best of luck if it’s still ongoing!

  • Hamed r

    Hi. Im studying to be a legal interpreter for court and police. They both require standard security clearance but I have in my record one conviction (3 years 4 month imprisonment for a drug charge). The sentence ran out 5 years ago. Will I ever have a hope to get this clearance and is there anything I can do to show an improvement of character in my vetting for a clearance?

  • Orangoboom

    Sorry Mark I didn’t see this at the time of posting. The questions are essentially the same as they ask to DV candidates and it’s pretty intrusive. They go through your shool life, working history, habits (internet habits, drink, drugs etc), they ask all about your family (immediate, step, not too far extended). They will ask about your criminal history, motivation for the crimes, remorse, attitude to the future, etc). It took about three hours in all but it was relaxed and frank. Honesty is key, there won’t be anything you can tell them that they haven’t heard before. I got an ACRO report before the interview to ensure that I was best prepared for anything that might surprise me, worth going through your work history as well. They will look at your finances. Essentially they are looking for anything that could leave you vulnerable to bribery or leaking information if put in a potentially embarrassing or under pressure situation. Hopefully if your interview has been, you got through it ok!