Security Clearances – Understanding the Differences

There is an increasing demand in the UK Public Sector for specialists to work on roles that require a  variety of Security Clearances. There is a wide range of clearances which cover Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS), Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS), Counter Terrorist Check (CTC), Security Check (SC), Developed Vetting (DV) and more covering the Police (i.e NPPV) and NATO.

For hiring organisations, access to professionals with current Security Clearance  is becoming increasingly difficult,  as individuals with the right clearances are  snapped up by Public Sector departments or Suppliers in the Private Sector providing services into Government. There is also considerable pressure and delays  getting new individuals Security Cleared which processes continue to be delayed due to a growing backlog.

There is also a growing confusion in the marketplace on what levels of Security Clearances you need and/or may have, how to obtain clearances and when you are cleared, how long they typically last.

Types of Security Clearance

In the United Kingdom, security clearance assesses an individual’s suitability to work with sensitive information. It is required when applying for roles within some of the departments in central government, organisations such as the police or armed forces and other organisations in both the private and public sector that are required to comply with the security procedures set by the government. Security clearance is required to protect assets against threats from hostile intelligence services, cyber security threats, terrorists and other pressure groups.

Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS): this is completed by everyone when they are recruited into a new role and is part of the onboarding process. This is not a formal security clearance and aims only to provide a level of assurance for new employees. This process is conducted by a recruitment agency, external vetting team or employer and will cover things such
as references, passport /identity check and proof of address (right to work), visa information (if applicable) etc.

Disclosure & Barring Services Checks (DBS Check): a DBS check will contain details of unspent convictions/cautions and can be applied for by an individual at any time online. Standard DBS checks and enhanced DBS checks provide details of spent and unspent convictions and are applied for by the recruiting organisation. Enhanced checks also include details
of non-conviction information if relevant. This is a common requirement for public sector workers and can be consistently renewed on a yearly basis in order to secure roles within organisations such as local government and the NHS. To request a basic DBS check, click here.

Counter Terrorist Check (CTC): is required for candidates working near public figures, who have access to material and information, or have unrestricted access to government commercial establishments that may be considered vulnerable to terrorist attack. CTC clearance includes BPSS, departmental / company records check, security questionnaire, criminal record check and security service check. Candidates applying for CTC clearance must have been a resident in the UK for a minimum of 3 years.

Security Check (SC): is carried out when individuals will have access to SECRET or TOP SECRET assets. The full SC clearance process includes: BPSS, departmental / company records check, security questionnaire, criminal record check, credit reference check, security service check. This process can take between 1-3 months (aim usually is for 4-6 weeks) and is completed prior to
a candidate starting work. Candidates applying for SC clearance must have been a resident in the UK for a minimum of 5 years.

Developed Vetting (DV): is the most complex and comprehensive security clearance. It is essential for posts that have frequent access to TOP SECRET material. DV clearance has a process which follows a variety of mandatory vetting stages and can take up to 9 months to be completed and granted. This process includes; BPSS, departmental / company record check,
DV security questionnaire, criminal record check, credit reference check and review of personal finances, security service check,
medical and psychological information check, interviews with the applicant and their character references and current / previous supervisors. The clearance is only valid for a pre-determined period (usually 3- 7 years) and a security appraisal is carried out annually. It is reviewed after this to see if still required. Candidates applying for DV clearance must have been a resident in the UK for a minimum of 10 years. For more information on security clearance, click here

How to get Security Cleared

Becoming CTC, SC, NPPV or DV security cleared is not easy and can only be requested by an employer/sponsor. It must be carried
out by the United Kingdom Security Vetting unit (UKSV). There is no facility for individuals or independent limited companies
to take out or apply for security clearances themselves.
Private sector organisations can only obtain security clearances if the organisation has been LIST X approved. Being part of LIST X
requires that the organisation has been awarded, or in the process of being contracted, to work on classified projects. Once you have been security cleared you may be able to transfer this over to a new employer if clearance is also required for your new role or the organisation is a LIST X company.

Once you have been security cleared, it will remain active for the duration advised in the application. This will vary depending on the clearance you have (typically between 5-10 years). If you leave a role which required security clearance and do not go to another organisation where the clearance is required, it will lapse after 12 months of inactive use. Once lapsed, if you secure another role which requires some form of security clearance, you will have to complete clearance checks again. When you leave a role in which you are DV cleared this clearance will reduce to SC clearance level for a period of 12 months from your employment end date and then will lapse completely. SC clearance will lapse after 12 months from the date you left the position.

If you start a role while your security clearance is being completed (whether it be first time or if it is being renewed) you will start your role with a clearance at BPSS level while your higher clearance is being processed. During this time, you will have restricted site access and may need to be escorted around your place of work until your full clearances are in place.

Can you be refused Security Clearances?

An applicant can be refused security clearance. The vetting team need to ensure you do not prove a threat, you can be trusted,
and you have a verifiable background. If you are refused security clearance and you are unhappy with the decision, you can to
appeal through the independent security vetting Appeals Panel. Reasons for refusal include:

  • UK Residency – you must have been a resident in the UK for; 4 out of 5 years for SC and 9 out of 10 for DV
  • Financial History – you have financial irregularities i.e. CCJ’s or high levels of debt
  • Employment History – if you have gaps in your employment history
  • Criminal Record – if you have any spent or unspent convictions that weren’t declared
    or if convictions are a potential threat
  • Family History – if you have any family tied to radical groups, terrorism, espionage etc.
  • Missing Information – if you do not answer or refuse to provide response to questions asked

Value Match have extensive experience of supporting candidates secure their next role in a security cleared environment, and the Value Match network provides our clients with the best in class, readily available talent for security cleared roles. Join the Value Match network and find your next security cleared role.