The importance of openness in your security clearance application

Published on: 27 Oct 2021

Getting security clearance can be a highly stressful process. Especially for higher-level clearance, you'll find yourself having to expose a lot of personal information to the vetting agents responsible for your application.

However, it's vital that you're as open as possible throughout this process to stand the best chance of approval. While you may not be comfortable with disclosing certain information - especially sensitive details about finances or health issues - failing to be honest and upfront could do serious damage to your chances of success.

What will you need to inform a vettor about?

The vetting process will often ask for information across a wide range of topics. In addition to personal details, such as work and residence history, key data for vettors includes any previous criminal record - including spent convictions, as well as any financial issues. A poor credit rating or history of county court judgements, for example, will need to be disclosed.

For stringent security clearances such as Developed Vetting, you'll also need to provide details of any close family members who may have such issues.

Failing to disclose this information could have serious consequences. In the best case scenario, it can greatly delay the process, as security clearance vettors have to chase you down for any information. However, it can also be a reason for clearance to be denied completely if you fail to be forthcoming about any issues that may affect the final decision.

The myths of the security clearance process

It's not only financial issues or prior criminal convictions that people may be wary of sharing with vetting agents, however. One issue where many applicants may feel reluctant to disclose information is on the topic of mental health. There remains an idea that these issues will prevent someone from gaining a security clearance. However, this is not the case.

The Civil Service, for example, says the idea that people with mental health issues will be unable to advance in security cleared careers is a "myth", noting: "Your emotions, vulnerabilities, the way your brain works, lifestyle and personality make you a valuable asset to protecting the United Kingdom and our work overseas."

Meanwhile, Tyler Murphy, security director of platforms and services at BAE Systems, one of the country's biggest employers of security cleared personnel, also emphasises the importance of not shying away from discussing these issues. He notes this may be especially true for people who are leaving the armed forces, who may feel more inclined to suppress these issues.

However, it is vital that applicants are open throughout the vetting process, and on an ongoing basis. This ensures there is no stigma attached to mental health and that people can feel more comfortable about getting any help they require, without having to worry about the impact this may have on their security cleared status.

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