Understanding NATO security clearance - things you need to know

Published on: 6 Dec 2021

There are various considerations to take into account when analysing your options for security cleared careers, one of which is the different levels of clearance and vetting procedures that exist.

Common clearance levels you may already be familiar with - or are likely to hear mentioned a lot when you're looking and applying for jobs - include:

  • Counter terrorist check
  • Security check (SC)
  • Enhanced security check
  • Developed vetting (DV)
  • Enhanced developed vetting

It's possible that, in the process of evaluating the range of security cleared jobs available, you'll come across opportunities with NATO, which require NATO security clearance.

How NATO security clearance works

NATO - the North Atlantic Treaty Organization - is an international, intergovernmental security alliance that was established shortly after World War Two.

Given its global nature, NATO itself doesn't take responsibility for running background investigations and security clearance checks on people applying for jobs with the organisation and its various agencies. Instead, it delegates that task to its member nations, so British applicants will have to go through vetting procedures managed by the UK government, for example.

United Kingdom Security Vetting - the main UK government provider of security clearances - issues Personnel Security Clearances (PSCs) that permit individuals to access classified information held by NATO, the EU and other international partners. 

To obtain a PSC, first you need to hold a valid clearance at the SC or DV level. SC and DV are among the most common high-level security clearances in the UK, and require you to have completed procedures including Baseline Personnel Security Standard checks and a full security questionnaire.

What roles require NATO security clearance?

You will need at least a basic level of NATO security clearance to be considered for any role with the body, but the exact level of clearance required will depend on the nature of the job.

Given the size of the organisation, there are a broad selection of roles available at any given time, from administrative support and technical jobs to analyst and management positions.

In the course of executing their roles, NATO staff have access to information that is divided into three categories: non-classified, unclassified and classified. The organisation also uses four levels of security classification:

  • Restricted
  • Confidential 
  • Secret
  • Cosmic top secret

If you're interested in roles that will require access to confidential or secret information, you should expect to go through a more stringent and lengthy vetting process.

The NATO Communications and Information Agency states that the time required to obtain security clearance can vary from several months to one and a half years, depending on factors such as your background and employment history.

To find out more about security cleared jobs and how different organisations go about vetting applicants, you can visit a dedicated security cleared careers fair.