How to get Security Cleared

Security Clearance or National Security Vetting (NSV) provides a certain level of assurance at a point in time as to an individual's suitability to have trusted access to sensitive information.

To gain a UK Security Clearance, an individual must undergo a process of examination and evaluation, including a background check, before employment is offered to them. The system applies to people whose employment involves access to sensitive government assets, information or personnel.

Security Cleared personnel can include crown servants, members of the security and intelligence agencies; members of the armed forces; the police; employees of certain other non-government organisations that are obliged to comply with the Government’s security procedures and employees of contractors providing goods and services to the Government.

UK Security Clearance is required to protect assets against threats from hostile intelligence services, cyber security threats, terrorists and other pressure groups. The results of the vetting process determine who can be given access to sensitive Government information or property.

All candidates who apply for jobs that provide access to sensitive information or sites are asked to complete a security questionnaire. The personal details recorded on these questionnaires enable the necessary checks to be carried out. Interviews will also be undertaken, where necessary. The depth of checks varies according to the level of access to sensitive information that the job entails.

Security Clearance

How Do I Get A Security Clearance?

An individual cannot apply for security clearance themselves or through an independent limited company; instead, clearance is requested by an employer/sponsor and carried out by the United Kingdom Security Vetting unit (UKSV), launched on 1 January 2017. The UKSV was created following the Strategic Defence and Security Review to create a single vetting unit for the UK.

The new unit replaces the previous Defence Business Services National Security Vetting (DBS NSV) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Services National Security (FCOS NSV). This has created a single vetting database, with set pricing and portable vetting across government.

Security Clearance in the UK requires that an organisation must be LIST X approved. The company must be contracted (or are in the process of being contracted) to work on one or more specific classified projects. Additionally, List X is awarded to companies that have been through a stringent security vetting process and have a need for security cleared staff and contractors. For staff in sub-contracted organisations, sponsorship will be provided through the prime contractor usually or can be held by another 3rd party who holds LIST X approval.

It is important to note that Security Clearance is usually granted for a specific period of time depending on the employment term or for a particular project. It does not provide a guarantee of future reliability, and all Security Clearances are kept under review to ensure that the necessary level of assurance is maintained. 

This review is carried out by the Company who hold the clearance and is checked regularly to see if an individual’s circumstances may have changed. The Company is responsible for the oversight and ‘aftercare’ of individuals granted Security Clearance. Aftercare can be provided where there are minor reservations as to whether Security Clearance should have been granted to an individual.

Security Clearance can be verified and transferred to a new employer if required. If you require Security Clearance for a role, in certain circumstances, you will not be able to start your employment until clearance has been obtained. In some circumstances a company may offer the option for a job to start on a lesser clearance, such as BPSS for instance, whilst the higher level of clearance is processed. The candidate will usually have restricted site access prior to full clearance being granted.


All personal information gathered during the vetting process is handled in the strictest of confidence by the United Kingdom Security Vetting Unit. In a very small number of cases, where serious risks have been identified, a case may be discussed with the security vetting unit, national security and policing authorities. In an even smaller number of cases, and only with the agreement of the person being vetted, line management may be given some relevant information and be requested to help manage the risk.

There is an extremely remote possibility of vetting information being disclosed in connection with criminal or civil proceedings.

What are the levels of Security Clearance?

  • Accreditation Check - AC
  • Counter Terrorist Check – CTC
  • Security Check - SC
  • Enhanced Security Check - eSC
  • Developed Vetting – DV
  • Enhanced Developed Vetting - eDV
  • Developed Vetting (DV Clearance)

Infosec job interview

What is DV clearance?

Developed Vetting (DV vetting) is the highest level of Security Clearance and is required for people with substantial unsupervised access to TOP SECRET assets or for those working in the Intelligence or Security agencies.

DV Clearance is also required for individuals with access to classified material from a foreign country or international organisation, or who require uncontrolled access to Category I nuclear material.

A full DV Security Clearance process comprises the following mandatory vetting stages:

  • A Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS), which is normally undertaken as part of the recruiting process)
  • Departmental / Company Records Check
  • DV Security Clearance Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Credit Reference Check and review of personal finances. A search into income, assets and expenditure, which may take into account the joint position with a spouse or partner
  • Security Service (MI5) records check
  • Check of medical and psychological information provided
  • Interview of applicant and further enquiries made, which will include interviews with character referees and current and previous supervisors

On completion of the vetting process, the information collected is assessed and a decision made to approve or refuse DV Clearance. Once clearance is granted, it is only valid for a pre-determined period, after which a review must be conducted if the clearance is still required.

The DV Clearance process can take up to 9 months before full clearance is granted. Gaining DV Clearance will normally require you to have been a resident in the UK for a minimum of ten years.

Developed Vetting (DV) renewal

If you already hold a DV Clearance you will be required to renew your clearance at intervals of no more than 7 years and more frequently if the risk owner has set a shorter validity period. Your sponsor will initiate a DV renewal. This carries the same mandatory checks as a DV clearance but may exclude the referee interview.

Enhanced Developed Vetting (eDV)

Enhanced Developed Vetting is required for a very small number of posts where an additional level of assurance is required above DV. It can only be requested by a small number of sponsors and only with prior agreement with UKSV and the Cabinet Office.

Security Check (SC Clearance)

A Security Check (SC, or SC Cleared) is required for people who have substantial access to SECRET or occasional controlled access to TOP SECRET assets and determines that their character and personal circumstances would not mean they would be a risk with such assets.

A full Security Check Clearance process comprises:

  • A Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS), which is normally undertaken as part of the recruiting process
  • Departmental / Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Credit Reference Check
  • Security Service (MI5) Records Check

On completion of the process, the information collected is assessed and a decision made to approve or refuse an SC level security check. The clearance process can take between 1-3 months to complete prior to the candidate starting work. Gaining SC Clearance will normally require you to have been a resident in the UK for a minimum of five years.

Enhanced Security Check (eSC)

An Enhanced Security Check allows regular uncontrolled access up to SECRET assets and occasional, controlled access to TOP SECRET assets. It is used for specific roles where an additional level of assurance is required over SC, but not to DV level.


Counter Terrorist Check (CTC Clearance)

A Counter Terrorist Check (CTC, or CTC Cleared) is a clearance required for people who work in close proximity to public figures, or who have access to material or information that may be vulnerable to terrorist attack, or whose role involves unrestricted access to government or commercial establishments considered to be at risk from terrorist attack.

A CTC Clearance level does not allow access to, or knowledge or custody of, protectively marked assets, but the Baseline Personnel Security Standard allows a degree of access.

The CTC Clearance process involves the following mandatory stages:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS), which is normally undertaken as part of the recruiting process)
  • Departmental / Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Security Service (MI5) Records Check

On completion of the vetting process, the information collected is assessed and a decision made to approve or refuse a CTC Clearance. Gaining CTC Clearance will normally require you to have been a resident in the UK for a minimum of three years.

Accreditation Check (AC Clearance)

Accreditation Check is required for people who have unescorted access to security restricted and airside areas in UK airports. It is also required for people who provide UK aviation security training or who are responsible for security standards for air cargo.

AC Security Clearance comprises of:

  • Proof of identity
  • Employment and education checks
  • Criminal record check
  • Check against records held by UK security agencies
  • AC clearance is valid for up to five years


NATO has four levels of security classification:

  • NATO Restricted (NR)
  • NATO Confidential (NC)
  • NATO Secret (NS)
  • COSMIC Top Secret (CTS)

NATO's clearance levels function independent of any clearance levels for other nations. However, it is understood that for most NATO nations, granting of a NATO Security Clearance is handled in a similar manner to that of obtaining a national security clearance.

Disclosure and Barring Services (DBS) and Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Services (EDBS)

DBS checks are for positions involving certain activities and high levels of responsibility such as teaching children or dealing with vulnerable adults and can also be obtained for certain other professions such judicial appointments or RSPCA officers.

In addition to the information provided on a Standard Certificate, the Enhanced Certificate also involves a police check to ascertain if any other information is held on file that may be relevant for consideration (for instance, information that has not led to a criminal conviction but may indicate a danger to vulnerable groups). The police decide what (if any) additional information will be added to the certificate using the Quality Assurance Framework.

The involvement of local police forces can mean an Enhanced Check may take significantly longer to be completed than a Standard check.

An Enhanced Check may only be applied for if the applicant's job role is specified in both the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exception) order 1975 and the Police Act 1997.

Basic Personnel Security Standard (BPSS Clearance, formerly Basic Check) and Enhanced Baseline Standard)

BPSS and EPS (formerly Enhanced Basic Check or Basic Check +) are not formal security clearances but are a package of pre-employment checks that represent good recruitment and employment practice.

A BPSS check or EBS check aims to provide an appropriate level of assurance as to the trustworthiness, integrity, and probable reliability of prospective employees. These checks should be applied to:

  • All successful applicants for employment in the public sector and Armed Forces (both permanent and temporary)
  • All private sector employees working on government contracts (e.g. contractors and consultants), who require access to, or knowledge of, government assets protectively marked up to and including CONFIDENTIAL

Baseline Security Clearance checks are normally conducted by the recruitment authorities or companies to the agreed standard. These checks underpin the national security vetting process, and therefore it is vital that they are carried out properly and thoroughly, and before any further vetting is completed.


Security Industry Authority (SIA)

The Security Industry Authority (SIA) operates the compulsory licensing of individuals working in specific sectors of the private security industry within the UK. The activities licensed under the Private Security Industry 2001 regulation pertain to Manned Guarding, which includes:

  • Cash and Valuables in Transit
  • Close Protection
  • Door Supervision
  • Public Space Surveillance (CCTV)
  • Security guard
  • Immobilisation, restriction and removal of vehicles
  • Key holding   

Useful links

If you're ready to take the next step in your career and search for a security cleared job, use the links below to find out more information or start hunting for openings today.

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