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Security clearance levels in the UK

There are four main types of Security Clearance – Baseline, Counter Terrorist, Security Check and Developed Vetting. Below is an outline of each type of Security Clearance, along with information on the process, how long it takes, and the types of IT jobs it applies to.

There are four main types of Security Clearance – Baseline, Counter Terrorist, Security Check and Developed Vetting. Below is an outline of each type of Security Clearance, along with information on the process, how long it takes, and the types of IT jobs it applies to.

The important thing to remember is that Security Clearance checks are conducted in line with a specific IT job role, and need to be requested by a company not an individual. So while Security Clearance may require some time and paperwork, if successful it will lead to a new IT job – as well as career rewards such as a good salary, role security and plenty of opportunity.

There are also a number of other types of security checks and clearances, including NATO, Metropolitan Police Vetting, Security Industry Authority, Criminal Records Bureau, Disclosure Scotland and AccessNI.

Baseline Security Clearance

There are two types of check in this category: Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) (Formally Basic Check) and Enhanced Baseline Standard (EBS) (formerly Enhanced Basic Check or Basic Check +). A BPSS or EBS aims to provide an appropriate level of assurance as to the trustworthiness, integrity, and probable reliability of prospective employees.

What is BPSS?

BPSS is an entry level security check, and will take one or two days to complete. Not technically a security clearance, it uses the Police National Computer (PNC) to make sure a candidate has no convictions. The check returns evidence of any current criminal record and un-spent convictions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974.

A BPSS acts as a pre-employment check, signalling good recruitment and employment practice in general. The check is carried out by screening identity documents and references.

What is EBS?

An EBS is not a formal security clearance check; however it is a prerequisite for the other types of security clearances outlined next.

This type of check allows supervised access to top secret material. To attain this, the same checks as above apply, as well as a mandatory interview and references from people who are familiar with the person’s character in both home and work environment.

What IT jobs do they apply to?

Typically BPSS and EBS checks apply to jobs in the public sector and Armed Forces (both permanent and temporary) as well as private sector employees working on government contracts (e.g. contractors and consultants), who require access to, or knowledge of, confidential government assets.

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

Counter Terrorist Check (CTC) or (CTC Cleared)

The Counter-Terrorist Check (CTC) is most commonly required by police, legal agencies and government agencies hiring contractors. A CTC will normally take up to six months to complete and is usually valid for 3 years.

What is a CTC?

The purpose of the CTC is 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 does not allow access, knowledge or custody of protectively marked assets and information, but the Baseline Personnel Security Standard (outlined above, and normally undertaken as part of the recruiting process) does unlock some restrictions. It is carried out as part of the CTC as part of the vetting process, along with:

  • Departmental / Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Security Service Check

What IT jobs does it apply to?

CTC Security Clearance is needed by IT professionals whose work involves:

  • close proximity to public figures
  • giving access to information or material vulnerable to terrorist attack
  • unrestricted access to certain government or commercial establishments assessed to be at risk from terrorist attack

To gain CTC clearance you’ll normally need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 3 years. Occasionally it may also be necessary to attend an interview with a DfT security officer. At the end of the vetting process, the information is assessed and a decision made to refuse or approve a CTC clearance.

Security Check (SC) or (SC Cleared)

Security Clearance (SC) is the most common type of vetting process. Transferable between government departments, it covers a wide range of jobs from IT and health to government, MoD, defence and private sector.

What is SC?

Valid for five years for contractors, and ten years for permanent employees, SC is for IT professionals who need substantial access to secret, occasionally top secret, assets and information.

To gain (SC) clearance you will normally need to have been a UK resident for a minimum of 5 years, and will need to successfully complete all stages of the vetting process which includes:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard
  • Departmental/Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Credit Reference Check
  • Security Service Check

On completion, information is assessed and a decision made to refuse or approve the clearance application. It will usually take a minimum of six weeks to complete, and is generally reviewed every ten years.

Developed Vetting (DV)

Developed Vetting DV is the most comprehensive and expensive form of UK security vetting; and therefore only required for the most sensitive appointments and tasks.

This level of Security Clearance provides substantial unsupervised access to top secret assets, or for people working in the intelligence or security agencies. A small number of clearances are granted, and renewed annually depending on the employer, and circumstances of the employment.

What IT jobs does it apply to?

Typical DV security cleared IT jobs include positions within the MoD, government, defence and aerospace.

The stringent security check is much more specialised and job related: “A contractor would go to a specific contract role within a specific organisation and the developed vetting would be tailored specifically for that contract.”

What’s involved?

To gain (DV) clearance you will normally have been a UK resident for a minimum of 10 years. You’ll also need to go through several stages of the vetting process to become approved:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Departmental/Company Records Check
  • Completion of a (DV) questionnaire
  • Credit Reference Check and review of personal finances
  • Security Service Check
  • Check of medical and psychological information provided
  • Subject Interview and further enquiries, which will include interviews with character referees and current and previous supervisors (checking of references (social, employment, education etc) in writing, by telephone or by interview from personal friends, tutors and employers as appropriate)

On completion of the vetting process, information is assessed and a decision made to refuse or approve a DV clearance. For risk management purposes, follow-up work and monitoring is sometimes needed. This activity is known as ‘aftercare’, and may be required in connection with any of the above clearances.

How long will DV clearance take?

A DV will normally take a minimum of six months to complete. The officer assigned to the case will keep in touch during their enquiries and do their best to let you know how things are progressing. Because of the time the process takes, you shouldn’t hand in your notice to your present employer until DV clearance is granted.

Once a clearance is granted, it is only valid for a pre-determined period after which a review must be conducted. The time interval before a review is required is specified in guidance issued by the Cabinet Office but DVs are usually re-investigated after 5 years and every 7 years if there is a continuing need, depending on circumstances.

Other security checks and clearances


Granting of NATO security clearance is handled in a similar manner to that of obtaining a national security clearance. There are four levels of security classification:

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

Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Vetted

Metropolitan Police Vetting is carried out for all members of the Metropolitan Police Service (police officers, police staff and members of the specials constabulary). It also applies to non police personnel including contractors, contractor representatives, consultants, volunteers and any person who requires unescorted access to MPS premises or uncontrolled access to police information.

The MPS has the following Force Vetting levels:

  • Initial Vetting Clearance (IVC)
  • Management Vetting (MV)

Security Industry Authority (SIA)

The Security Industry Authority operates the compulsory licensing of individuals working in specific sectors of the private security industry within the UK. Activities licensed under the Private Security Industry 2001 manned guarding includes:

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

Criminal Records Bureau (CRB)

CRB clearance is required for posts that involve working with children or vulnerable adults. Standard Disclosures may also be issued for people entering certain professions, such as law and accountancy. Standard Disclosures typically contain details of all convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings held on the Police National Computer (PNC).

Enhanced CRB

These checks are required for posts involving a far greater degree of contact with children or vulnerable adults, where work involves regular caring for, supervising, training or being in sole charge i.e. teacher, scout or guide leader. Enhanced Disclosures contain the same information as the Standard Disclosures but with the addition of local police force information considered relevant by the Chief Police Officer(s).