Security Cleared Contractors

If you’re a contractor and you intend to work with sensitive or confidential information, it’s likely that you may need security clearance. Becoming cleared can sometimes seem like a complex process, so we created a guide to outline all you need to know.

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What is security clearance?

Security clearance (also known as SC clearance and security checking), is essentially a background check and a vetting process. It is a status granted to individuals, at a government or commercial level, that allows them to access sensitive or classified information. The more sensitive and restricted the information or area you will be working with, the deeper and more rigorous the checks that will be required.

Why do I need to become security cleared as a contractor?

Many contracts will require you to undergo some sort of clearance process if you are dealing with sensitive information, such as Government assets, intelligence agencies or in IT roles where you will be dealing with classified information. The process is intended to protect businesses and organisations against threat by thoroughly vetting a contractor through various methods. This will differ based on what check is required, but generally follows the same process.

How to get security clearance in the UK

You cannot apply for security clearance individually – your organisation must do it on your behalf when you apply for a role. You must be sponsored by a client who has contracted you to work on a specific project. Depending on the level of clearance required, you will be required to provide more sensitive information, but most will ask for the following as a minimum:

  • Your nationality and immigration status to prove your identity
  • A Criminal Record Declaration form

Higher levels of checks could be required and ask for additional information around your background, a credit check and sometimes more detail around any criminal history.

The main SC clearing bodies are:

Security clearance levels

There are four different levels of security checks and clearances available. Your role will dictate what level of clearance is required:

Basic Personnel Security Standard (BPSS)

Basic Personnel Security Standard is not a formal clearance process but a pre-employment check. It is usually carried out by a recruitment agent before any further security checks are done. BPSS is intended to provide a good level of trustworthiness and integrity from a worker and is required in the following circumstances:

  • Workers in the public sector
  • Armed Forces (both temporary and permanent)
  • Private sector workers undertaking government projects

Counter Terrorist Check (CTC)

A Counter Terrorist Check is a clearance required for those who work closely with public figures or who have access to sensitive information. In order to gain a Counter Terrorist Check, it is usually required that you have been a UK citizen for at least 3 years.

A CTC will involve the following:

  • A BPSS, which is normally undertaken as part of the standard recruitment process
  • Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Security Record Check

Developed Vetting (DV)

Developed Vetting is the highest level of clearance available and was created for those with unsupervised access to sensitive information. A DV check is comprehensive and will consist of the following:

  • A BPSS, which is normally undertaken as part of the standard recruitment process
  • Company Records Check
  • A Developed Vetting Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Credit Reference Check and review of personal finances
  • Security Service Check
  • Check of medical and psychological information provided
  • An interview with the applicant

Once all of this information has been gathered, a decision will be made as to whether DV status will be granted (this can take up to 9 months to complete). In order for you to be successful, it is usually required that you have been a UK citizen for at least 10 years.

Security Check (SC)

A Security Check is the most common type of clearance and is required if you will have access to sensitive or government information on an occasional basis. A SC will comprise of the following elements:

  • A BPSS, which is normally undertaken as part of the standard recruitment process)
  • Company Records Check
  • Security Questionnaire
  • Criminal Record Check
  • Credit Reference Check
  • Security Service Check

Once all of this information has been gathered, the assessment period will usually take around 1-3 months to complete.

Looking to pay less tax?

Find out how to maximise your take-home pay and become a successful contractor in our free guide. Also covered in our guide is:

  • Getting started – discover which business structure is best for you and how to get started.
  • Your tax and financial obligations – all you need to know about your paying tax, filing accounts and what costs you offset.
  • Making your business a success – learn how to grow your business, how to market yourself and to forecast for the future.

Read our guide to contracting

Security clearance timescales

Depending on the level of security clearance required will indicate how long the process will take, but this can be anywhere from 2 to 12 months on average. Obviously different levels of security clearance take different times to be cleared, so bear this in mind when applying:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard BPSS: 14 days
  • Counter Terrorist Check: 30 days
  • Developed Vetting: 95 days
  • Security Check: 30 days

Do I need to be security cleared to apply for a security clearance vacancy?

No, but it really does help. Finding a security cleared role is easier if you are already checked, but this doesn’t mean that you should not apply. However, what you should keep in mind is that if you do not get cleared in time, you will be unable to fulfil the role.

Most security clearances last up to 12 months after the project finishes, obviously if you re-join a security cleared post within 12 months there is usually no need to go through the process again.

We’ve been providing expert accountancy advice and helping contractors to focus on doing what they do best since 1992.

What industries do I need security clearance to work in?

Key industries which involve contractors to be security cleared are as follows:

  • Government and public sector
  • Nuclear Industry
  • IT
  • Aerospace
  • Anti-fraud
  • Biometric
  • Forensic

If you’re looking for your next role, Security Cleared Jobs is a website dedicated to roles which require security clearance and is updated daily.

What are the benefits of becoming security cleared?

Becoming security cleared means that you will have access to roles which you wouldn’t otherwise. In certain sectors such as IT and Financial Services, being cleared can also show your trustworthiness to potential clients.

I have security clearance, what’s next?

Once you have security clearance, the next step (if you haven’t done so already) is to find a contracting role. But where do you start?

Download our comprehensive guide to finding a contract, for all you need to know about ing role.

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