Security Clearance: A Guide For Contractors

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Obtaining a security clearance when you are a contractor can be compared to a “chicken and egg” situation. It is possible that you won’t get any interviews if you are not security cleared. However, as an individual, you won’t get security cleared since only firms can sponsor you to do that. Fortunately, applying for security clearance won’t cause you to ruffle your feathers.

If you are thinking of throwing your hat into the ring for some government contract jobs as well as for a few commercial projects in air traffic, energy, and financial services trading, then security clearance is not the only thing that you require if you want to get your foot in the door, you also need to consider doing the job itself.

All of these roles have one thing in common which is at one point or another, you must be able to access classified information, making security vetting significant. It will make sure that you can be entrusted with sensitive government property or information. Although this might be similar to a James Bond movie, yet you don’t have to work as a security service of Her Majesty in order to get security cleared. Even the mayor of London requires a security clearance being a member of the Privy Council.

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What Is Security Clearance?

The manner for applying security clearance can definitely create a significant impact.

The agency responsible for accomplishing security clearance checks, which is the Defence Business Services National Security Vetting (DBS NSV), admitted that security clearance involves some intrusion in people’s private lives.

Essentially, obtaining a security clearance also means that you will be undergoing some background checks as well as a vetting process. The severity and depth of these checks will vary greatly based on the level and amount of access you need on these classified and sensitive information.

It is important that you have security clearance for these three sets of events:

  • You are being recognised for a new contract position which requires a security clearance.
  • You have to be vetted again so you will be able to continue with your present contract. Take note that security checks are only good during the time that they have been carried out.
  • You’ve transferred to a different contract role, which requires a security clearance.

How Long Does Security Clearance Last?

Applying for security clearance can be a long process. The bad news is it is not a one-time deal. It can only last during the life of the contract or project that is associated with it.

The good news is that your clearance will remain open for a year subsequent to your project. This is because it is possible that you could get a call back from your client.

In case within this time you can obtain an entirely new gig, then your security clearance will be validated and given to your new client if needed.

However, in case after a year has passed you have not taken any works that require a security clearance, then your clearance will expire. Consequently, you will go back to the drawing board once again if you desire to rejoin the levels of the security cleared.

What Contracts Require Security Clearance?

A lot of Government departments constantly needs contractors that are security cleared. Some of the common candidates would be the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Defence, and the Home Office, while there are also less obvious candidates such as the Office for National Statistics.

Typically, security clearance is needed in contracts that involve:

  • The police
  • Members of the Armed Forces
  • Workers of contractors who supply goods and services to the Government
  • Access to highly sensitive Government assets as well as in handling Crown servants, and members of the security and intelligence offices
  • Employees of non-Governmental organisations who are required to comply with Government security procedures

What Are The Different Levels of Security Clearance?

The three major types of national security vetting that the DBS NSV does are security check, counter-terrorist check, and developed vetting.

Counter-Terrorist Check

Usually, this clearance level is required in contracts that involve:

  • Access to national security information or any material that could be valuable to terrorists.
  • Close proximity to public figures.
  • Unlimited access to institutions deemed to be at risk from terrorist attack.

If you are a contractor who wants to work with the law and government agencies or the police, then the counter-terrorist check is a typical requirement. Usually, it takes up to six months to finish and is regularly reviewed after ten years. However, if you are working on a government contract then it will take five years before it will be reviewed since it does not require you to access classified information, also referred as the “non-list X” contractor.

Security Check

In case your contract involves lots of access to secret information or irregular controlled access to top-secret information, then it is essential that you must have a security check (SC).

It is the most common type of vetting process that is essentially used in the Government. Additionally, it covers a wide range of contracts including health, IT, private sector, defence, etc.

If you are a UK resident for at least five years, then you must undergo UK criminal and security checks, basic check (BC), as well as a credit check. It will take a minimum of six weeks to complete an SC, additionally, it will be reviewed every ten years. However, if you are a non-list X contractor, then it will be reviewed in seven years.

Developed Vetting

Developed vetting (DV) is only required for the most sensitive contract assignments. This is considered as the highest level of clearance among the three. If your contract requires essential unsupervised access to top-secret information then this clearance is a must. This is also important if you are working with intelligence or Government security agencies.

You have to be a UK resident for at least ten years in order to obtain a Developed vetting (DV) clearance. It includes the most in-depth screening such as detailed interview, credit check, criminal records check, as well as references. There are only a small number of DV clearances that are approved and they will be regularly reviewed at the end of each year.

Customarily, it will take six months before a DV will be completed, then after seven years, it will be reviewed regardless if you are a non-list X contractor.

How Do You Apply For Security Clearance?

When it comes to applying for security clearance, the Government’s stand is that security clearance is not available on demand but for legal and policy purposes only.

This means that as a contractor, you will not be able to apply for clearance as an individual. If you want to become security clearance certified, then you should get a sponsor to request it for you. This could either be the Government department employing your client or any other clients that you have. Hence, technically, your sponsor is the one holding your security clearance, not you.

What Are The Benefits Of Being Security Cleared?

There are a lot of reasons why contractors should not be stopped from administering security cleared contracts. First of all, the demand for contractors at security cleared institutions, specifically, in the IT sector is increasing.

Additionally, security cleared contractors will gain some potential income benefits. In the UK, the only proof suggesting this anecdotal can be discovered on job boards and such. However, if we rely on the previous recruitment stats from the US, then security cleared contractor can potentially earn up to 24% more compared to a non-security cleared contractor. Hence, it will be beneficial to be security cleared.

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