Understanding security clearance in the UK

Many roles within defence and public sectors require prospective candidates to undergo security checks before the assignment can begin.

What is security clearance?

Security clearance is required by the Government to ensure that people working with ‘sensitive assets’ do not pose any risk to national security by having access to this information.

There are four levels of security clearance:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS)
  • Security Check (SC)
  • Counter-Terrorism Check (CTC)
  • Developed Vetting (DV)


This category includes the Baseline Personnel Security Standard and the Enhanced Baseline Standard (EBS). These are generally used as pre-employment checks. The first simply ascertains the trustworthiness and reliability of a prospective candidate and the second acts as a pre-cursor to more in-depth security clearance levels.


This is the most common level of clearance and is for those candidates who would require access to ‘SECRET’ assets or occasional controlled access to ‘TOP SECRET’ assets.


This clearance is for candidates who will be working with sensitive data or materials, or who are vulnerable to terrorist attack or whose work will involve unrestricted access to certain government or commercial establishments.


This clearance is the highest level of security clearance, which is for candidates who will have substantial unsupervised access to ‘TOP SECRET’ assets and/or will be working with intelligence and security agencies.

How do I get security clearance?

If a role requires you to be security cleared, the necessary checks will be arranged by the hirer and carried out through a Government agency. As a minimum, you will be asked to prove your identity (including your nationality and immigration status) and complete a Criminal Record Declaration Form. Higher levels of clearance may require more intense background checks on your criminal record, a credit reference check and a security service check.

Depending on the level of vetting required, security clearance can take anywhere between 1-2 days (BPSS) and six months (CTC and DV), with Security Checks taking around six weeks.

If you’re interested in applying for one of our security cleared jobs and/or have some questions about the security clearance process, please contact us.

Back to top