SC - Guidance Pack for Applicants

Updated 11 January 2024

1. Introduction to National Security Vetting

We understand that this might be a completely new experience for you so we have created this guidance to help you to understand the process, and hope that it helps put you at ease and prepares you for the next steps.

2. What is Vetting?

The word ‘vetting’ simply means “to carefully examine” The process you are about to undertake involves a combination of background checks and information gathering. 

It allows us to understand your behaviour in a variety of circumstances, enabling us to make an objective risk assessment as to whether holding clearance is suitable. In undertaking these checks and gathering information from other sources this provides us with better insight into any risks and can allow us to mitigate against those risks or any potential conflicts of interest.

For more information visit Vetting Explained on 

3. Why do I have to go through this process?

National Security Vetting is an integral part of protecting sensitive government material and supporting national security. It allows us to ensure that privileged information doesn’t fall into dangerous hands, better protecting our nation, allies and our people.

Whilst it is in place to protect Government assets, the process is also there to consider any potential vulnerabilities faced by you and understand whether these can be or how best to mitigate those vulnerabilities.

The role you have applied for requires you to have Security Check (SC) clearance. This is because your role may involve some or all of the following:

  • Long-term, frequent and uncontrolled access to Secret assets
  • Occasional, supervised access to Top Secret assets

And for individuals who:

  • While not in such posts, may directly or indirectly bring about the same degree of damage to National Security
  • Will have sufficient knowledge to obtain a comprehensive picture of a SECRET plan, policy or project
  • Are being considered for employment where it would not be possible to make reasonable career progress without security clearance for access to SECRET assets
  • Need access to certain levels of classified material originating from another country or international organisation

4. What will the process involve?

In most instances, before the National Security Vetting process begins your employer will perform some pre-employment checks including a Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) check. The BPSS includes:

  • Identity check
  • Nationality and immigration status
  • Employment history
  • Unspent criminal records check

Once this stage is complete the National Security Vetting process will begin. The Security Check (SC) includes :

  • Checking departmental records
  • A security questionnaire (providing personal data)
  • Checking against criminal records
  • Credit Reference Check
  • Security Service Record Check

There may be a requirement for further enquiries, for example an interview or follow up questions to clarify any point identified in the National Security Vetting Process. 

We have compiled some hints and tips for completing your security questionnaire, select the link to learn more: Hints & Tips for completing your security questionnaire

You can find more details about the government’s personnel security and national security vetting policies and how the process works in the HMG Personnel Security Controls document.  

Due to the nature of National Security Vetting, the process can be intrusive and some individuals may find themselves feeling distressed or triggered. Please see the list of organisations you can contact for support at any point

5. How can I best prepare?

We have a series of short videos which help give insight into what detail is required during the process, including what we may ask you about and why. Select the following link to learn more: Demystifying Vetting Videos   

Consider whether you need any reasonable adjustments, you can find our guidance here: Request a reasonable adjustment as a Security Vetting Applicant 

Check out the NSVS Portal Guidance Notes for instructions on how to activate the NSVS Portal account and how to access, complete and submit your security questionnaire.

Here are some tips from other applicants to help you prepare:

“Don’t assume something will be a blocker”

“Answer the question exactly - don’t get yourself tied up in knots.”

“Don’t tell any lies. It’s all confidential. Even if you’ve made a mistake in your past, it’s not about being judged for what you’ve done.”

6. How long will the process take?

The length of time it takes to complete the process will vary from person to person. We require multiple checks from different agencies and this can sometimes result in delays.

If you are currently employed, please don’t hand in your notice until you have been contacted with a decision. 

7. What are the possible outcomes?

  • Clearance awarded 
  • Clearance awarded with aftercare - Aftercare is the term used for the management of effective personnel security. If any potential risks are identified during the vetting process, this may be managed by scheduling an interim review. This review usually takes place around 18 months to 2 years after clearance has been awarded and will only review the risk area/s. To find out more visit our Guidance on Aftercare and existing clearances. 
  • Clearance awarded with caveats and/or restrictions - There may be caveats and/or restrictions placed upon your clearance, these would be used to mitigate any risks and/or potential conflicts of interest. These will be discussed with you fully.
  • Clearance refused 
  • Voluntary withdrawal - You are free to withdraw from the process at any time however, this may impact on your ability to undertake the role or work requiring security clearance. If this is the case please discuss this further with your sponsor. 

8. How will you handle my data?

The National Security Vetting privacy notice explains who we share your data with, who the data controllers are and how to go about raising a query or complaint. 

We will retain your data securely for as long as is necessary to safeguard National Security, normally this will be for 15 years from the date your clearance expires, lapses or is withdrawn. 

9. Things to remember

  • If you’d prefer a call instead of emails - just ask

  • You are the expert in your life and circumstances

  • Be prepared and organised with your documents

  • Communication and honesty is key

  • Give your feedback on your experience

Please see the Vetting Charter to learn more about what you can expect during the process.