Guidance

United Kingdom Security Vetting: Applicant

United Kingdom Security Vetting (UKSV) is the main UK government provider of security clearances.

Levels of national security clearance

If your role working for the government or an industry partner requires access to sensitive information, assets or equipment you will need to hold a valid security clearance.

There are 5 levels of national security clearance:

  • Counter Terrorist Check (CTC)
  • Security Check (SC)
  • Enhanced Security Check (eSC)
  • Developed Vetting (DV)
  • Enhanced Developed Vetting (eDV).

For further information on the levels of clearance, who needs clearance and what checks are carried out, please see United Kingdom Security Vetting: clearance levels

You must also undergo a Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) check before you start your security cleared role.

Vetting explained

To hold security clearance you must go through a process called national security vetting, which is a series of background checks to assess your suitability to have access to sensitive information, assets and equipment.

Read our vetting explained guidance to find out what information you need to provide during the vetting process.

Vetting charter

Our vetting charter also provides information on what you can expect during the vetting process, as well as your responsibilities as an applicant and clearance holder.

Applying for or renewing security clearance

First, you need a sponsor, who is usually your human resources/personnel officer or company security controller. Your sponsor must confirm that your role requires security clearance and that they have carried out the Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS). Once these checks have been made, your sponsor will create your clearance application and you will receive a link to fill out a security questionnaire.

If you are a civil servant or serving in HM Forces, your sponsor will be allocated once it is decided that you need clearance to carry out your role. If you are a contractor, you will not be sponsored unless the company that is employing you (or you yourself, if you are a consultant) are contracted, or are in the process of being contracted, to work on one or more specific classified projects.

Why you need a sponsor

Being security cleared does not provide a guarantee of future reliability and all security clearances are kept under review to ensure that the necessary level of assurance is maintained. This review is carried out by government departments and government sponsored contractors who are responsible for the oversight and aftercare of individuals granted a security clearance.

Your sponsoring organisation will own the security clearance, so it is their responsibility to inform UKSV when an individual no longer needs security clearance for their role, or has left the organisation.

Activating your NSVS portal account and submitting your security questionnaire

Guidance on how to activate your NSVS Portal account, access, complete and submit your security questionnaire, submit a change of personal circumstances and submit an aftercare incident report can be found in UKSV National Security Vetting Solution: guidance for subjects.

Next steps after you have submitted your security questionnaire

Cross-checks

Once you have submitted your security questionnaire, we will cross check the information you have provided against crime and security databases, credit reference agencies and with your referees and supervisors.

Requests for further information

Occasionally, we may need to contact you by telephone, email or post to clarify information provided to us or request further information relevant to your circumstances. If you have provided more than one email address in your application, make sure you check each account regularly so that you can respond to any requests in a timely manner. If you do not respond to a request for further information your application may be cancelled.

Progress updates

If you need an update on the progress of your application, contact your sponsor. Every security clearance application is unique and can take varying amounts of time to complete. Our Enquiry Centre are unable to provide exact timescales for your application to be completed.

The vetting interview

An interview is the main worry for most people who go through the eSC, DV or eDV vetting process. An interview is a routine step for these levels of national security vetting. Occasionally, applicants going through CTC or SC level vetting may be asked to attend an interview.

If you would feel more comfortable talking about certain matters with a different Vetting Officer (someone of your own sex, age profile, or ethnic group, for example), let us know and we will try to arrange this for you. Our Enquiry Centre can be contacted via email at UKSV-ContactUs@mod.gov.uk or via telephone on 01904 662644.

Arranging an interview

One of our vetting officers will contact you directly to arrange your interview. Vetting officers may call you from an unknown phone number or email address. Regularly check for any messages you have received to any phone numbers or email addresses you have supplied during the application process.

If you need any special facilities to enable the interview to take place, please tell the vetting officer when they contact you.

Interviews last for about three hours, but can take longer. They usually take place during normal working hours, and at a place within reasonable travel to your location, which could be one of our local hubs. This is necessary to better manage the high demand for our services and expedite an individual’s clearance. In exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to have your interview at your home address.

You can ask a friend, colleague or relative to attend the interview. Most people prefer to be interviewed alone because of the sensitive topics that will be discussed.

Interview format

A routine eSC, DV or eDV interview will cover all aspects of your life. At the interview, the vetting officer will build as complete a picture of you as possible. The purpose of this is so we can make an informed assessment that you will be able to cope with access to sensitive information or assets at the highest levels and will not become a security risk and a threat to national security.

Key themes include:

  • your loyalty, honesty and reliability, and identifying any vulnerabilities that could lead you to being bribed or blackmailed
  • your wider family background (relationships and influences)
  • past experiences of drug taking (if any)
  • financial affairs
  • general political views
  • foreign travel
  • hobbies.

If you are asked to attend an interview in relation to a CTC or SC application, the interview will usually cover a specific area of your life, but may extend to include questions asked in a full DV interview.

How to approach the interview

Be completely honest.

The interview will be very searching, but it is not an interrogation and should not feel like one. Some of the questions will be intrusive but are asked because we are trying to find out if you are vulnerable to pressure.

Sometimes people have aspects of their lives that they are ashamed or embarrassed to tell us about. Usually these are of little or no security significance. They will generally not stop or restrict the granting of a security clearance.

The Vetting Officer will be open-minded and is not there to make moral judgements on people’s lifestyles. They will only be interested in assessing potential security risks. It is essential therefore that you are open and honest at all stages of the interview process.

If you have any doubts about the relevance of some questions you should ask the vetting officer why they are asking the question.

We will probably refuse your clearance, or subsequently withdraw it, if we later find out that you have lied or withheld information.

Supervisor and referee interviews

A vetting officer will also interview the most appropriate supervisors and referees you have nominated on your security questionnaire.

You will not be notified when these are due to take place, so it is important to make sure your supervisors and referees are aware that they may be contacted and that you have provided their most up to date contact details.

Documents you need for interview

Vetting officers commonly ask applicants to bring the following documents to their interview (all documents must be original copies):

General documents:

  • evidence of identification, for example: birth certificate, passport (also required as evidence of travel), driving licence, identity card
  • utility bills (for proof of address)
  • Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • Deed Poll or certificate of declaration in respect of any change of name
  • naturalisation or registration certificate
  • adoption certificate
  • marriage certificate/civil partnership documents
  • Decree Absolute or Nisi
  • separation or maintenance orders
  • HM Forces (HMF) discharge certificate.

Financial documents (for you and your partner):

  • bank statements for any current accounts (last three months)
  • statements for credit, charge and store cards (last three months)
  • statements for mail order accounts (last three months)
  • details and statements of all loans and hire purchase agreements
  • latest mortgage statement, including monthly repayments and remaining balance
  • details of any County Court Judgements
  • last three pay statements or payslips
  • documents and statements connected with savings and investments
  • any other documents which support or help to explain any figures on the Financial Questionnaire (FQ).

Please note: If you rent a property or have any other costs for housing you will not be asked to provide additional documents for your interview in the first instance, as these costs can be verified from bank statements. Should further documents be required at any point, your Vetting Officer will discuss this with you on a case by case basis.

Any additional requirements will be notified to you by your vetting officer, normally in advance of the interview. Any delay in providing these documents is likely to delay your clearance.

A printable checklist of the required interview documentation is available in UKSV National Security Vetting Solution: Guidance for subjects

Decision process

The vetting process aims to establish if you present any security risks that may prevent you from being employed in a sensitive post.

The decision on whether to grant you security clearance will be taken either by UKSV, the department or police force that requires you to hold it, or by a Security Unit that carries out this task on behalf of several departments.

The assessment of your suitability to hold clearance will take into account all relevant information gathered during the vetting process, both favourable and unfavourable. These factors are carefully considered along with the security requirements of your role.

The process will consider whether or not any adverse information is serious enough in itself to justify refusing or withdrawing a security clearance. If any information of security concern is discovered about you, the assessor will consider a range of factors including (where relevant) whether you have been as open as possible about it and whether you have resolved the issue, or it appears likely that you will resolve it favourably.

When someone’s conduct raises security concerns, the factors that the assessor will consider include:

  • the seriousness of the conduct
  • how often it has been committed
  • the circumstances, including the reason why it took place
  • the risk that it will make the individual vulnerable to pressure or exploitation
  • what it implies about their trustworthiness and reliability.

When considering the security significance of personal circumstances or behaviour that can lead to vulnerability, the assessor will not allow personal and cultural bias to affect their judgement. Personal circumstances or behaviour only become of security significance if they cause vulnerability to pressure or improper influence or may cause a clearance holder to commit security breaches.

If you are denied clearance, or if your clearance is withdrawn, you will be informed and if possible provided with reasons. If you are eligible to launch an internal or external appeal, you will be informed of the process. There is no requirement in law to inform someone who is being recruited by a new employer why they have been refused employment if the decision has been made on security grounds. They will be told if possible, but considerations of national security or confidentiality may prevent this.

Appeal process

All government departments and other government organisations making National Security Vetting decisions are required to have an internal appeal process for people who have had a clearance denied or withdrawn. The right of appeal is available to the organisation’s employees (including members of the armed forces, in the case of the Ministry of Defence) and to anyone who is working for it under contract, either directly or as an employee of a contracted company. It is not available to an applicant for employment when no job offer has been made.

If you are refused clearance or have it withdrawn, the organisation that has made the decision should tell you whether you have the right to appeal.

If so, they will explain the process you will need to follow. Depending on the organisation concerned, this may consist of two stages, with the opportunity for a further internal review at a higher level if your appeal is turned down at the first hearing.

Once there has been an internal appeal, you will be notified in writing whether or not your appeal has been accepted. If your internal appeal is denied, you will be told as much as possible about the reasons why you have been judged unsuitable to hold a security clearance.

You will then have the opportunity, if you wish, to submit a final appeal to the independent Security Vetting Appeals Panel (SVAP).

If you decide to appeal to SVAP, you must inform them of your intention in writing within 28 days of receiving the result of your internal appeal. The Secretariat will explain the Panel’s procedures to you.

Further information about SVAP can be found at security vetting appeals panel

Published 14 August 2019
Last updated 22 March 2021 + show all updates
  1. Edited financial documents for interview - note added to cover other housing costs.

  2. Links to vetting explained and the vetting charter have been added.

  3. 'About DV' has been replaced with 'Levels of national security clearance. 'Getting a Security Clearance' has been changed to ' How to get a security clearance' and the guidance updated. 'Medical information', 'Personal Finance', 'Financial questionnaire' have been moved into the accompanying guidance documents for 'How to activate your NSVS portal account and submit your e-form application'. 'The interview' has been changed to 'The vetting interview' and guidance updated. 'Decision process' has been updated to include more information. 'Appeals process' has been updated to include details of the security vetting appeals panel. Transfer of a NSV clearance within MOD organisations and defence contractors', 'Existing clearances and Aftercare', 'Extractions of SC from DV', 'Change of Personal Circumstances', 'Security Appraisal Form' and the 'Aftercare Incident Report' guidance has been moved into 'United Kingdom Security Vetting: Existing clearance holders'.

  4. First published.