Guidance

National security vetting

Defence Business Services National Security Vetting (DBS NSV) is the main UK government provider of security clearances.

DBS NSV e-form guidance notes and publications referenced in the following sections can be found here.

Overview

In 2011 the Defence Vetting Agency became the Defence Business Services National Security Vetting and is currently considered with its FCO counterpart (FCO Services) as the single provider of NSV to the whole of government (excluding the intelligence agencies).

DBS NSV is the UK’s largest government organisation carrying out national security vetting and the only government organisation whose core business is security vetting.

Within the defence community we provide NSV through direct financing to the three Armed Services, Ministry of Defence (MOD) civil service and defence contractors.

We also deliver a range of NSV services on a repayment basis to 86 customers across the public sector. We have more repayment customers than any other UK NSV organisation and this number is increasing.

Our customers are provided with assurances ranging from site admission to unrestricted access to material classified up to top secret. This assurance can be tailored to individual risk management needs. We also provide a service of help and customer engagement through visits and group open days to support this work.

Announcements

21 October 2013: Contact Centre for Vetting

DBS Contact Centre for Vetting will be closed for training every Wednesday from 11am to midday.

Existing clearances and aftercare

Aftercare is the maintenance of effective personnel security. Its purpose is to investigate anything of security concern, between periods of normal review, which affects an individual holding a NSV clearance.

The Counter-Terrorist Check (CTC), Security Check (SC) and Developed Vetting (DV) security vetting processes give an assurance of an individual’s suitability for access to sensitive government information or other valuable assets. However, vetting alone does not give a guarantee of future reliability. It is important that personnel security continues after the initial security clearance is approved and that any new information or concerns that may affect the reliability of a person are brought quickly to the attention of the appropriate authorities. This is achieved through a combination of aftercare and the routine security clearance review procedures.

Aftercare also includes any risk management measures put in place to monitor the security reliability of individuals who hold a security clearance.

Transfer of a NSV clearance within MOD organisations and defence contractors

When a person holding a NSV clearance transfers or moves to a new employing organisation, there may be a continuing requirement for them to hold a security clearance either at the same or lower level. For example, a serviceman or woman leaves one branch of HMF and transfers to another service or moves on to a role in defence industry or as a MOD civilian. Similarly an employee of a defence contractor moves to another job and is employed by a different contractor.

In these situations the new employing sponsor submits a request to DBS NSV for the security clearance to be transferred. The ‘Transfer’ request allows DBS NSV to assess the individual’s suitability for transfer of the security clearance and enables the outcome to be recorded against the correct sponsor. The request can be for the security clearance to be at the same level issued to the original sponsor or at a lower level, based on the needs of the new sponsor. An example of this would be when the SC element of a DV clearance is needed by the new sponsor. It is for the sponsor to set out what is required and for DBS NSV to consider whether the request for transfer can be met.

Criteria for transfer

Before a transfer can take place the following criteria will need to be met.

  • Security Check and Counter Terrorist Check

a. The security clearance must not be more than 10 years old for directly employed MOD, HMF or List X contractor’s personnel, or for an employee of a Non List X contractor, more than 5 years old (for SC) or 3 years old (for CTC). If a direct employee of MOD, HMF or LX transfers to a NLX contractor, the security clearance can be issued for the remaining duration of the extant clearance or 5 years (SC) or 3 years (CTC), from the date of the transfer, whichever is the lesser.

  • Developed Vetting

b. The DV security clearance must not be more than 10 years old for directly employed MOD or HMF (excluding reservists) personnel or 7 years for LX and NLX contractors’ staff. If a direct employee of MOD or HMF (excluding reservists) transfers to LX or NLX, the DV can be issued for 7 years from the original start date.

c. The expiry date of the security clearance must not have been exceeded. However, if it is established that the vetting subject has remained in continuous employment an extension of up to 6 months may be permitted to allow time for a review to be actioned. In this instance the extended DV clearance may be transferred.

d. The vetting subject must have taken up the post for which they were originally DV cleared within 12 months of the clearance being issued and they must not have been out of a post, for which they required DV clearance for more than 12 months.

  • Counter Terrorist Check, Security Check and Developed Vetting, common criteria

e. No more than 12 months has elapsed since the individual left the organisation for which the clearance was originally granted or subsequently transferred to and joining the one applying for latest transfer.

f. No more than 6 months of a 12-month period between leaving one employment and joining another has been spent living overseas.

g. The vetting subject must not have undergone any of the following changes in their personal circumstances since the application for the security clearance for which a transfer is under consideration was made: marrying, remarrying, entering into a civil partnership, setting up a stable unmarried relationship which includes living with someone as a couple.

However, if a change of personal circumstances (CPC) questionnaire has already been completed and has been satisfactorily processed, the transfer should still be able to go ahead. Otherwise, it may be possible for the transfer process to be paused while the vetting subject completes a CPC form.

  • Procedure

Once a prospective sponsor has satisfied themselves that a transfer of clearance is feasible they should submit a Transfer Request Form to DBS NSV by emailing DBS NSV directly using the phrase ‘Transfer Request’ in the subject line, to DBS-NSV-CustomerEnquiries@mod.uk.

NATO clearance notification requests

Email DBS NSV directly, using the phrase ‘NATO request’ in the subject line, to DBS-NSV-CustomerEnquiries@mod.uk.

Extraction of SC from DV clearance

Where a DV clearance has expired, or is no longer required, for customers requiring the underlying SC, please e-mail DBS NSV with your request using the phrase ‘Extraction of SC from DV Clearance’ in the subject line, to DBS-NSV-CustomerEnquiries@mod.uk.

Change of personal circumstances

When an individual holding a security clearance marries, re-marries or sets up a stable unmarried relationship living with someone as a couple, there is a requirement for his/her security clearance to be revalidated. It is the responsibility of all vetted personnel to report such changes to DBS NSV.

Please complete and submit a change of personal circumstances form.

Security appraisal form

All individuals holding Developed Vetting Security Clearance are required to complete an annual security appraisal form which is submitted through their Sponsor to DBS NSV for consideration and retention on the individual’s security record.

Aftercare incident report

Aftercare Incident Reports are to be raised by local security officers in cases where actual or potential security concerns exist about an individual who holds a security clearance.

Should information become available that raises doubts about an individual’s suitability for access to protectively marked or sensitive assets the circumstances are to be reported to DBS NSV.

For MOD service and civilian customers, the report can be submitted in the format at JSP440, Part 6, Section 3, Chapter 1, Annex A.

For other customer groups (including MOD contractors) the report may be submitted by e-mail to DVA-VOPS-AFTERCAREINFO-GM@mod.uk

Or by post to the DBS NSV - address in the Contact us section.

Financial questionnaire

A financial questionnaire is used to determine the financial circumstances of an individual, either as part of the initial security vetting process, or as part of the aftercare monitoring work which confirms their continued suitability to hold a security clearance.

Information for decision makers

There are an array of benefits to other government departments (OGDs) and Service Leader Commands (SLCs) gaining Case Management System (CMS) access to Cerberus:

  • Increased and targeted automation, coupled with improved cross-agency interfaces, will result in a decrease in processing times for straight forward applications
  • The quality of decision making will be enhanced as less time will be spent on clerical effort
  • OGD and SLCs will have real time access to vetting information on which to base their decision making

In order to have a Cerberus account one of the requirements is for all users to hold a security clearance of SC or above. This must be confirmed through the revised (July 2011) SyOps Certificate of Understanding which will be sent to you upon request for an account. Additional copies can be requested through the DBS NSV helpdesk on 01904 662644.

This will ensure we can maintain our current level of confidence in the personnel security credentials of all Cerberus CMS users as an extra level of assurance in the security and integrity of Cerberus and the protection of its data.

If you require further information contact the DBS NSV helpdesk.

Assessment of suitability

Who decides whether a security clearance will be granted?

We will make a recommendation in the light of all the available information obtained during the vetting process.

Will I be told the outcome of the process?

Unless you are being recruited directly into a security cleared job, you will be told the outcome of the vetting process. This is not our responsibility; it is the responsibility of your sponsor (usually your human resources/personnel office, line manager or company security controller).

What if you refuse my clearance?

If you are refused a clearance you will be told what actions are available to you.

Can I appeal against a vetting decision?

If you are a civil servant, member of the Armed Forces or employed in defence industry then internal appeal procedures are open to you to appeal against vetting decisions.

In addition, if the internal appeal process does not satisfy you, you can be referred to the independent Cabinet Office Security Vetting Appeals Panel. Applicants for employment have no formal right of appeal.

Will a criminal record result in clearance being refused?

Not necessarily. Each case will be judged on its merits. The important thing is to be completely open about any criminal history - including spent convictions and police cautions.

Any attempt to hide information could be taken as evidence of unreliability/dishonesty and may affect the clearance.

Cerberus

The Cerberus case management system is the back end system which manages and processes the vetting requests, available to designated MOD and OGD decision makers.

It is accessible through the RLI, GSi, CJX and PNN networks at Impact Level 3 (IL3). It allows identified sponsors to see where in the vetting process a vetting request is and what parts of the process are yet to be completed. It allows decision makers to see all the information linked to a vetting request on which to base their clearance decision.

Please note that the Cerberus portal is unavailable the second Wednesday every month from 7pm to 1am due to scheduled server maintenance and patching.

Cerberus users may notice that in certain cases it shows a written testimony check has been selected and completed when no such check was requested. This is a known problem and DBS NSV is looking to fix this as soon as is practicable. DBS NSV can confirm that no charges are levied in such cases.

Complaints

How to make a complaint to Defence Business Services (DBS).

Contractors and consultants

Do I need a security clearance, or does my company need security cleared staff, to bid for MOD contracts?

No. You do not need to hold security clearances to bid for MOD work advertised in OJEC and other sources. The MOD contracting procedures make sure that there is no competitive advantage in having prior security clearances. Requests for clearances must be raised during the contractual process.

Advertising for staff that already hold a security clearance is contrary to government policy, unnecessary and potentially discriminatory. Any individual who sees such a criterion specified in advertisements when seeking employment can inform the Cabinet Office by forwarding full details of the post and the employer to the following e-mail address: vettinggroup@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk.

How do I get a security clearance?

First, you need a sponsor. Individuals cannot ask for a security clearance unless they are sponsored, and 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 MOD classified projects.

If the company is LIST X, it will be able to sponsor your clearance itself. If you are employed by a company that is subcontracted by a LIST X main contractor, the LIST X firm will also be able to sponsor you. If there is no LIST X sponsor, the MOD authority responsible for placing the contract will sponsor your clearance.

Why does MOD insist on having sponsors for security clearances? Why can’t I just apply for a security clearance?

A security clearance provides a certain level of assurance at a point in time as to an individual’s suitability to have trusted access to sensitive information.

It 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.

This would not be possible in the case of private individuals. Additionally, Defence Business Services National Security Vetting (DBS NSV) is funded and staffed to meet forecast requirements for security vetting. It could not accommodate large numbers of additional clearances on an ad hoc basis.

Monitoring the effectiveness of our involvement

  • We will equest feedback from staff, customers and community partners on the effectiveness of our approach
  • Monitor levels of staff involvement, numbers and activities and report half yearly to the DBS NSV management team
  • Make use of the feedback we receive to develop our plans to maximise the impact of our involvement

e-forms

e-forms are available over the RLI (MOD restricted network), GSi (government restricted network) and internet. They provide both flexibility and help prompts for completing the vetting application online, thus improving the ease and speed of completion. The completed forms are then uploaded directly into the Cerberus case management system.

e-form applications are instigated by a sponsor on an agreed network (RLI, GSi or internet). Upon account creation by the sponsor the subject is automatically emailed a unique link to the relevant e-Form portal to complete the application.

There are many advantages of using an e-form including help prompts and in-built business rules to minimise or eliminate errors. This means that the number of rejected forms and requests for further information will be minimal. Also, vetting subjects are directed to complete only the questions that are relevant to them, the forms are flexible and allow the application to be saved at any stage and then once completed is submitted directly into Cerberus.

The whole technical solution for the Cerberus IT vetting system has been fully security accredited, which includes the assessment of security risks and how these are managed. This is from the completion of the security questionnaires online, through the RLI/GSi and Internet e-form portals, to the back end case management system and database, which manage the workflow of the vetting process and record the vetting information.

For people with no secure access, completion of an online SQ will be done on the e-form portal accessed through a secure site on the internet. This is the same type of set-up that is used when you access your online banking. You will notice that the web address line turns green in the web browser and displays a padlock which shows that the e-form is operating through a secure site albeit on the internet.

Initial access to the e-form portal is achieved only through a unique link which is sent to your chosen email address either automatically through your sponsor or through our helpdesk’s account creation process. This link is unique to your application and directs you to the e-Form portal where access is controlled by a thorough personal authentication process to verify identity, from which you are mandated to create your own login details that remain known only to you to enable subsequent access.

FAQ

Why am I being vetted now?

Because you are either being considered for a post where you will have access to highly sensitive information or assets, or because we are looking at your current SC or DV clearance to allow you to carry on in your present post or to allow you move to another SC or DV post.

What is developed vetting?

Developed vetting is the most thorough method of security vetting. The DV process includes a check of your identity documents and employment and education references.

We will carry out criminal records and credit reference checks and a check against security service records. We will also double check some of the references by writing to or interviewing the individuals who provided them. The individual being vetted will also be interviewed by a Vetting Officer.

Do I need developed vetting?

The usual criteria for requiring a DV are ‘long term, frequent and uncontrolled access to top secret information or assets…. or in order to satisfy requirements for access to material originating from other countries and international organisations’.

If you feel that you do not meet these criteria, you should query with your sponsor the need for you to be DV cleared.

I’ve been vetted before - why do I have to provide lots of the same information all over again?

Unfortunately, due to security reasons we are unable to pre-populate an individual’s form with information previously provided.

Why do you need medical information?

The e-form and security questionnaire explains how we collect and guard medical information. To enable us to fully assess an individual’s suitability to handle sensitive information, our vetting medical adviser may contact the individual’s doctor (or military medical officer) for confirmation on whether they have suffered from certain medical or psychological conditions. We may also request that an individual has a medical examination.

If an individual does not allow us access to their medical reports we can refuse their vetting clearance.

Why do you need my/my partner’s financial information?

If you or your partner have previously been or are currently in serious financial difficulty, or show signs of financial irresponsibility, you could be vulnerable to pressure or bribery.

Debts such as mortgages, loans or credit cards will not normally affect your suitability to hold a DV clearance as long as you are able to keep up the repayments properly. However your financial situation will be carefully considered and each case will be judged on its merits.

We may make enquiries if you seem to have large amounts of savings that you cannot explain. The Vetting Officer will ask you to bring some financial and other documents to the interview (see below for details).

If you have a partner we recommend you share all this information with them. Without your partner’s details we may have insufficient information to make a decision on your clearance. Please be assured that we do not retain any bank or credit card numbers.

There are more financial questions answered on the personal finance page of the vetting FAQs.

What will I be asked at interview as a vetting subject or as a referee?

This is the main worry for most people who go through the DV process. The subject interview is likely to be long; up to three hours is not unusual.

It will cover most areas of your life. The vetting officer will build as complete a picture of you as is possible. This is so we can make sure that you will be able to cope with access at the highest levels and will not become a security risk and a threat to national security.

We have to look at your loyalty, honesty and reliability, and whether you could be particularly vulnerable to bribery of blackmail. We will question you about your wider family background (relationships and influences), past experiences (if any) of drug taking, financial affairs, general political views (though not which Party you support), hobbies, foreign travel and so on.

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

You should be completely honest. The vetting officer will be experienced and it is unlikely that they will be shocked or surprised by anything you say. Please do not lie or hide information.

We will probably refuse your clearance if we later find out that you have lied to us or withheld information. If you tell the vetting officer about a previously undisclosed criminal offence the matter will be included in their interview report and will be assessed accordingly. A decision will then be made on what action is to be taken.

Sometimes people have aspects of their lives that they are ashamed of 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.

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 (Telephone: 01904 662153 or 01904 662489).

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

Where will I be interviewed?

Interviews are normally carried out at work during working hours. In some cases the Vetting Officer may ask to interview you at your home.

Will I be asked for any documents at the interview?

The following list is not exhaustive but these are the documents that vetting officers commonly ask to see (where appropriate). Please note that all documents must be originals.

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

General documents:

  • Evidence of identification, for example: birth certificate, passport*, driving licence, identity card
  • 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 discharge certificate
  • Curriculum vitae
  • Utility bills

*Passport is also required as evidence of travel.

Financial documents (in respect of you and your partner):

  • Bank current accounts (statements for the last three months)
  • Details and statements for the last three months of all charge and credit cards, store and mail order accounts
  • Details and statements of all loans and hire purchase agreements
  • Details of mortgage and copy of last mortgage statement
  • Details of any County Court Judgements
  • Last three pay statements
  • Documents and statements connected with savings and investments
  • Any other documents which support or help to explain any figures on the Financial Questionnaire

Can I bring a friend to the interview?

You can have a friend, colleague or relative at the interview. Most people prefer to be interviewed alone in view of the sensitive nature of some of the things that will be discussed.

Who should I name as referees and what will you ask them?

You should choose people who have known you well over a significant recent period of your life. We will ask them to describe you and your way of life away from work.

The vetting officer will double-check the information given in the vetting questionnaire. Please make sure that the referees you have nominated are aware that you have nominated them and are willing to be interviewed. Please also advise them that they will not necessarily be contacted.

(Note: An information leaflet is issued to all referees who are to be interviewed). It would also be helpful if you could advise anyone else who we might contact, such as your current/previous senior officers/line managers or educational establishment, that you are undergoing vetting and have agreed to the process.

Please note that our enquiries will not be confined to past and present employers and nominated character referees.

Who acts as a referee?

We ask former employers, senior officers and educational establishments for information about the person who is being vetted.

We also ask the person being vetted to choose some people who have known them well for a significant recent period in their life, to act as referees. We hope that they will ask such people for permission first and make sure that they are willing to be interviewed.

We will not necessarily contact all Referees who have been nominated. Our enquiries will not be confined to past and present employers and nominated character referees.

What do I do as a referee?

If we decide to use you as a referee, the vetting officer will question you to double-check the details that the person being vetted has given us and those we have collected by carrying out other checks.

After you have received the referee’s information leaflet the initial contact will be by telephone. There may be some delay due to operational priorities and other factors, so please be patient. Interviews will usually be face-to-face but may occasionally be conducted by telephone.

If you have sensitive information to divulge or feel uncomfortable discussing the person being vetted over the telephone, a face-to-face interview will always be arranged.

What are the definitions for routine priority and immediate requests for clearance?

DBS NSV operates the following definitions for Routine, Priority, and Immediate cases - the precedence markers recognised by the IT system and used to compute the intermediate state completion dates. The definitions are explained in the table below:

Type of case Description Process Criteria
ROUTINE Normal request Using normal procedures complete all action within the following days: for MOD customers CTC/SC 25 days. DV 95 days. For repayment customers: CTC/SC 30 days. DV 61,68,75,79 or 100 days (depending on level of service required) Requirement for application to fill security annotated post of position
PRIORITY Urgent request Takes priority over routine requests. Speedy action or attention to complete all action within the following calendar days: For all customer groups: CTC/SC 10 days DV 30 days As above, plus urgent operational or commercial requirement.
IMMEDIATE Instant request Takes precedence over all other requests, to complete action immediately in accordance with timescale agreed with customer. As above, plus critical operational or commercial requirement.

Note: DBS NSV uses a number of external agencies to process enquiries. These organisations are not within its control and there will be occasions when there will be a need for these agencies to make further external enquiries that will breach the required completion times noted above.

When this is the case the customer will be advised and an alternative strategy discussed as appropriate.

Can I employ staff while waiting for a security clearance?

There is no central regulation prohibiting the employment of people awaiting security clearance. The decision whether or not to do this, limiting access as necessary, is a risk management judgement for the area concerned and as advised by his or her security staff.

In making this judgement, the business manager must take into account the sensitivity of the business area, the information held, and local conditions of work and of the practicality of limiting access. If in doubt, Personnel Managers should deal with us directly. For a SC case contact the DBS NSV helpdesk (01904 662644) to agree arrangements.

Is there a requirement to re-vet people that rejoin within a year of leaving, other than in exceptional circumstances?

There is no requirement to re-vet staff that rejoin within a year of leaving, other than in exceptional circumstances. Where a security clearance needs to be transferred the receiving personnel authority/company should phone the DBS NSV helpdesk (01904 662644) at the outset to find out whether an individual holds a clearance and to initiate the transfer.

Feedback

We are keen to make sure that the DV process is carried out efficiently, professionally, fairly, and politely. You will be given the opportunity to complete a form which asks various questions about your experience with the DV process, and gives you space to make any other comments.

After your interview, we hope that you will take the time to fill in and return the form as we are always trying to improve the vetting process. You do not need to sign the form.

International Personnel Security Clearances

In the UK a ‘Personnel Security Clearance’ (PSC) to access NATO, EU or international partner’s classified information is based upon the subject holding a valid NSV clearance at the SC or DV level.

If you are an existing MOD employee or UK defence contractor and you require access to international classified information (at the level ‘Confidential’ or higher), to fulfil your duties then contact your local personnel Security Officer. This Security Officer should then contact the DBS Contact Centre for Vetting: DBS-NSV-CustomerEnquiries@mod.uk.

If you are a Security Officer of an International Organisation or foreign government and require a UK national to be vetted for access to international classified information (at the level ‘Confidential’ or higher), then you will need a Cerberus sponsor account. If you have a Cerberus sponsor account already you can submit a vetting application for the UK national by logging onto Cerberus and initiating a new request. If you do not have a sponsor account then you need to apply for one, as vetting applications are made electronically via Cerberus. Please consult Cabinet Office guidance before submitting an International Customer Sponsor Account application form, plus a short cover letter (or contractor PSC confirmation form) explaining and confirming the vetting requirement for the subject, to the UK National Security Authority: UK-NSA@cabinet-office.x.gsi.gov.uk.

If you are an NATO or EDA security officer that does not need to submit new applications, but you frequently need to check whether UK members of staff in your international organisation have existing security clearances, then you still need to hold a sponsor account. Please make clear in the “brief explanation” field of the International Customer Sponsor Account Application Form that you need the account for this purpose only. Once registered, you will be able to make enquiries on Cerberus.

In case of difficulty, you can seek assistance from the DBS Contact Centre for Vetting: DBS-NSV-CustomerEnquiries@mod.uk. You will need to give the subject’s full name, date of birth and place of birth, and your 7 digit Sponsor ID. Note that requests without an ID will not be processed.

It is important to note that the UK does not undertake speculative vetting, and will not process vetting application requests made by the subject directly.

Overseas interviews

JSP 440 (Part 6, Section 2, Chapter 9, Paragraph 11) provides policy advice on the requirement for sponsors to ensure that individuals have the appropriate level of security clearance before they are posted (or sent on temporary detachment) to foreign countries and that the security clearance remains valid for the period of the posting.

Due to the current financial restraints on the DBS NSV budget we will only conduct overseas vetting interviews in Germany, Holland, Belgium and Cyprus for MOD customers, as this is where our vetting officers are currently based. Interviews in other countries will not be completed for MOD or List X customers.

Personal finance

Why am I being sent a financial questionnaire now?

The reasons for this can vary. One of the standard checks we carry out when someone is being security cleared is with a credit reference agency. If you have been living overseas, or in service or similar accommodation, DBS NSV may have little or no information on you and we will be unable to assess your suitability for clearance. The completed questionnaire enables us to proceed with your clearance.

Sometimes, where you have told us about financial problems in the past, you will be sent a questionnaire so that we can assess your current situation.

I’m only SC cleared and none of my colleagues have been sent a questionnaire?

You may have been told that the FQ is only completed by people who are undergoing developed vetting. However, as explained above, it is also sent to people for other reasons. You are not being discriminated against. We simply want you to provide us with the financial information we need to complete our checks.

Do I have to answer all the questions?

Yes. An incomplete FQ may have to be returned to you and this will delay the vetting process. It is essential that you are open and honest in your answers. Please do not lie or hide information. Doing so is likely to result in your clearance being refused.

Why do you need my/my partner’s financial information?

If you or your partner have previously been, or are currently in serious financial difficulty, or show signs of financial irresponsibility, you could be vulnerable to pressure or bribery.

Debts such as mortgages, loans or credit cards will not normally affect your suitability to hold a DV clearance as long as you are able to keep up the repayments properly. However your financial situation will be carefully considered and each case will be judged on its merits.

We may make enquiries if you seem to have large amounts of savings that you cannot explain. The vetting officer will ask you to bring some financial and other documents to the interview (see below for details).

If you have a partner we recommend you share all this information with them. Without your partner’s details we may have insufficient information to make a decision on your clearance. Please be assured that we do not retain any bank or credit card numbers.

What will happen if I refuse to complete the questionnaire?

We will be unable to complete our checks and you will not get a security clearance.

What happens if you are not satisfied with my answers?

We may have to contact you for clarification or to obtain additional information.

If you are in financial difficulties, or there are other concerns, we may arrange for a vetting officer to interview you. The vetting officer may ask you to produce documentary evidence in order to verify the information you provided in the questionnaire.

If you are subsequently given a clearance we may decide that your financial position will be kept under review. You will be told if this is to happen.

Will you pass the information on the FQ to anyone else?

All personal information gathered during the vetting process is handled in the strictest confidence by DBS NSV.

In some cases, where serious risks have been identified, we may discuss the case with the appropriate security authorities. In an even smaller number of risky cases, and only where the person being vetted agrees, line management may be given some relevant information and be asked to help manage the risk.

There is an extremely remote possibility of disclosure of vetting information in connection with criminal or civil proceedings. If you have any concerns about confidentiality, please telephone DBS NSV for advice.

Can you provide advice on financial problems?

No. We cannot provide financial advice to vetting subjects. Organisations that may be able to offer advice include the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, the Credit Consumer Counselling Service, or the National Debtline.

Can you send me a copy of any information you have received from the credit reference company?

No. But you can obtain a copy of your credit record by going to ‘Experian’ and paying a small fee.

Privacy and data protection

The Data Protection Act of 1998 came into force on 1st March 2000 and sets out rules for processing personal information and, with some exceptions, applies to vetting paper records as well as those held on computers.

DBS NSV are required to hold your personal data lawfully, to ensure that the data is accurate and kept up to date and is not used for any other purpose than national security vetting. The security questionnaires show when and under what circumstances personal data may be shared and the checks that will be made. Personal data will not be passed outside the security community, (including to police authorities) except in exceptional circumstances.

Subject access requests

Vetting subjects are entitled to apply under DPA 98 to see the personal data held on them in DBS NSV. This should be done by submitting a subject access request to the DBS NSV.

On receipt of a properly completed identified SAR, DBS NSV will have 40 calendar days to reply.

Some data may be supplied in redacted (edited) form or withheld in accordance with the provisions of the Act, especially where it is supplied by third party or falls under a national security exemption.

Concerns about accuracy or relevance of personal data

If you feel that any of the information held on you in DBS NSV is not correct or needs updating, or if you have concerns about the way it is processed, please contact the NSV Data Protection Officer.

Retention periods

Vetting records are generally kept within DBS NSV for an individual’s working life. The standards of secure storage and confidentiality described above are kept for the entire retention period, whether or not the Subject is a current National Security Vetting holder and irrespective of the sensitivity of the personal data.

Providing information about vetting subjects

If you have been named as a supervisor or character referee for someone who requires NSV clearance, you may be asked to provide information about that person. This will be in the form of an interview with an NSV Vetting Officer or by a written testimony form. As with data supplied by the vetting subject, this will not be passed outside the security community except in exceptional circumstances, and will not be supplied to the vetting subject without your express permission.

If you work outside the Government email network and receive a written testimony form as an email attachment, you will see the following notice:

You may choose to return your response by e-mail or in hard copy to the address shown on the form: a reply paid envelope can be provided on request. Please be aware that if your response contains sensitive personal data e-mail is not a secure method of transmission unless sent from a government network!

It is not possible to define “sensitive” personal data, although you may feel this applies to data which is clearly private and which the vetting Subject would not wish widely known. If you wish further advice or to discuss the type of information you are providing and how it may be transmitted, please contact the NSV Data Protection Officer on 01904 665802.

Requests for ‘security certificate’ for employment purposes

Vetting/data subjects should note that although the record of security decisions are kept in DBS NSV, the formal notifications of clearance announcing decisions are sent only to the vetting sponsor. Vetting subjects are not sent a copy of the notification of clearance, primarily for security reasons: the notification represents a vetting decision made on the day of issue, and clearance may have been lapsed or withdrawn at any time since that date.

If at any time an individual needs to know his/her vetting status for employment reasons, the sponsor or prospective sponsor should contact the DBS NSV Help Desk. DBS NSV will release a copy of a Notification of Clearance in response to a SAR that specifically requests this, but it will be amended to show that this does not necessarily represent current vetting status. The following wording appears on all current Notifications:

‘This notification of clearance refers to the employment and sponsor for which it was raised. It may be transferable: refer to appropriate security regulations (SPF/JSP440) for details. Please note that a clearance may be withdrawn or may otherwise have its status changed at any time before its expiry date. To confirm that this clearance remains valid, you should (if you hold a sponsor / vetting status information (VSI) account) use the Cerberus VSI facility. If you do not hold such an account contact the DBS NSV helpdesk (01904-662644) to check the status of the clearance.’

There should therefore be no reason for vetting subjects to request a copy of their notification of clearance for employment reasons.

Registering as a sponsor

It is a requirement that all sponsors are registered before they can submit an e-form or hard copy NSV applications. Therefore if you need to sponsor an application or have a requirement to frequently enquire about the vetting status of a subject (ie. whether they have a valid NSV clearance) through the vetting status information facility but do not have a sponsor account then you will need to follow the guidance below.

Any NSV applications received without a sponsor account will be returned to source because the new tighter security measures require full registration of sponsors. Once you have registered, you will need to provide your unique identifier when making any future enquiries to the DBS NSV helpdesk.

You will need to contact your departmental security authority to discuss your requirement to act as a sponsor for NSV applications or to have access to a VSI account. If the DSA agrees to the request they will send you a registration form and guidance notes to complete and return to them. Should the DSA not approve the request they will inform you of the reason for the denial.

The DSA will check the registration form and sanction the requested account(s) and forward this information to DBS NSV for an account to be created in Cerberus. Please note that in no circumstances should the sponsor send their completed registration form directly to DBS NSV, the DSA must first authorise all sponsor account requests.

The account will normally take 2 working days to process and once complete the Cerberus system will automatically notify the sponsor by email on how to verify and action their account. The system will also automatically send the new sponsor their unique sponsor ID by email. This unique ID must be entered on all e-forms and hardcopy NSV applications. Our helpdesk advisors will also request this unique ID from all callers before they give out any vetting information.

Should the sponsor forget or misplace their unique sponsor ID they should contact the DBS NSV helpdesk who will action the request to the customer accounts team, they will then respond to the request.

Further information on getting a sponsor account can be sought by contacting the relevant DSA for your business area.

Safeguards

The vetting charter sets out the rights which people are entitled to when undergoing the vetting process. If you think the DV interview was conducted unfairly or improperly see our complaints procedure.

We treat anyone who goes through the vetting process fairly. We take care to ensure that all information we collect during the vetting process is accurate.

All personal information gathered during the vetting process is handled in the strictest confidence. If serious risks have been identified, we may discuss case authorities with the appropriate security authorities.

In a small number of cases, and only where the individual being vetted agrees, line management may be provided with some relevant information and be asked to help manage the risk. There is a remote possibility of disclosure of vetting information in connection with criminal or civil proceedings.

Using the e-form portal

Once a sponsor account has been created by DBS NSV, a confirmation registration email is automatically generated and sent to the sponsor.

Use of hard copy forms

Submitting NSV applications through the e-form portals is the preferred method. However, the new NSV hard copy scannable forms may be submitted under exceptional circumstances.

The new hard copy form NSV001 and form NSV002 are Cabinet Office forms. In order to process these forms they must conform to the guidelines. Please ensure that any NSV001 and NSV002 forms that have been pre-downloaded meet the following criteria before being completed:

  • The number ‘39422’ appears in the top left hand corner of the NSV001 Form and the number ‘31540’ appears in the top left hand corner of the NSV002 Form
  • The unique serial number in the bottom right hand corner has generated 8 digits

If a form is received without this information then it will be retuned as unsuitable for the Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scanning process. If you do have forms returned to you please ensure that you read the accompanying letter in full and refer to the footnotes at the bottom.

The ability to save these forms either during or after completion is not available. These forms will have to be completed in one sitting and printed when complete. Or a blank form can be printed off and completed by hand.

The e-forms have been designed for ease of use and contain both user prompts and extensive built in business rules which minimise or eliminate the need to return forms for further information. They also have the advantage of being able to be saved during completion, making them a much more efficient method for submitting NSV applications. With this in mind please carefully consider your reasons for submitting an application using the hard copy forms.

The old coloured forms and the scannable 1109 and 1938 forms have now ceased to be “Legal Tender” and can no longer be used for NSV applications.

Vetting charter

  • We will treat our vetting subjects, referees and stakeholders fairly, openly and with respect. Vetting subjects and referees may change their mind about taking part in the vetting process at any time
  • Any information that is given to us will be treated in confidence**
  • Vetting interviews will be carried out in private at a mutually agreed time and location
  • If vetting subjects or referees prefer to be interviewed by a Vetting Officer of their own sex, age profile or ethnic group, we will try to accommodate their request
  • Vetting subjects and referees may ask us to justify any questions that they feel are irrelevant or invade their privacy unduly without good reason
  • We will offer vetting subjects the option of receiving a copy of the vetting interview, unless the organisation that requires the clearance has a different policy
  • We will give customers, stakeholders and interviewees the chance to provide feedback about our service and the vetting process and advise them how to complain should they wish to do so
  • If we refuse a vetting clearance we will tell the vetting subject what actions are available to them

All personal information gathered during the vetting process is handled in the strictest confidence by DBS NSV. In a very small number of cases, where serious risks have been identified, we may discuss the case with the relevant security and personnel authorities. In a few cases, and with the permission of the person being vetted, line management may be given some relevant information and be asked to help manage the risk. There is an extremely remote possibility of disclosure of vetting information in connection with criminal or civil proceedings. If you have any concerns about confidentiality please contact us for advice.

Contact us

When contacting the DBS NSV helpdesk sponsors are required to identify themselves by their sponsor ID. ASI/VSI information can only be discussed with registered sponsors that have cerberus sponsor accounts.

If you have forgotten your sponsor ID or you have registered for an account but not received your sponsor ID yet, please contact the DBS NSV helpdesk. You will be asked a number of questions to establish your identity. Once your identity has been confirmed we will inform you of your sponsor ID.

If you have not registered for an account please contact your authorising body or DSO. If you are MOD, a list of authorising bodies can be found on the Defence Net / DBS NSV Team site / Departmental Security Authorities link. Other government department sponsors should contact their DSO.

Defence Business Services National Security Vetting
Building 107
Imphal Barracks
Fulford Road
York YO10 4AS

DBS NSV helpdesk

Telephone: 01904 662 644 Military: 94777 2644

Email: DBS-NSV-customerenquiries@mod.uk

Opening hours:

Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4pm Friday, 9am to 3pm

Please note that the Contact Centre for Vetting is closed for internal training for an hour every Wednesday from 11 am to 12 midday.

We welcome your feedback about the DBS NSV and the service we provide. Please contact us using the email address above or write to us at the address above.

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