Security clearance can mean a lot of different things, but in the UK is generally used when dealing with jobs in defence and national security. These jobs are sensitive in nature and could involve being privy to secret information or national secrets. People employed to work in the Army, or in the control room of a nuclear power station have to be thoroughly checked out to make sure that they themselves don’t pose any risk to national security.

There are four different levels of security clearance, and the level required for each candidate will depend on the position under consideration, or their level within a given organisation. These are:

  • Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) – the entry level, least detailed form of security checking.
  • Security Check (SC)
  • Counter-Terrorism Check (CTC)
  • Developed Vetting (DV)


BPSS is the standard pre-employment checking for people who are applying to work in government departments, even those who won’t have access to anything particularly sensitive. People applying for jobs which need BPSS clearance need a basic criminal records check, must prove their identity, satisfy the conditions of a right to work check, and be able to account for their employment history over the past three years. BPSS checks are usually only done once, when taking up your first government job.


Security Check is a next step up in checking and is also sometimes known as national security vetting. You can’t apply for this sort of clearance on yourself; only your employer can apply for this on your behalf. Security clearance applies to contractors as well as to permanent employees. Employees will have the BPSS screening detailed above, but also a credit reference check, and will have to complete a questionnaire giving information about their friends, relatives and any political or pressure groups they may belong to.

Counter Terrorist Check

This clearance is used to check people who are going to be working in close proximity to public figures, for example in Parliament, or Buckingham Palace. Someone having CTC clearance will complete a range of screening forms, allowing the authorities to look into their background in some detail, including criminal records checks, security questionnaire and a MI5 questionnaire about your relatives too. Due to the in-depth nature of these checks, and the need to look into criminal records in some depth, roles requiring a counter terrorist check are usually restricted to people who have lived in the UK for at least three years.

Developed Vetting

This is the highest level of vetting, reserved for people who are going to be working with information classed as secret, or Top Secret. Developed vetting requires someone to have been in the UK for at least 9 years out of the previous 10, and to supply lots of information about their employment history, nationality, parents, spouse, and criminal records. A criminal record may not be a bar to passing clearance, as the authorities are more interested in whether the applicant, or their family appears in the security services information about radical groups or terrorism.