If you’re looking for work in government, chances are you’ve heard about security clearances. For many, it’s a topic that makes us feel our hands are tied.

What are they? Do you need one? How do you get one? Who issues them? What do they cost? So many questions need to be answered.

Our recruitment experts have pulled together this starter guide to help demystify the security clearance process.

What is a security clearance?

A security clearance (also called vetting) determines if you can be entrusted with classified information and resources as part of your work. You’ll only be granted a clearance if you demonstrate integrity and character traits indicating you can protect Australian Government resources. These traits are honesty, trustworthiness, maturity, tolerance, resilience and loyalty.

You don’t need a security clearance to access information that doesn’t have a security classification.

Are there different levels?

In Australia, the federal, state and territory governments have four security clearance levels—Baseline, Negative Vetting Level 1 (NV1), Negative Vetting Level 2 (NV2) and Positive Vetting (PV).

Each level allows you to access different levels of information, from ‘protected’ to ‘top secret’. Here are more details on security clearance levels.

Who issues them?

The Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA)—Australia’s central vetting agency—conducts security clearance assessments for federal, state and territory agencies.

How do I know if I need one?

Job applications specify if a security clearance is required, and what level.

How do I get one?

As an individual, you can’t sponsor yourself for, or order and pay for a security clearance yourself. You need to be sponsored by a government department or official to apply. This is a Catch-22 for many applicants who can’t get a government job without a clearance but can’t get a clearance without being sponsored by government.

If you’re sponsored, you apply through ASGVA.

Important:

  • You must be an Australian citizen to get a security clearance and be able to prove this.
  • If your application has errors it will be rejected and sent back, causing delays, so double check you’ve provided all information required and that it’s 100 per cent accurate.

How long does it take to get a security clearance, and can I speed up the process?

Getting a security clearance doesn’t happen overnight. Processing timeframes can range from a month up to 12 months. As an applicant you have no control over this and can’t ask for urgent turnaround.

I’m interested a position that requires a security clearance but don’t have one. Can I still apply?

You can apply, but it takes time to get a security clearance, so if the position requires an immediate start, you likely won’t get the job.

What information do I need to provide?

You’ll need much more than photo ID when applying for a security clearance. You’ll need tax details, referee details, a statutory declaration signed by a Justice of the Peace and other information. The number and type of documents varies depending on the clearance level. The higher the security clearance, the more background information you’ll need to provide, including where you’ve lived for the past 15 years.

Does it cost anything to get a security clearance and who pays?

Costs range from more than $700 for Baseline up to more than $10,000 for a PV. You’ll need to check if the organisation you’re joining (public or private sector) will cover the costs. If you’re applying for government on-going or non-ongoing roles, the department you’ll be working for will do so.

What are my responsibilities as a holder of a security clearance?

As a security clearance holder, you have many responsibilities. AGSVA has these on its website.

How often does my security clearance need to be reviewed?

All security clearances are reviewed at regular intervals. Review times vary depending on level and if you have continuous work with the same department:

Baseline—15 years

Negative Vetting 1—10 years

Negative Vetting 2—7 years

Positive Vetting—7 years.

AGSVA will email you when your security clearance is to be reviewed. Note: Keep your contact details up-to-date with AGSVA or they won’t be able to contact you. This can be detrimental to your clearance review. It’s your responsibility to keep AGSVA up-to-date.

I have a police check. Will this be enough to apply for a security clearance?

No it’s not. You might need a police check as part of your security clearance application, but a police check alone isn’t enough. They are two different things.

I’m registered with a recruitment agency. Can they apply for a security clearance for me?

Recruitment agencies can’t sponsor you for a security clearance or apply for you. face2face will, however, help you better understand security clearances and how this affects jobs you want to apply for.

TIP

If you land a government role that didn’t require a security clearance, you can—once you’ve proven yourself—ask if your department will sponsor you for a Baseline security clearance. If the department says yes, they may require you to cover the cost. It would be a great investment.