Ask LH: How Do I Get Security Clearance For A Job?

Dear Lifehacker, Can employment agencies make it a requirement of an applicant to have a security clearance? I'm looking for work at the moment, but a lot of the jobs that I'm actually qualified in state that already having a security clearance is essential. My understanding is that I need to actually get sponsored by an employer to get one. Whenever I've stated that I don't have a clearance but would be willing to apply for one, I get the automated email response that I'm not successful.

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So I tried not mentioning it in my applications. As a result, I've started getting replies from recruiters showing that they're interested, only to have them immediately change their mind once they find out I don't have a clearance. So how could this be allowed? I can't get one if they don't sponsor me, but they won't hire me unless I already have one. Thanks, Code Meh

Dear CM,

Companies that work closely with the Australian Government as well as government agencies themselves may require security clearances from employees. To get the clearance, however, you'll have to get one of the government agencies to agree to sponsor you. The agency will then request a clearance on your behalf, which goes through the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA).

It is not possible to apply for clearance on your own. A prerequisite of getting a security clearance is that you must be an Australian citizen unless you can get a waiver from the government. If you're applying for a job, your potential employer will let you know whether you need to be vetted for the position and what level of clearance you require.

There are four levels of security vetting and as you move further up, you will be subjected to a more rigorous checking process which then becomes more expensive, time consuming and intrusive. The level of clearance you need to obtain will be dependent on the type of classified information you'll need to access in your job and is not based on rank or seniority.

Here's how the AGSVA describes each level:

  • Baseline Vetting: permits access to classified information/resources up to and including PROTECTED.
  • Negative Vetting Level 1: permits access to classified information/resources up to and including SECRET.
  • Negative Vetting Level 2: permits access to classified information/resources up to and including TOP SECRET.
  • Positive Vetting: permits access to resources at all classification levels, including certain types of caveated and codeword information.

If a government agency does agree to sponsor you, then the process is fairly straight forward. You start off by completing an online questionnaire for the AGSVA. You will then be required to send in supporting documents and depending on the level of clearance you're applying for the AGSVA may need to interview you and the referees you have listed down in your application.

While it can be a bit of a pain to apply for a security clearance in the first place, unfortunately it's unavoidable for certain jobs. Your best bet is to ask for prospective employers to kick off the vetting process for you. Government agencies that do require security clearance will likely pay for the whole process as well, so you won't be left out of pocket.

Cheers, Lifehacker

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    You can at least go to State Police and ask for a security check on you for jobs. This does cost you but it's a start

    The reality is that the market probably has enough applicants with an existing clearance that the employers just go with them because it is easier. It's an employers' market at the moment. Sorry bro.

    It is interesting to note that it is against APS guidelines to discriminate based on a (lack of) security clearance. This also applies to contracted positions.

    However, it seems to be one of those 'open secret' things in the Canberra labour market that occurs.

    My suggestion, apply for departmental roles rather than labour hire agencies, and make sure to check (as plenty of jobs don't get put on seek).

    Try to get an entry level job so you can just get a baseline clearance. Once you have that, you can easily apply for a position that better suits your skills and experience and upgrade your clearance as necessary. Just be warned, the clearance paperwork and process isn't fun or quick.

    I think the candidate is experiencing issues due to new costs incurred by the sponsoring agent. So hence a candidate with an existing clearance is more economical and efficient. Also note if you do want to pursue such opportunities you will also need a clean history. Try getting a police check first but through the AFP to gauge suitability.

    There's a couple of other points to be made here. Getting your foot int he door is the hard bit. Some agencies require you to get a NV2 to start with them and your employment is contingent on this. The job advert will say this. Once you are in, loss of the clearance for whatever reason will mean your employment will be terminated. If you are a contractor, and you have a clearance, it will be made inactive. If you go to work else, the new agency can ask the previous agency for your details and they will decide whether to accept it or not. Note that if you get a PV to work in one of the intelligence agencies, there is not, at present, any portability between them. It can take more than a year to get a PV at the moment.

    If an employment agency advertises a position stating that a job applicant must have a pre-existing security clearance, they are potentially discriminating, breaking the law and in breach of their contract with the government agency they are working for. You should report them to the AGSVA.

    There are quite a few out there doing exactly that as we speak.

    I live in s.a. I'm a child care worker & after a year off work lm trying to re-enter the workforce & i have been on the clearance round about since April. I needed a DCSI clearance but needed to be sponsored but to get sponsored I needed to update 1st cert & child safe training first. Ive done that and have the all important agency sponsorship so applied for my clearance 6th August and I'm still waiting for the clearance; meanwhile the 1st aid & child safe training get older and at this rate will need renewing before I get work. I know people quote 'you have to spend money to make money' but I don't have a money tree. I have heard about s.aussies loosing there homes because of the long wait, it's just ridiculous and I have to wonder what the effect on s.a. unemployment figures would be if the clearance system worked in a timely manner.

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