A guide to understanding security clearances for Australian government roles

09 Nov, 2021

Interested in a career in Federal Government? For many roles, to even be considered, you will need to hold a security clearance.

Why? Because government agencies deal with varying levels of sensitive and confidential information that can only be accessed by security cleared workers.

In this blog, we provide a guide to help you understand what security clearances are and how to acquire and maintain them.

The four levels of security clearance:

The level of security clearance you need for a government role is determined by the amount of access you’ll need to sensitive information. The higher the sensitivity, the higher clearance you will need.

There are four security clearance levels in the Australian Government:

  1. Baseline Clearance – Access to protected information
  2. Negative Vetting Level 1 (NV1) – Access to secret information
  3. Negative Vetting Level 2 (NV2) – Access to top secret information
  4. Positive Vetting (PV) – Access to top secret information when NV2 clearance isn’t sufficient

According to Government data, over 49,000 new security clearances were completed in 2019-20, and over 400,000 active clearances were maintained in the same year.

So, the key question is, how do you join this exclusive talent pool?

How to apply for security clearance?

The Federal Government, like any business, wants the best talent. But, unlike commercial businesses, they demand additional levels of certainty pertaining to your eligibility and suitability to safeguard classified government data.

To be eligible, you need to be an Australian citizen, which is a challenging hurdle in itself for many migrant candidates irrespective of their technical capability.  You also need to understand that the only way to get a clearance is to win a role that requires a security clearance with a client who is willing to clear and sponsor it. This means you can’t seek out clearance by yourself. Once you’ve ticked these boxes, you’ll then need to be vetted by the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA).

This vetting assessment is extensive and probes most aspects of your life. This includes your identity, citizenship, background (between 5-10 years), digital footprint, referees, qualifications, education history, criminal history and financial history. Furthermore, you may also have to undergo additional security interviews and psychological assessments to prove your fit for clearance in the eyes of the government. The higher the clearance, the more hoops you’ll have to jump through.

Another important consideration is that obtaining a security clearance can take time. This isn’t due to the length of the vetting process, but often a large backlog of applications to the AGSVA. This means a baseline clearance can take 3 months, and an NV1 clearance can take up to six months.

As a result of this delay, some government entities tend to prefer candidates who are already cleared to fill their vacancies quicker. However, at the same time, these entities cannot disqualify a candidate solely because they don’t have an existing clearance. This is discrimination.

How to maintain your clearance?

Security clearances aren’t forever. Irrespective of your clearance level, like a drivers license or a passport, at some point it’ll need to be renewed.

Revalidation ranges from 7-15 years depending on your level of clearance. Additionally, you must be in a job that requires a clearance at your renewal date and be working at an entity willing to sponsor the renewal. If this isn’t the case, the clearance will be cancelled. Such measures ensure that only the most relevant talent maintains security clearance to work in sensitive public sector roles.

This means If you want a career within the Federal Government, chances are you’ll need to obtain a security clearance. If you meet the criteria and are deemed suitable in the eyes of the government, such clearance will give you access to a wide range of job opportunities across the government sector. At Ignite, we are specialists in recruitment at all levels of Government, and have extensive experience connecting security cleared candidates with our large network of Federal and State Government clients.  For more information, visit our website and contact us today.