Security clearance in the UK?
January 29, 2009 1:27 PM   Subscribe

Another security clearance question, but in the UK. Difficulty: I'm from the US.

So, to my surprise, I've fallen into a job that requires a security clearance! I LOLed when I found out I'd need one, it's never something I ever thought I'd get. I've been in the UK four years, I don't have any criminal record, even arrests, and I have very little credit history here in the UK (I've got a bank account with some bounced direct debits, don't think they go on your credit history do they?)

The problem is, that in the US I haven't filed taxes for several years (I know, I know - with what I earned I don't think I'd have had to pay anything) and I am defaulted on a student loan. Is this likely to prevent me having clearance? The form doesn't have any financial questions on it at all, its a very short salmon-coloured form and just asks about addresses and parents' addresses and whatnot.

I am aware that it will take a while for them to get this because I'm American, thats not a problem work wise. It's the lowest level of clearance, SECRET. Many thanks for your help.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (7 answers total)
This is the one that takes something like six months for them to complete, yes? Your unfiled taxes and defaulted loan might flag you up as not being entirely inclined to play by the rules, or that you possibly some integrity issues, but it may not prevent you from gaining clearance. It depends on how long ago that all happened, what you've done since, and a host of other factors. Not filing your taxes because you just didn't feel like it isn't going to give you a responsible glow, but there are worse things you could have done. The agencies involved will likely return what information they can gather about you and make an overall determination as to your general integrity and ability to keep things to yourself that aren't meant to be shared. In other words, like many things in Britain, it probably depends on the opinion of the person processing your application, and how they interpret your history against their guidelines.

File your taxes! Not hard for an expat, especially if you don't owe - and saves you a whole world of trouble!
posted by Grrlscout at 2:17 PM on January 29, 2009

I'm told that in addition to looking for signs that you're (un)trustworthy, security clearances also look for indications that you're coërcable — the specific example being that if you're gay, then maybe you'll have a hard time getting a clearance because it's possible blackmail material. (Assumes you're in the closet.) Likewise, a habit of running up large debts (gambling, classically) is a liability, so they might look for that; but occasional bounced checks, etc., isn't really, so they might not care. All this is hearsay, of course…
posted by hattifattener at 2:58 PM on January 29, 2009

I guess it will take longer than usual to get cleared - because they'll have to get in touch with US authorities and such like. I wouldn't imagine they'll be looking for your US credit history, for example (bounced cheques don't appear on your UK credit record), but might non-filing of taxes be the sort of thing they might volunteer. I would take issue with hattifattener's example though - being gay is now no obstacle to security clearance (although it might be if you were married and closetted I suppose - but how would they know?)
posted by prentiz at 4:34 PM on January 29, 2009

Years ago, I gather, it was; I'm glad to hear they've figured out that being gay doesn't automatically make you a blackmail target any more. It was an illustrative example.
posted by hattifattener at 7:18 PM on January 29, 2009

Sounds like basic clearance. Don't sweat it too much. Be honest on the form and wait for them to lose the fucking thing 12 times and take 6 months to stamp it 'cleared'
posted by fullerine at 6:06 AM on January 30, 2009

Spoke to someone I know who had to get enhanced UK security clearances for her job... you'll be fine. Most of what they'll be looking for is criminal sorts of behaviours than not. Not filing taxes from overseas isn't on the same par as having an undischarged conviction for embezzlement.
posted by Grrlscout at 6:09 AM on January 30, 2009

You may have to fill in a Financial Questionnaire (FQ) from the DVA, as some information on your finances won't be immediately available from UK-based credit agencies, etc.

FQ is designed to ask about incomings and outgoings, and costs of responsibilities, including credit behavior (do you run up large balances and pay them off a bit at a time, or clear them off quickly). As commented above, they're looking for ways that pressure can be brought upon you - financial stuff is probably the easiest way for outsiders to gain leverage on you.

Never, ever lie on a security information questionnaire. Even if it's something that you're deeply embarrassed about, tell the truth - your colleagues (or colleagues-to-be) will never know, only the DVA (Defence Vetting Agency). They'll pass along a yes or no to your employer without any explanation or additional notes.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 12:44 PM on January 31, 2009

« Older Smelling-Nose Dog?   |   Dairy-free frosting alternatives, please. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.