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Security Clearance FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a security clearance?

Certain government projects require individuals to possess a high level of integrity and immunity to influence or coercion. In Australia, this level of integrity is measured by a security clearance. A security clearance indicates that an individual possesses honesty, trustworthiness, maturity, resilience, tolerance and the loyalty deserving of gaining access to sensitive information.

Who is eligible?

Only Australian citizens with a verifiable background are eligible for an Australian Government security clearance. Applicants must provide evidence of their citizenship and provide independent, reliable verification for time spent outside of Australia.

What is the security clearance process?

The security clearance process involves conducting a series of checks to determine your suitability to access sensitive information. It involves an investigation into an individual’s background and character. You must have a sponsor (either the Government, or your organisation) to be eligible for a security clearance. Simply put, you need a reason to be security cleared.

There are four (4) different clearance levels ranging from Baseline to the highest level - Positive Vetted (PV). The higher the security clearance level, the process is more detailed, time-consuming and invasive.

Clearance level

Level of ongoing access permitted

Level of conditional Access


Classified resources up to and including PROTECTED.

Negative Vetting Level 1 (NV1)

Classified resources up and including SECRET.

NV1 security clearance holders can be provided with temporary access to TOP SECRET classified resources in certain circumstances.

Negative Vetting Level 2 (NV2)

Classified resources up to and including TOP SECRET.

An NV2 security clearance will be sufficient for most roles requiring intermittent access to TOP SECRET classified resources.

Positive Vetting (PV)

Classified resources up to and including TOP SECRET, including some caveated information.

PV clearances should only be sought where there is a demonstrated need to access extremely sensitive information, capabilities, operations and systems. Entities should first consider whether an NV2 clearance would meet the position’s requirement for a security clearance.

​What level of security clearance do I need?

The level of clearance required will vary on a case-by-case basis. In Australia, the security clearance level will vary depending on the extent to which the individual will be directly or indirectly exposed to sensitive or classified information. You may also require a higher security clearance if you are in a position of trust or for specific roles within government departments. Typically we recommend applicants apply for a Baseline security clearance first.

​What occurs during the vetting process?

Obtaining a security clearance is not easy (as outlined above). Your application will be vetted to assess your suitability and maturity to hold a clearance and if approved, you will be subject to ongoing monitoring to ensure you maintain the integrity needed for your clearance. At any time, you can withdraw your application by contacting the relevant body managing your application at that point in time (VSG, it’s DISP partner or AGSVA).

​What happens to my personal information?

At all times, your information is obtained and treated in the strictest confidence in lines with the Privacy Act 1988 and Information Act 1982. Your information will be passed to third parties including our DISP partner and government agencies as part of the application process, however this is purely in connection with you obtaining a security clearance. VSG will always contact you before providing your details to any third parties regarding employment opportunities.

​What happens if my VSG pre-vetting application is unsuccessful?

VSG are responsible for managing the pre-vetting process. There is no appeal process if VSG are not satisfied with your pre-vetting application. This does not mean that other entities will not assist you in obtaining a security clearance.

​What happens if my Security Clearance application is unsuccessful?

You will be provided with additional information on how to appeal a security clearance application decision from AGSVA once your application is referred to them. There are no refunds for unsuccessful applications as AGSVA still charge our DISP member for unsuccessful applications and this is why the pre-vetting application requires extensive information to be disclosed.

​Tips for completing your security clearance application

What if the name on my birth certificate is different to my passport or driver’s license?

Please list any additional names under the Other/Former Names section of your application. Underneath this option is a Notes section which will allow you to explain why you have another name.

What if I don’t know the exact dates for some of the questions?

That’s ok, we are not expecting you to remember the specific date you moved into a particular residential address or returned from an overseas trip 10 years ago. Providing a date which is as accurate as possible is what is important. The security clearance process is a test of your integrity, openness and honesty.

How long does the application process take?

Obtaining a security clearance is a length process and can take anywhere between 3 months and 2 years. We will keep you updated at each stage of the pre-vetting process until your application has progressed to our DISP partner.