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Several job opportunities, especially in the public sector and often in the private sector, require security clearance from individuals (permanent or contractors) working on the project or having access to sensitive project information.
A Public Works (Canada) web site provides information on security clearance, as well as the forms to be completed:
Here is a brief overview of the various clearance levels and how to proceed.
Levels of Security Clearance
Security clearance has several levels. Applications must be submitted through a formal process and special forms must be completed. The applications are processed by the RCMP and other security authorities as the case applies. The typical levels you may apply for are:
Enhanced Reliability: generally obtained in about 2 weeks. It provides a check on your criminal records, places of residence and employment, especially over the past 5 years.
Secret Level: generally obtained in 6 months, however this average depends on ease of access to information pertaining to you. It provides a thorough check of your life history over the past 10 years. Expect that your present or former acquaintances may be interviewed (directly or indirectly), that your purchase habits may be investigated (credit card usage), and that you may be interviewed in person. Residence abroad tends to slow down the process, as an international check is conducted.
Top Secret Level: generally obtained in 12 months or so. It provides a thorough check of your life history over the past 20 years. Expect the same types of checks as for Secret Level.
NATO Level: often obtained in 12 months or so. This is the most thorough check you may expect, often checking back to your childhood, eating habits and what have you!... This is as close as you may get to playing James Bond without risking your life.
Unfortunately for many, a simple misdemeanor conviction in your youth may be held against you; I believe that common sense applies in most cases, but you should expect fairly stringent rules for Top Secret and NATO Secret levels, even more so after the events of September 11.
Normal Process Steps
It is generally recommended that you secure your Enhanced Reliability Check (ERC) first prior to moving on to Secret Level or above. The ERC process is fairly fast, normally valid for 10 years, and will open you many doors to government-type contracts.
In order to apply for security clearance, you need to find yourself a sponsor. A typical method for finding a sponsor is to:
identify agencies that deal with government contracts; then
identify through these agencies positions that require security clearance; then
identify within these positions the ones you would qualify for; then
apply for these positions.
If an agency feels that you are indeed suitable for such position(s) or potential position(s) requiring security clearance, it will offer to sponsor your application. You will need to complete the forms, and the agency should be in a position to follow through. Remember, security clearance is prompted by a specific position for which you could potentially qualify. You cannot apply for security clearance just for the heck of it! You should have a valid reason to apply (i.e., current or potential job requirement).
Note that you may also obtain sponsorship from private companies where you are offered a permanent position. Such companies normally work directly with the government on a variety of projects, primarily in the Defense Industry.
Voiding Security Clearance
Once a security clearance is granted to you, ensure that you record the file number. This clearance is associated with the agency or company that sponsored you. They have the right to request that it be void. Examples of such a situation are:
* you accept a position with another company
* the agency go bankrupt (i.e., they can no longer sponsor you)
* your permanent job is being terminated
* your job is terminated for cause.
Fortunately, most agencies value a good business relationship with their candidates (current and future) and will maintain your file active. Agencies know that:
they are not the only agencies in town;
most contracts are relatively short term, and that you will likely deal with them again; and,
it would not be to their advantage to keep applying for security clearance every time you knock at their door.
In turn, your sponsoring agency would expect that you stay in good business terms with them, and that you maintain contact even if you are on a separate short-term assignment.
This is by no means an exhaustive view of the security clearance process. I hope however that this will help you move forward should you need to go through the process.
I do not accept any responsibility or liability for inaccuracies or misinterpretation of the information contained in this email. The authoritative web site on the matter is listed above. If in doubt, please contact the appropriate authorities.
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