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What is a security clearance?
A security clearance gives some assurance about the suitability of a person to access classified information according to its level of security classification.
MFAT checks the background of potential employees who will be entrusted with official information and resources, to make sure they are:
- who they say they are
- eligible and suitable to have access
- able to comply with the standards that protect our information.
Potential employees will also be vetted by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS). For employees, this vetting recurs at least every five years.
How do you get a security clearance?
A security clearance is part of the pre-employment process:
- MFAT checks your official records (eg qualifications, identity, criminal and credit records) and contacts your referees.
- You’ll be asked to complete and sign a form that gives the NZSIS consent to carry out checks against financial, criminal and security intelligence databases and to undertake any referee and background checks. They provide a recommendation to MFAT’s Chief Security Officer on your suitability, with an assessment of your honesty, trustworthiness, loyalty and appreciation of security responsibilities and obligations.
MFAT considers the information and the NZSIS report, before making a decision to grant a security clearance or not.
NZSIS access to protected information
The NZSIS is allowed to gather and use personal or confidential information about you, and to make recommendations about this information as it relates to your suitability to have access to classified official information that other agencies cannot. These exemptions relate, but are not limited, to certain parts of:
- The Privacy Act
- The Official Information Act
- The Human Rights Act
- The Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act.
If you’ve already got a security clearance at your current organisation, this may be able to be transferred to MFAT.
Clearance denied - what next?
You may not be employed if you’re a candidate and you don't get a security clearance. If you’re already employed, then it's likely that your employment with MFAT will end.
If you’re employed and your level of clearance is downgraded, this is likely to affect your ongoing employment or future career opportunities with MFAT.
Sometimes the NZSIS returns a report with specific requirements, and this may prevent the candidate from working in certain roles at MFAT.
When is a clearance denied or delayed?
Sometimes a clearance may be delayed or not granted.
If there's a problem with your application for security clearance, we'll attempt to work through it with you if possible. The most common reasons for vetting being delayed are:
- candidates and referees being slow to complete and lodge the online forms required (there are two forms that candidates need to complete)
- referees not responding to the NZSIS
- candidates have been living outside of New Zealand or have other circumstances that make vetting difficult.
You can help by completing the candidate forms promptly and make sure referees are aware that they need to complete their forms quickly and accurately, and that they may be contacted.
If you think a clearance was unfairly denied
If you’re a New Zealand citizen or resident and you feel the clearance has been unfairly denied, or you have concerns relating to how the vetting occured or the final report, you may complain to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.
The Inspector-General can enquire into the complaint and make recommendations for redress. All complaints should be in writing, and addressed to:
Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security
c/o Registrar of the High Court
DX SX 11199
Or by email: WellingtonHC@justice.govt.nz
Ongoing security clearance
NZSIS vetting of employees occurs at least every five years after a security clearance unless circumstances, such as a change in personal circumstances, require an earlier review.
Your security clearance lapses on leaving MFAT.