Personnel security screening processes

The type of personnel security screening that an employee needs is determined by the requirements of each contract. Public Services and Procurement Canada’s Contract Security Program can help get the required security screening for your organization’s personnel.

Reliability status

Reliability status is a personnel security status that is required before an employee can gain access to Protected A, B, or C information, assets or work sites. It is valid for 10 years.

In this section

Requesting a new reliability status

Security screening for reliability status requires a 5-year background check. The company security officer (CSO) or alternate company security officer (ACSO) is responsible for verifying the applicant's identity, education and professional credentials.

To request a new reliability status, the CSO or ACSO and the employee need to complete and submit a personnel screening, consent and authorization form (TBS/SCT 330-23E):

  1. review the instructions on how to complete the personnel screening, consent and authorization form
  2. complete the form by:
    1. using the online security services portal (recommended option):
    2. filling out the personnel screening, consent and authorization form on paper
  3. submit the form

Completing and submitting the form online

Submitting applications online is a convenient and effective service that increases the accuracy of the applications and initiates the process more quickly.

When using online security services (OLISS) to complete and submit the form, refer to the CSO guide to learn how the applicant and CSO or ACSO fill out and sign an electronic form at the section Submitting forms completed online.

Information needed

The following will be requested:

The following may also be requested:

  • out-of-country verifications:
    • these are conducted when an applicant has lived outside of Canada continuously for 6 months or longer
  • other supporting documents, as necessary
  • a subject interview with the applicant to assess eligibility for reliability status

Updating a reliability status

Note

Avoid delays by requesting an update at least 6 months before the 10-year expiry date.

Requesting an update

To request an update to an existing reliability status, the CSO or ACSO and the employee need to complete and submit a personnel screening, consent and authorization form (TBS/SCT 330-23E):

  1. review the instructions on how to complete the personnel screening, consent and authorization form
  2. complete the form by:
    1. using the online security services portal (recommended option):
    2. filling out the personnel screening, consent and authorization form on paper
  3. submit the form

Fingerprints may be required when updating a reliability status. Learn when electronic fingerprints are required for update (renewal) requests.

More information on reliability status

Consult Chapter 2: Security screening, Part I: Reliability status of the Industrial Security Manual

Security clearance

A personnel security clearance is required before an employee may access classified information, assets or sites.

In this section

Levels of security clearance

Secret and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Secret
These 2 security clearances require a 10-year background check and are valid for 10 years.
Top Secret and Control of Secret Material in an International Command (COSMIC) Top SecretFootnote 1
These 2 security clearances require a 10-year background check and are valid for 5 years.

Requesting a new security clearance

Requesting a new Secret or North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secret clearance

To request a new Secret or NATO Secret clearance, the CSO or ACSO and the employee must complete and submit the following forms:

Completing the personnel screening, consent and authorization form

To complete the personnel screening, consent and authorization form:

  1. review the instructions on how to complete the personnel screening, consent and authorization form
  2. complete the form by:
    1. using the online security services portal (recommended option):
    2. filling out the personnel screening, consent and authorization form on paper
  3. submit the form
Completing the security clearance form

To complete the security clearance form:

  1. review the instructions on how to complete the security clearance form
  2. complete the form by:
    1. using the online security services portal (recommended option):
    2. filling out the security clearance form on paper
  3. submit the form
Information needed

The following will be requested:

The following may also be requested:

Requesting a new Top Secret or Control of Secret Material in an International Command Top Secret clearance

To request a new Top Secret or COSMIC Top Secret clearance, the CSO or ACSO and the employee must complete and submit the following forms:

Completing the personnel screening, consent and authorization form

To complete the personnel screening, consent and authorization form:

  1. review the instructions on how to complete the personnel screening, consent and authorization form
  2. complete the form by:
    1. using the online security services portal (recommended option):
    2. filling out the personnel screening, consent and authorization form on paper
  3. submit the form
Completing the security clearance form

To complete the security clearance form:

  1. review the instructions on how to complete the security clearance form
  2. complete the form by:
    1. using the online security services portal (recommended option):
    2. filling out the security clearance form on paper
  3. submit the form
What to include with the 2 forms: 3 passport photos
Information needed

The following will be requested:

The following may be requested:

Updating a security clearance

Note

Avoid delays by requesting an update at least 1 year before the expiry date:

  • 10 years for Secret and NATO Secret clearances
  • 5 years for Top Secret or COSMIC Top Secret clearances

Requesting an update

To request an update to an existing security clearance, the CSO or ACSO and the employee must complete and submit the following forms:

Completing the personnel screening, consent and authorization form

To complete the personnel screening, consent and authorization form:

  1. review the instructions on how to complete the personnel screening, consent and authorization form
  2. complete the form by:
    1. using the online security services portal (recommended option):
    2. filling out the personnel screening, consent and authorization form on paper
  3. submit the form
Completing the security clearance form

To complete the security clearance form:

  1. review the instructions on how to complete the security clearance form
  2. complete the form by:
    1. using the online security services portal (recommended option):
    2. filling out the security clearance form on paper
  3. submit the form

Fingerprints may be required when updating a security clearance. Learn when electronic fingerprints are required for update (renewal) requests.

More information on security clearance

Duplicate, transfer and reactivate a security status or clearance

Duplicating a reliability status or security clearance

The CSO or ACSO may request a duplicate when the employee holds a valid reliability status or security clearance with 1 or more private sector organizations registered in Public Services and Procurement Canada's Contract Security Program.

When a reliability status or security clearance may be duplicated

A valid reliability status or security clearance may be duplicated only if there has been no change of circumstance, such as a criminal conviction.

If the reliability status or security clearance cannot be duplicated, the CSO or ACSO will need to submit a new or update personnel security screening request.

Requesting a duplicate

To request a duplicate, the CSO or ACSO and the employee need to complete and submit a personnel screening, consent and authorization form (TBS/SCT 330-23E):

Review the instructions on properly completing sections A to D of the personnel screening, consent and authorization form

Once the duplication process is completed, the CSO or ACSO will receive a security screening certificate and briefing form for signature.

Working on a contract while the duplication request is being processed

An employee may begin work on a contract when:

  • the duplication request is noted as “pending” after Public Services and Procurement Canada verifies that the employee's original reliability status or clearance is active and in good standing
  • the government procurement officer managing the contract verifies with Public Services and Procurement Canada that the employee is eligible to begin work on the contract
Note

Some departments do not allow employees to work on contracts with security requirements until the duplication of their reliability status or security clearance has been completed.

When an employee has a higher clearance than the organization they will be working for

An employee maintains their higher security clearance level, even when their clearance is being duplicated in an organization with a lower level of security. When the clearance is due to be updated, it will be reassessed based on the needs at that time. Please note that this will not entitle the employee to access a higher information level than the one required to perform their duties with the organization, nor will it entitle the organization to be awarded contracts or perform work at the employee's higher level.

Transferring a reliability status or security clearance

The CSO or ACSO may request a transfer when another Government of Canada department or agency holds the employee's valid reliability status or security clearance.

When a reliability status or security clearance may be transferred

A valid reliability status or security clearance may be transferred only if:

  • there has been no change of circumstance, such as a criminal conviction
  • the security screening results are not more than 5 years old
  • the security screening was previously done in accordance with the Standard on Security Screening
  • there is no adverse information on file

If the reliability status or security clearance cannot be transferred, the CSO or ACSO will need to submit a new or update personnel security screening request.

Requesting a transfer

To request a transfer, the CSO or ACSO and the employee need to complete and submit a personnel screening, consent and authorization form (TBS/SCT 330-23E):

Reactivating a reliability status or security clearance

The CSO or ACSO may request a reactivation when an employee held a reliability status or security clearance with an organization if:

  • the reliability status was terminated less than 2 years ago
  • the security clearance was terminated less than 1 year ago

In cases where a reliability status or security clearance was held by another Government of Canada department or agency, a reactivation may include other checks if:

  • the security screening results are more than 5 years old
  • the security screening was not previously done in accordance with the Standard on Security Screening

If the reliability status or security clearance cannot be reactivated the CSO or ACSO will need to submit a new personnel security screening request.

Requesting a reactivation

To request a reactivation, the CSO or ACSO and the employee need to complete and submit a personnel screening, consent and authorization form (TBS/SCT 330-23E):

Rreview the instructions on properly completing sections A to D of the personnel screening, consent and authorization form

What to expect during the personnel security screening process

Public Services and Procurement Canada's Contract Security Program may request the following verifications during the personnel security screening process:

Out-of-country verifications

Out-of-country verification documentation is required for applicants who have lived outside of Canada continuously for 6 months or longer within the background period under assessment.

Background period to be assessed

  • 5 years for a reliability status
  • 10 years for a security clearance (Secret and Top Secret)

What will be verified

Public Services and Procurement Canada's Contract Security Program will need to confirm:

  • when the applicant lived outside of Canada
  • why the applicant spent time outside of Canada

At its discretion, Public Services and Procurement Canada may conduct a subject interview to assess the time spent outside of Canada during the background period.

When out-of-country verification documentation is not required

Out-of-country verification documentation is not usually required if, within the background period under assessment, the applicant:

  • worked for a Government of Canada department or agency
  • was a member or an accompanying family member of the Canadian Armed Forces

In the above cases, Public Services and Procurement Canada will contact the appropriate federal organization to confirm and validate the applicant's time spent outside of Canada.

As well, out-of-country verification documentation is not usually required if the applicant currently holds a valid security status or clearance issued by a foreign government that has a bilateral security instrument with Public Services and Procurement Canada.

List of countries with bilateral security instruments

Out-of-country verification documentation

For all personnel security screening requests, the applicant will need to get a police certificate from the foreign country. The police certificate must be authenticated by the country's embassy or high commission in Canada.

A police certificate provides a summary of an individual's criminal record or a declaration of the absence of any criminal record from that country.

Note

If an applicant has spent time outside of Canada, CSOs should remind the applicant that they need a police certificate as part of their security screening application. Including the police certificate when submitting the application will help the out-of-country verification process.

If an applicant cannot get a police certificate, the CSO will need to inform Public Services and Procurement Canada's Contract Security Program by email: tpsgc.ssidfspvhp-isspssdocv.pwgsc@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca. Public Services and Procurement Canada's Contract Security Program will then determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether to allow alternative documents to be submitted.

If Public Services and Procurement Canada deems that an applicant can provide alternative documents, the applicant may need to get one or more of the following original documents:

  • letter of reference or referral from the foreign embassy or mission in Canada
  • letter of reference or referral from the Canadian embassy or mission in the foreign country where the applicant lived
  • information from security screening organizations in countries that share bilateral security instruments with Canada
  • letter from a law enforcement agency (for example, a police check from a local police detachment in that country)
  • credit summary from an established foreign financial institution
  • letter of reference from a foreign educational institution
Requesting translation

All police certificates or alternate documents must be submitted in either English or French. If the documents are in another language, they must be translated by a certified translator who is registered with either of these 2 organizations:

The translated document must accompany the original document when submitted to Public Services and Procurement Canada.

Costs to the applicant

Applicants will need to cover any costs associated with the out-of-country verification process. These costs may include fees to obtain a police certificate or alternative documents, to have documents translated or to have documents authenticated by an embassy or high commission. These fees will not be reimbursed by the Government of Canada.

Processing security status and clearance application requiring out-of-country verifications documentation

For all personnel security screening requests, the CSO is responsible for informing the applicant to:

  • get a police certificate from any country in which they lived continuously for 6 months or longer, and to provide the original documents (no photocopies) directly to the CSO:
  • have the police certificate authenticated by the country's embassy or high commission in Canada:
  • have the police certificate translated into English or French, if it is not in one of these official languages of Canada
  • pay any fees associated with the out-of-country verification process

Once the applicant has obtained the required documents and provided them to their CSO, the documents need to be submitted to Public Services and Procurement Canada's Contract Security Program for processing by email: tpsgc.ssidfspvhp-isspssdocv.pwgsc@tpsgc-pwgsc.gc.ca.

Improve your understanding: out-of country verification scenario

Refer to the out-of-country verification scenario to better understand how the out-of-country verification process works.

Law enforcement inquiries

For all personnel security screenings, Public Services and Procurement Canada's Contract Security Program reviews law enforcement records, databases or databanks to determine whether an individual:

  • has a criminal record
  • is associated with a criminal organization or known criminals
  • is a dangerous offender
  • is known, suspected of, or has engaged in criminality

Credit checks

On January 29, 2018, Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) implemented mandatory credit checks for security screenings:

Mandatory credit checks

Subject interviews

Public Services and Procurement Canada's Contract Security Program will refer a personnel security screening file to the Security Screening Investigation Unit if:

  • a security concern was identified during the screening process
  • personnel is applying for a Top Secret Signals intelligence (SIGINT) clearance

The investigation`s unit will review the personnel security clearance file and may conduct a subject interview to obtain additional information from the applicant. All Top Secret SIGINT applicants must undergo a subject interview.

A subject interview helps Public Services and Procurement Canada determine the nature of the circumstances or activity that caused a security concern during the screening process. It also gives the applicant an opportunity to provide specific information to respond to these concerns. Any information provided by the applicant during the subject interview is protected and will not be shared with the CSO.

A subject interview will review features of the applicant, which may include:

  • character
  • financial situation
  • time spent out of the country
  • personal beliefs and associations

Some examples of security concerns include:

  • unverifiable biographical history
  • past criminal activity or record
  • personal associations or beliefs

The findings of a subject interview help Public Services and Procurement Canada evaluate the results of personnel security screening assessments such as:

  • criminal record name checks
  • credit checks
  • reliability checks
  • loyalty assessments

Steps of the subject interview process

When a subject interview is required, Public Services and Procurement Canada will:

  • notify the parties of the date, time and location of the interview
  • identify the individual using a valid piece of photo identification
  • provide the individual with the reason for the interview
  • conduct the interview
  • analyze the interview data
  • formulate a recommendation to either grant, deny or revoke the reliability status or security clearance

Fingerprinting

The RCMP, the lead agency responsible for law enforcement inquiries, uses fingerprints rather than a name to positively identify an individual. Fingerprint screening has been used for many years to confirm identity, and it is an international best practice.

Mandatory electronic fingerprinting process

On February 1, 2017, Public Services and Procurement Canada implemented a mandatory electronic fingerprint requirement:

Mandatory electronic fingerprints

Note

If the fingerprint results show outstanding criminal charges (accusations before a court that have not received a formal disposition and are thus pending), PSPC’s Contract Security Program will:

  • send the personnel security screening files of individuals who currently hold valid security clearance/status to the security screening investigation unit for investigations
  • put on hold any personnel security screening applications of individuals who do not yet hold a personnel security clearance/status until their criminal charges have been resolved by the courts

Once they have received the courts’ decision/disposition, individuals should inform their CSOs who in turn should advise PSPC. Failure to provide this information may result in a delay in the screening process or ultimately the risk of a denial or revocation of the security clearance/ status of the individual.

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