I was contacted by a company after providing them my CV. After that, a few weeks down the line they asked me what my status is in the UK and stated they need this information for a security clearance.

They asked me for the following:

  • All of my nationalities : I declared ones I am national of other than 1
  • Whether I had been in UK for the last 10 years : YES
  • Whether I hold a UK passport : NO

However, they rejected my application saying they can't obtain a security clearance for me as I don't have a UK passport.

My question is, can an employer reject an application just because a candidate doesn't have a UK passport?

I am a bit surprised because my current company does a DBS check every 6 months and they don't have any issue with checking security clearance for me.


I am not UK national yet and only have 1 nationality even though I even forgot I am not being living here for so long ! Thank you everyone for helpful insights.


6 Answers 6


Of course they can ! If the job requires UK nationality (or more specifically UK passport) then that is exactly what they want and that is exactly what they are doing. (Most government projects in most countries require that)

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Masked Man
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:01

Answer: Yes, they can!

I believe you are confusing a background check with obtaining security clearance.

A background check is simply verifying you have no criminal record.

Security clearance is usually required for government contracts and has much stricter requirements.

  • 6
    There are different levels of security clearances. Some levels are easier to get than others. IE working at a power plant in the US requires a fairly easy to get clearance. Working at the NSA requires one that is much more stringent and much harder to get. Jul 18, 2018 at 13:17
  • 3
    Getting a job at a power plant does not require a security clearance. You are in the same category as the OP - you don't know the difference between a background check and a security clearance. If you think I'm wrong, answer me this - at exactly what level (Confidential, Secret, Top Secret) is operational information for a power plant classified? What is the classifying agency? Jul 18, 2018 at 17:54
  • 4
    @WhatRoughBeast - you are listing only DoD levels. DoE also issues clearances at the L and Q levels. I do not know if you need them to work at a power plant though.
    – cag51
    Jul 18, 2018 at 18:20
  • 6
    @cag51 none of those are relavant here, the UK has its own security clearances (CTC, SC and DV)
    – jk.
    Jul 19, 2018 at 8:58
  • 1
    @jk yes, OP is in the UK, but if you read through the chain of replies, I was responding to a question about working at "a power plant in the US"
    – cag51
    Jul 20, 2018 at 3:37

The employer is not rejecting your application because you do not have a passport, they are rejecting you because the job you are applying to requires a security clearance and they cannot perform a security clearance. Therefore, without the security clearance, you do not have the credentials required to perform the job, so you cannot take the job if you don't have the required credentials. I don't know how it works in the UK, but perhaps you can contact some government authority there and ask if there is a way that you can assist the company to perform the security clearance? Perhaps all you need to do is apply for and receive a passport; I don't know about the UK, but in Canada where I live, if you are a citizen it's very easy and affordable to get a passport. I certainly would not lose a potential job offer over the cost to get a passport!

  • 1
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Masked Man
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:00
  • 1
    In the US - and I'm sure in the UK as well - you cannot initiate your own security clearance process. Some authority needs to initiate to the government that they require an investigation for a security clearance. An individual cannot initiate this.
    – Dan
    Jul 19, 2018 at 14:52
  • True. However, I'm sure a citizen who knows they need to undergo a security clearance check can inquire to the government as to what is required to perform the check so they can prepare/provide the appropriate documentation.
    – Ertai87
    Jul 19, 2018 at 15:18

All of my nationalities : I declared ones I am national of other than 1

I have a feeling this is why they rejected you, not because you don't have a passport. If you're a UK Citizen, you should be able to get a passport. But omitting being a foreign national on a job requiring security clearance isn't going to fly.

  • I wonder just how many nationalities the OP has :-) Jul 19, 2018 at 7:10
  • I have a friend with 4, dual parents (one with 2), born in a fourth
    – WendyG
    Jul 19, 2018 at 11:53
  • Having dual citizenship is a huge red flag in any security clearance investigation. I'd imagine he'd pass though if he was a dual citizen of UK and US but even then they'd question his loyalty and may request that he denounced his foriegn citizenship.
    – Dan
    Jul 19, 2018 at 14:55
  • @Dan: I'd say not only a red flag, and not only dual citizenship. Simply by having strong ties with a foreign nation might be a reason for being rejected. BTW, it's 'renounced' not 'denounced' Jul 19, 2018 at 17:19

No actually you can get DV clearance with out a passport - I have direct personal experience.

I went for an avowed job at HMGCC (think sort of like the NSA) which was a DV clearance (TS in USA speak) Job. BTW as this is an avowed job I am not breaking the Official secrets act.

My lack of passport wasn't a problem.

  • 1
    Are you entitled to a British passport? (and if not, which nationality are you - I'm going to guess that if DV is possible for foreign nationals, it's going to be a lot easier for a five-eyes national, than for, eg, an Iranian). Jul 19, 2018 at 14:23
  • @MartinBonner I take your point all my grandparents are natural citizens. Jul 19, 2018 at 20:03

I would suggest that this question comes from the wrong frame of mind. It will be much healthier for you to assume that your employer can and will do whatever they want - the law and good taste notwithstanding. You will never force your employer to do anything they don't want to do and if you are thinking of a lawsuit or compliant to government body to do so, you're one step away from messing your career up.

If you don't like the way you are being treated in a job, find a way to leave gracefully.

So my answer to your question is "yes they can do whatever they want IF you want to be successful there." It holds as much for a job applicant as a current employee.

  • Actually in the UK there are rules (some times ignored) about discrimination in that area Jul 19, 2018 at 20:04
  • There are similare rules in north americs Jul 19, 2018 at 20:06

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