Federal Government Security Clearances

A security clearance is a background check done by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and the RCMP that enables candidates to work in certain positions in the Federal Government that may entail accessing secure information.

The Federal Government requires nearly every contractor or temporary worker placed in any government role to have a security clearance. The type of security clearance a candidate will need varies according to the role, responsibilities, and the type of information they will be accessing.

Prerequisites: To obtain a Federal Government security clearance, the applicant must have lived in Canada without having travelled out of country for longer than 6 months during the last 5 years for Reliability Clearances & 10 years for Secret/Top Secret Clearances. The applicant must have proof of their status in Canada.

Note: Federal Government clearances are processed by Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC). Altis Recruitment sponsor applications for security clearances on behalf of our candidates, so we can place them in Federal Government roles.

Three Levels of Security Clearances for Personnel

The most common security clearance levels for personnel (contractors and temporary workers placed in the Federal Government) are:

  • Reliability: requires a 5-year background check, valid for 10 years, required when accessing Protected A, B or C information, assets or work sites
  • Secret: requires a 10-year background check, valid for 10 years, required when accessing information Classified as Secret
  • Top Secret requires a 10-year background check, valid for 10 years, required when accessing information Classified as Top Secret

Types of Security Clearances for Organizations, including Sub-Contractors

If you are a sub-contractor who will be sending appropriately security screened personnel to work in the Federal Government (for example, an IT consultant who has contract employees), you will need either a Facility or a Designated Organization clearance.

Altis Recruitment sponsors both types of clearances for the sub-contractor candidates we work with.

Facility Clearance
Allows an organization (or sub-contractor) to send appropriately security screened personnel to restricted work sites to access protected and classified information and assets. Requires a 5-year background check, valid for 10 years.

Designated Organization Clearance
Allows an organization (or sub-contractor) to send appropriately security screened personnel to restricted work sites to access protected information and assets. Requires a 10-year background check, valid for 10 years.

Process for Obtaining a Security Clearance

Federal Government security clearances take a considerable amount of time to get—from 6 weeks to one year or more, depending on the type and level & complexity. Each clearance application is processed as a case-by-case scenario. This can also affect processing times. If you want to work for the Federal Government, you must factor in this time.

How to obtain a Reliability, Secret and Top Secret Personnel Clearance

To obtain a security clearance, you first need a sponsor, such as a staffing firm like Altis Recruitment or a Federal Government department. Altis Recruitment only sponsors security clearance requests for candidates we are actively working with.

  1. If you are registered with Altis Recruitment, have met with us either in person or virtually, and we determine that you have the skillset most often required for security cleared positions within the Federal Government, we will then sponsor your application for a clearance.
  2. Altis Recruitment will provide instruction on how to get fingerprints taken by an RCMP accredited fingerprinting company.
  3. The RCMP accredited fingerprinting company will send the fingerprints results to Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) for processing.
  4. Once the fingerprints have been taken, Altis Recruitment will provide you with instruction on how to complete the online secure application form. You will also receive log in credentials to access to online form.
  5. Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC) and the RCMP process your application for a security clearance. Note: The application process takes time and the approval is outside of Altis Recruitment’s control.
How to obtain a Facility Clearance

A private sector organization that is a prime contractor to the Government of Canada, such as Altis Recruitment, must sponsor your Facility Security Clearance.

Here are the steps:

  1. The agency or organization sponsors your application.
  2. Once the application is accepted, you must submit a private sector organization security form.
  3. You must complete an application for registration including the following information:
    • information about your organization’s structure, ownership and legal status; and
    • names of senior key officials, including your company security officer and an alternate company security officer.
  4. To finalize the process, you must complete a legal agreement between your organization and the Federal Government. 

Processing Time for Security Clearances

The processing time for the clearance depends on the level of clearance and the complexity of conducting a review of your background. Processing times can vary from four weeks to more than two years—sometimes even longer.

Please note that a clearance can be denied.

Once completed, a Reliability Clearance is valid for 10 years and Secret Clearances are valid for 5 years and are subject to termination by the government if the clearance is not in use or if an issue arises that compromises the clearance.

  • Reliability: Generally, 4 to 8 weeks’ processing time, from the date of application, provided the clearance application is not marked as complex.
  • Secret: Generally, 4 to 6 months’ processing time, from the date of application, provided the clearance application is not marked as complex.
  • Top Secret: Generally, over 1 year processing time, from the date of application, provided the clearance application is not marked as complex.
  • Facility: When you need to be able to clear personnel to the Reliability level, it can take up to 6 months to process a Facility clearance; when you need to be able to clear personnel to the Secret level and above, it can take 6 months or more to complete the whole process for a Facility clearance.

The Cost of a Security Clearance

There is no cost to obtain a clearance, but accredited fingerprinting companies will charge a fee (typically ~$50.00 plus HST) for taking your fingerprints and submitting them electronically.

Renewing your Security Clearance

All security clearances expire. If you already have a clearance but you are unsure of the level and expiry date, we can check your clearance with your consent.

To ensure you are always eligible to be placed in Federal Government roles, keep your clearance expiry date in mind and work with your agency to get it renewed at least six months before it is set to expire.

To process the renewal, the agency may need to duplicate your clearance (if they were not the original sponsor of it). For details, see below.

Note: While the renewal is in progress, Public Service and Procurement Canada (PSPC) will generally consider your clearance valid, even after it expires; however, the hiring manager ultimately decides whether to hire a candidate whose clearance has expired. 

Duplicating your Security Clearance

Federal Government security clearances are held by the agency or organization that originally sponsored your application, enabling them to place you in Federal Government roles.

If you received your security clearance through another recruitment agency, that agency holds it. In order for Altis Recruitment to place you in a Federal Government role, we will need to duplicate your security clearance through our firm.

Please note that the agency who originally processed your clearance can terminate your clearance when you no longer work with them. To duplicate your existing security clearance through Altis, we will provide a form for you to complete.