This case study looks at the possible impact of an uncheckable period overseas for a contractor seeking TOP SECRET level security clearance. 

Themes covered include:

  • security clearance requirements for contractors
  • pre-employment screening process.

Scenario – what happened

Martin is a New Zealander with South African heritage (his parents were both born in South Africa) who has qualifications in computer studies and logistics. 

His criminal history has been unremarkable – as a teenager growing up in Auckland, he had an incident with police where he was charged with a breach of liquor ban. Later, Martin received a diversion from the courts when he became involved with some student pranks. 

Recently, he returned home to New Zealand after five years living, working, getting married and starting a family in South Africa. During his time in South Africa, Martin stayed with extended family and developed an interest in logistics by working in his uncle’s trucking business. 

Now back home, Martin has picked up a new job with a firm bidding for a New Zealand Defence Force contract to develop a supplies system. 

Because Martin was born and raised in New Zealand, the firm is confident he will get the TOP SECRET clearance he needs for his new role.

However, there is a hitch – the last five years Martin has spent out of New Zealand in an uncheckable country (South Africa) means he will certainly fail to meet the basic criteria for a TOP SECRET level vetting. It requires at least 10 years of checkable history. 

His new employer is now left with a permanent employee who cannot be used on the contract for which he was employed.  

Lessons learned – what should have happened

Martin’s new employer made two key oversights in this scenario.

They should have:

  • checked the security requirements for contractors

Contractors are not exempt from the need to obtain the appropriate level clearance if working with protectively marked information, even if this is only on a temporary basis. 

  • better understood the preemployment screening process

Agencies are responsible for preemployment screening and determining whether an employee meets the minimum criteria for a clearance before submitting an application to the NZSIS.