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How Long Does It Take to Get Security Clearance in Canada?

May 13, 2020BY Anik Chowdhury

So, you like access to confidential information and wish to work for the Federal government? Even if you don’t want to do that, there could be reasons for you to ask, how long does it take to get a security clearance in Canada? Be it classified documents or sensitive sites that you want to expose yourself to, and you need to have a thorough screening before you gain access.

This involves plenty of additional information that you need to know and plenty of ticking the boxes, such as having your data reviewed, application scrutinized, etc. This is more than a regular background check. If you’re curious, let’s find out what they include.

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Purpose of Security Screening

So, as we said, security clearance is a status that you can or will be awarded if you want to work for the Federal Government of Canada. You could be holding any direct or indirect position with it to obtain the status. And it can only be achieved if you complete the security screening undertaken by the Government of Canada.

The purpose of such a screening is simple. It prevents unwanted and ill-motivated individuals from accessing confidential state information. Any site or asset that is sensitive can be protected under security screening. So, its purpose is to screen then serve clearance to those who are worthy of it.

Know How do I Get A Reliable Security Clearance in Canada?

Levels of Security Clearance

The PGS defines 3 levels of security clearance. They include:

  1. Enhanced Reliability or Level I
  2. Secret or Level II
  3. Top Secret or Level III

The sensitivity of the information or the asset to be accessed by the respective employee in performing their duty determines which level we are talking of.
Who Need to Hold It?

Anyone intending to or holding a position in the Crown Corporation, Federal Department, or any Government organization or agency for that matter, must hold a valid clearance status. According to the PGS or Policy on Government Security, those who need to have a Security clearance include,

  • Employees of the Government
  • Members of the Forces
  • Persons under contract to a Fed Department who, while performing their duties, have access to classified Government information.

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What the Process Involves

For all levels, if you want security clearance, your personal information needs to be verified by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service- CSIS’s database. If you wish a clearance to access the Top Secret or Level III data or information, you will be physically interviewed, besides the verification.

It may also cause them to investigate you further, as the sensitivity of the information calls for. Your friends, employers, neighbors, etc. may need to give their share of interviews on you. It may also require CSIS to gather knowledge from law enforcement and consultation with similar security or intelligence agencies regarding the applicant.

There are flexible times within which you can expect the processes to be done. But it is common to have your application process delayed. It can happen if you have been living outside Canada for more than 5 years or equivalent. Then the RCMP will verify your criminal records and the place you stayed in.

So, if you had been living in underdeveloped countries or countries where such facilities of checking need a lot of time, then your processing will delay automatically. Maybe for more than a year. It depends on the country. PWGSC can’t happily background-check in every country. Some countries may be unwilling to deliver information to other countries.

Application processes may also delay if you messed up with the information. You may have put the wrong information accidentally or missed vital information. You could also fill in the information, but all of it was done incorrectly. One reason why people are always suggested to read the instructions carefully first.

Lastly, PWGSC may not be satisfied with what they found and may wish to do more of their checking. In that case, too, your processing time may be more.

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So, How Long Does It Take to Get Security Clearance in Canada?

In order to process the applications, CSIS goes for a case by case approach. So the time mentioned here for taking to clear may be less or more than stated. But it is substantially longer, and you definitely understand why. Applications getting rejected are a possibility too. No agency or service can influence CSIS or PWGSC to make haste with the process. The outcome solely depends on them.

For Level I Security Clearance, it takes about 3 weeks till all information is verified.

For Level II Security Clearance, you can expect around 9 months or so of information verification and grant of clearance.

Lastly, for Level III Security Clearance, you can think of more than 12 months of rigorous background checking and every cross-checking till you get access.


Your security clearance status can be valid for as long as 10 years. If it becomes invalid, you will have to apply for a new clearance. But it will only be valid as long as the company or department that issued your clearance certificate plans on keeping it active. Say, you leave their employment. In that case, they will no longer need to vouch for your Security status, and they can have your status terminated before the 10 years.

Bottom Line

So, all the time that you have been asking how long does it take to get a security clearance in Canada, you forgot to ask and look for these important bits and pieces that you should have asked for as well. If you plan on applying for the clearance, make sure you have a clean history. You likely think you have nothing to hide from CSIS. But they take their applicants and scrutinization very seriously.

So, if you have concerns about yourself, do your checking on online and offline activities that you think may put up a bad impression. Working with state-level secrets is a huge thing, and you better be ready with a clean background when you wish for that!

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