What Happens If My Security Clearance Is Rejected?

By Sophie Richards on 28 October 2020

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​We have previously written about the basics of Australian defence security clearances, and the timeframes involved in applying for one.

Increasingly, defence industry employers are open to employing candidates who are eligible for clearances (meaning they do not have clearances in place yet).

Whether you are applying for an Australian defence security clearance for the first time, or renewing a clearance you already have, read on to find out what happens if your security clearance gets rejected.

Key points

  • Candidates will be notified beforehand if the application is likely to be rejected

  • Unsuccessful applicants have a number of review options

  • Applicants can request access to personal information collected 

Having your security clearance approved is a critical component for working in the defence industry, and having it denied can unravel the best laid career plans.

So what are your options if your defence clearance is rejected?

First things first, it’s vital that you’ve filled in your application epack correctly.

The Australian Government Security Vetting Agency (AGSVA) notes that a significant proportion of applications contain errors leading to rejection.

However, what if you’ve filled everything in perfectly and you’re still not ticking all the boxes?

AGSVA flags concerns 

First of all, if AGSVA plans to knock back the application you will have the chance to respond in writing before a final decision is made.

You’ll be sent a Procedural Fairness Letter with a list of AGSVA’s concerns about your suitability. This is your chance to correct potential errors in your application or add in any special circumstances that could weigh things in your favour.

It’s important to keep your potential employer fully up to date with the process and ask for any assistance they may be able to offer.

Then it’s time to cross your fingers and hope the extra details are enough to convince the reviewers you're suitable for the clearance.

The review process

If your application is formally rejected you do have the opportunity to ask for a review of the decision. According to the Department of Defence website, the options available differ depending on whether you are already employed with the Australian Public Service or not.

APS employees have three review options: 

  • Primary review by AGSVA – you have 120 days from the decision notification to request a review

  • Secondary review by the Merit Protection Commissioner – if you are unsatisfied with the AGSVA review or the decision is not reviewable; you have 60 days from the decision of the primary review to make an application

  • Lodge a complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman – the Ombudsman will generally only investigate if the other review processes have been completed

Non APS employees have two review options:

  • Internal review by AGSVA

  • Lodge a complaint with the Commonwealth Ombudsman – the Ombudsman will generally only investigate if the other review process has been completed

(Cited from

Your rights and privacy 

If you’ve been unsuccessful after the review process and you want further clarification, you can request access to the personal information you have provided by contacting AGSVA. 

You also have the option to request it under the Freedom of Information Act by contacting the Directorate of Freedom of Information at Defence.

It’s important to note that AGSVA makes a point of recognising and respecting your privacy, and says it will only collect, use and disclose personal information to fulfil the security vetting function.

And while the process may seem arduous and stringent, it’s essential to realise the critical role defence industry jobs have in protecting Australia’s national security interests. It’s vital that the Government can trust those working with sensitive and confidential information.

Jobs in defence industry offer those with the right skills, experience and background a unique opportunity to help shape and protect Australia’s future prosperity.

For information on timeframes, costs and to find out more about how security clearances work see our previous blogs

To find out what jobs we’re currently recruiting for, and to understand the clearance requirements for these jobs, take a look at our website and get in touch to apply.

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

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