Do I need a license to work as a Bodyguard/Close Protection Officer?
Anyone who wants to become a bodyguard or close protection officer (CPO) in the UK will need to get a licence from the government.
That means, all CPOs working on the frontline in England and Wales now need a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence. It is a criminal offence to operate without one.
Due to the nature of work in the private security industry, regulation of licences by the SIA is paramount to maintain high levels of professionalism of those who enter a career in close protection work in the United Kingdom.
What is the SIA?
The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is the public body that regulates the private security industry. It is an independent body reporting to the Home Secretary, under the terms of the Private Security Industry Act 2001.
Section 3 of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 makes it a criminal offence for individuals to engage in licensable conduct unless they have a licence. The SIA is responsible for granting, renewing and revoking these licences.
The SIA does not deliver training courses, award qualifications, or provide funding for training. The SIA sets what training needs to cover in the “specifications for learning and qualifications” which can be found on the SIA website. It also endorses awarding organisations so that they can develop qualifications, approve training providers, oversee the standard of assessment and award qualifications that the SIA recognises for licensing.
The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is the government body responsible for managing the licensing process. To qualify for a licence, frontline security operatives need to be over 18, pass an identity and criminality check, and show that their skills and knowledge meet nationally recognised standards.
The SIA publish an online register of licence holders. Individuals operating within the security industry must hold an SIA licence.
The bottom line is that all security professionals working in England or Wales need a Close Protection Licence issued by the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to work.
The process of getting a licence can be more complicated than many people realise, but don’t worry, in this section, we’re going to outline the process and make it as straightforward as possible.
What Type of Licence do I Need?
Different types of licences
There are two types of licence currently available from the SIA.
Most people who move into the industry will only need to apply for one of them. However, some of you who plan to work in other roles might need to apply for the second licence type.
The two licences available right now include:
- A front line licence for bodyguards
- A non-front line licence for managers, supervisors and other staff who don’t carry out front-line duties
Requirements to apply for a license
In order to qualify to apply for a front line licence, all applicant must meet the following criteria:
- Aged 18 or over
- Successful identity-check
- Pass the criminal record check
- Hold the appropriate, SIA recognised, qualification
- The qualification must have been achieved no more than three years before the licence application.
- Have a right to work in the United Kingdom (UK)
For those who wish to operate in non-front line roles, such as a manager or supervisor, the applicant must satisfy the following criteria:
- Aged 18 or over
- Successful identity-check
- Pass the criminal record check
Applicants applying for non-front line licences do not necessarily need SIA recognised qualifications. And, the SIA may grant a non-front line licence to an applicant who does not have the right to work in the UK, if they are a director of a UK registered company which is linked to licence application.
The SIA will take into account any recent mental health problems where the applicant has been subject to compulsory detention or been subject to other compulsory measures in the five years prior to their application.
The SIA will not seek out information about any mental health problems which have not been subject to compulsory measures or resulted in detention. If an applicant has any recent mental health problems requiring detention or other compulsory measures, they will be required to provide a current medical report outlining the condition and any ongoing treatment(s).
Who Needs a Licence?
If you want to work in any of the following roles for a private security company in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland will need to get qualified by undertaking an SIA-recognised training and passing the assessments:
- Cash and Valuables in Transit
- Close Protection
- Door Supervision
- Key Holding
- Public Space Surveillance CCTV
- Security Guard
- Vehicle Immobilisation (only in Northern Ireland)
How do I Apply for a Front Line Licence?
Anyone who wants to apply for an SIA licence needs to complete their application online. If there are no complications the process is relatively straightforward and will look similar to this:
Step 1: Register
If this is your first application you will need to register for a personal online account: Sign Up here
Step 2: Login
If you have held any SIA licence previously you will be able to log in with your existing account: Login Here
Step 3: Apply
Once logged in, navigate to ‘Start a New Application’: Start new application
Complete sections 1-9 on the online application, review your details and then click submit.
Step 4: Next Steps
You will be notified by email of the next steps. When instructed to do so, visit a post office to have your ID documents checked and photographs taken. You will also be required to pay the application fee.
Step 5: Checks
Once the application process has begun a criminal background and right to work check will be conducted.
Step 6: Decision
You will be notified of the outcome of the decision by email. If you are successful you will be granted a licence, which should be dispatched to you within 14 days.
What if my application is unsuccessful?
If the SIA refuses to grant you a licence they will write to you to explain their decision. You are not entitled to a refund but you can appeal the decision within 21 days of the date of the decision letter being issued.
When Does the SIA front line licence expire?
The licence expires three years after it was first issued. Operators must renew their licences to continue working in the private security industry. You can start the application process up to three months before your current licence expires.
What happens if you do not renew your licence before it expires?
The SIA guidance is as follows:
Where an individual’s licence has expired, but he or she wants to apply for a new one, then we will accept that person’s qualification as long as there has been less than three years between the old licence expiring and the application being made for the new one.
How Much Does a Licence Cost?
The licence application fee costs £190, and is non-refundable, meaning that if your application is unsuccessful the fee will not be returned. The licence is valid for three years and requires an individual to undertake training (except for keyholders who only require the identity and criminal record check).
While some employers will pay the licence fee for you, the licence belongs to the individual, so you can take it with you if you switch jobs.
However, if an applicant pays the licence fee themselves, you may be able to claim tax relief against your taxable income.
In certain circumstances, you may require more than one licence. If this is the case, a 50% discount is usually available on the second one.
What about Renewing a Licence?
There is a fee for processing all licence applications, including renewals. The fee is payable whether a licence is granted or refused. No part of the licence fee is refundable.
The current fee is set out on the SIA website: SIA licensing costs
Does the SIA Make any Exceptions to the Licence Requirements?
Anyone with previous close protection training, recognised by the SIA, may gain exemption from the mandatory SIA required training. However, all applicants for the front-line licence need to pass the knowledge and practical assessment.
The SIA maintains a list of approved training providers which should be referred to before undertaking any training.
Close protection operatives can request that their previous training and qualifications to be taken into account when applying for the front-line licence, even if they were attained outside the European Economic Area. This can be done via Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).
If an applicant holds a previous qualification or has relevant experience, they may not need to take all of the training required for a licence.
If an applicant has undertaken any of the training listed below, then they may need to take all of the training required for a licence. In this case, they should take their certificate(s) to an SIA approved training provider who will assist them with what to do next.
Please note: Requirement are subject to change and applicants should check the SIA website for the most up-to-date information.
Recognition of Prior Learning Examples:
- Suppose an applicant has previously achieved formal close protection training and is currently employed in an operational close protection role. In that case, they should take evidence of the training they have received to an approved training provider. Depending on the date and relevance of their previous training, they will be instructed to take either the full (139.5 hours) close protection course or a three-day refresher course.
- Suppose an applicant has completed formal close protection training provided by one of the organisations listed below, within the past three years and has remained in an operational close protection role since. In that case, they are not required to undertake any further training. However, they must still sit the mandatory knowledge and a practical skills assessment.
Recognised Close Protection Training Equivalents:
- Special Air Service Regiment Bodyguard Course
- Royal Military Police Close Protection Course
- Metropolitan Police Royalty Protection/Special Branch Close Protection Course
- Police National Close Protection Courses, including Northern Ireland.
Qualifications providing an exemption from the SIA approved training must be no more than three years old. All candidates must take the knowledge test and practical skills assessment.
Always check the SIA website for the most up to date information: Latest information on training exemptions
Can I Get a License With a Criminal Record?
Firstly, it should be stated that the SIA conducts criminal record checks on all SIA licence applicants.
Having a criminal record does not necessarily mean that you will not be eligible for a front line licence. However, all convictions, warnings, cautions, community resolutions, absolute/conditional discharges, admonishments or charges awaiting trial for offences will be considered by the SIA.
According to the SIA document “Get Licensed 2019”, if you have a criminal record, the SIA will decide on whether to grant you a licence based on:
- whether the offences are relevant
- the actual sentence or disposal given to the applicant for the offence
- how recent the violations occurred
For more information on how the SIA evaluates offences when making licensing decisions visit: Criminal offences criteria for licensing
Read our full article on the SIA criteria for granting licences to people with criminal records.
Please remember that the information provided in this article is always subject to change and updated from time to time. You can always find the latest information by visiting the SIA website.
For more detailed information on licensing, visit the SIA website www.the-sia.org.uk or call the SIA helpline on 0844 892 1025.