Recruitment of UK spies no longer restricted to those with British parents

UK intelligence agencies to broaden pool of talent by accepting anyone with British citizenship

The selection criteria for spies are, perhaps unsurprisingly, quite opaque and presumed to be fairly stringent. But there is one thing that will no longer be required of would-be British agents: British parentage.

The UK’s three intelligence agencies are seeking to broaden the pool of talent they can recruit from by accepting anyone who has British citizenship – regardless of where their parents are from.

“We perform best in our mission to keep the nation safe and further the UK’s interests when we reflect the diversity of the country we serve,” said a spokesperson speaking on behalf of GCHQ, MI5 and MI6.

“By recruiting people from the widest possible range of backgrounds, we can innovate, challenge established ways of thinking and welcome the very brightest and best people to join us.

“The parental nationality rule unnecessarily stopped brilliant people from applying to work with us. Removing this blanket rule means that all British citizens who apply for jobs in our agencies can now be assessed on their abilities and not where their parents are from.”

The agencies stressed that all candidates who are successful in applying will still be heavily vetted in a process that will consider their lifestyle and personal connections to identify and manage risks.

They said they believed the changes would help the agencies compete for the country’s top talent and broaden the range of skills at their disposal – helping them respond to threats facing the UK more effectively. “It means all British citizens who apply for jobs in our agencies can now be assessed on their abilities and not where their parents are from,” the agencies said.

Previously, applicants had to be a British citizen and one of their parents either a British citizen or someone with nationality or citizenship from an approved list of countries. The agencies stressed that the changes, which come into effect on 2 November 2022, would not affect the requirement for an applicant to be a British citizen themselves.

The approved citizenships are: British Overseas Territory, British Subject and British national (overseas), as well as a British Overseas Citizen and a British Protected Person. Citizenship of a country of the Commonwealth, a country in the European Economic Area (EEA), or citizenship of the United States of America (USA) are also deemed acceptable to the intelligence services.


Kevin Rawlinson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
British Sikh activist ‘tortured in India after tip-off from UK intelligence’
Lawyers for Jagtar Singh Johal say he was given electric shocks after unlawful arrest in Punjab in 2017

Matthew Weaver

23, Aug, 2022 @1:55 PM

Article image
Snowden leak: governments' hostile reaction fuelled public's distrust of spies
Leading figures in British and international intelligence and security community agree agencies need more transparency

Alan Travis Home affairs editor

15, Jun, 2015 @3:19 PM

Article image
Special agent Hazel unveils cunning plan to recruit more female spies
In one of her final acts as a sitting MP, the former counter-terrorism minister has written a report on the intelligence services that wasn’t leaked in advance

John Crace

05, Mar, 2015 @6:19 PM

Article image
Priti Patel pressed to explain award of spy agencies contract to Amazon
US firm Amazon Web Services to host classified material for GCHQ, MI5 and MI6, raising sovereignty concerns

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

27, Oct, 2021 @7:23 AM

Article image
The UK is at high risk of a terror attack – but how has it avoided one so far?
Lessons learned by intelligence agencies after 2005 London bombings and greater cooperation could help but threat level is still severe

Ewen MacAskill Defence and intelligence correspondent

22, Dec, 2016 @6:59 PM

Article image
MI6 to recruit hundreds more staff in response to digital technology
Worldwide intelligence agencies increasingly rely upon internet and social media rather than running of agents

Ewen MacAskill

21, Sep, 2016 @8:37 PM

Article image
None of MI6 and MI5's senior officials are from BAME backgrounds
27% of senior roles at MI5 and 20% at MI6 held by women but none by people from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds

Alice Ross and Owen Bowcott

05, Jul, 2016 @6:08 PM

Article image
UK surveillance and spying watchdog begins work
Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office to ensure intelligence and government services act within new law

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent

31, Aug, 2017 @11:01 PM

Article image
No suspects yet in Skripal nerve agent attack, MPs told
UK national security adviser’s admission dashes hopes that police were withholding names

Ewen MacAskill Defence and intelligence correspondent

01, May, 2018 @1:51 PM

Article image
UK spy agencies have collected bulk personal data since 1990s, files show
Agencies privately concede that ‘intrusive’ practices can invade privacy and that data is gathered on people ‘unlikely to be of interest’

Owen Bowcott and Richard Norton-Taylor

20, Apr, 2016 @11:01 PM