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

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.


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