How to get an SIA licence from the Security Industry Authority (SIA)

Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
August 21, 2019

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The Security Industry Authority (SIA) is the regulator for the UK private security industry and issues SIA licences.

It has two main duties: the compulsory SIA licensing of individuals undertaking designated activities within the private security industry; and management of the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS), which assesses industry suppliers against certain criteria.

The SIA ensures that licensed security operatives are properly trained and qualified to carry out their job, with licensing covering areas such as manned guarding, key holding and vehicle immobilising.

Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS)

The ACS is based on operational and performance standards that suppliers of private security services need to meet in order to achieve ‘Approved Contractor’ status, which gives assurance that a contractor is committed to quality. Once a licence has been issued, the licence-holder’s details are placed on a searchable register.

SIA licence types

There are two types of SIA licence: a frontline licence, which is required if undertaking licensable activity, other than key-holding activities; and a non-frontline licence, which is required for those who manage, supervise and/or employ individuals who engage in licensable activity, as long as no frontline activity is carried out.

The manned guarding licence is broken down into the following activities:

  • Cash and valuables in transit – this licence is required when guarding property against destruction, damage, being stolen, or being dishonestly taken or obtained, and involving the secure transportation of property in vehicles specially manufactured (or adapted) for such a purpose.
  • Close protection – this licence is required when guarding one or more individuals against assault or injuries that might be suffered as a result of the unlawful conduct of others.
  • Door supervision – this licence is required if manned guarding is undertaken in relation to licensed premises, except where the activity only involves the use of CCTV, or it falls within the definition of cash and valuables in transit or close protection.
  • Public space surveillance (CCTV) – this licence is required when manned guarding is carried out through the use of CCTV to monitor the activities of a member of the public, or identify a person.
  • Security guard – this licence is required when manned guarding activity that doesn’t fall under the descriptions of door supervision, close protection, cash and valuables in transit, or public space surveillance (CCTV) is undertaken.

A key-holding licence is required when keeping custody of, or controlling access to, any key or similar device for operating a lock, with certain qualifications. Licensing of vehicle immobilisers applies to Northern Ireland only.

In July 2016, the SIA introduced a new online licensing system, allowing individuals to register for online accounts and apply for or renew licences online. The website also allows individuals to change their personal details remotely.

Companies can register for online business accounts and have access to new products, such as watchlists, which allow them to check the licensed status of their staff.

SIA-approved contractors have access to Licence Management and Licence Assist services, allowing them to apply online on behalf of consenting staff.

The Licence Assist service also keeps employers informed when a licence is granted to one of their employees, and allows employers to check the licensable status of licence-holders.

Providing all the same benefits, the Licence Management service allows employers to carry out identity checks for new applicants without having to visit a post office, and allows employers to update their employee’s details on their behalf.

In 2014 the SIA sponsored a study into the state of training, licensing and professionalisation in the UK security industry.

SIA licence cost

The cost of an SIA licence to individuals has been reduced from 1 October 2019. Individual licences for all sectors will cost £210, down £10 from £220.

A front line vehicle immobiliser licence runs for just one year for the same price. The reduction applies to both new applicants and anyone renewing existing licences.

Covering the cost of processing your application this fee is non-refundable. If you’re paying the fee yourself you can claim tax relief against your taxable income.

Each additional licence – some professionals require more than one depending on their role – will be discounted by 50%.

Find out more about prices and how to pay.

How to get an SIA licence for free

There are several ways to avoid paying for an SIA licence. Your employer may agree to fund your SIA training course, perhaps with you repaying the fee in installments out of your salary.

If you’re unemployed, the government’s Skill Funding Agency might fund the fee if you’re aged between 19 and 24 and a UK resident for at least three years.

The Job Centre may fund your SIA licence training if you’ve been unemployed for around a year and working in the sector is part of your job-seeking plan.

Find out more about how to get a free SIA licence.

SIA licence renewal

SIA licences don’t renew automatically, so you should keep track of when it expires in order to carry on working legally.

The SIA recommends applying for renewal as early as possible to avoid the risk of any delay that might prevent you from working for a time. Licences can be renewed up to four months before their expiration.

Applying early won’t truncate the length of your licence – the new licence will simply commence when your current one expires.

A licence renewal costs the same as a new application (£220).

Find out more about renewing your SIA licence.

SIA licence checker

All licence holders are visible on a register, visible to the public, in order to create transparency and discourage rogue operators. The SIA must keep the register up to date to comply with section 12 of the Private Security Industry Act. However, you can be reassured that your address will not be published.

SIA licence training

To secure a front-line SIA licence you must offer evidence that they are properly qualified to do their job. This means obtaining an SIA-endorsed qualification.

However, the SIA says that exemptions might be granted for “some previously existing qualifications in security-related disciplines”.

Given the seriousness of its role, the private security sector has been susceptible to reputational damage caused by incompetent and negligent operators. This emphasis on training is part of a wider industry effort to professionalise the sector, promote competence and improve the industry’s public image.

Find out more about SIA training.

SIA licence update

The above information could change at any time. Stay abreast of SIA updates around licensing information by signing up to SIA emails.

Last year the SIA agreed that all businesses offering security services should be subject to mandatory business licensing. However, a year on Abbey Petkar, MD and founder of security services firm Magenta Security, has expressed his frustration at the lack of progress towards achieving that goal.

SIA licence contact

If your employer is unable to answer any SIA-related queries you may have, you can contact the SIA directly.

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