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Safeguarding Integrity and Transparency

Investigation Process Details

Step 1:

The U.S. Government conducts background investigations to determine if applicants or employees meet the suitability or fitness requirements for:

  • employment as a Federal employee or contractor;
  • military service;
  • eligibility for access to Federal facilities, automated systems, or classified information; and/or
  • eligibility for issuance of a credential.

All persons must be properly investigated and favorably adjudicated to hold a position as a Federal employee, consultant, volunteer, contractor personnel or military personnel.

The scope and type of background investigation varies depending on the duties and access requirements for the position, as does the amount of time it takes to be completed. The sponsoring (employing or hiring) agency, that initiated your investigation, is responsible for determining the appropriate level of investigation to be conducted based on current rules and procedures. After your sponsoring agency determines what type of background investigation you require they may conduct the investigation themselves if they are an authorized Investigations Service Provider, or they may request another Investigations Service Provider (like the National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB)) to conduct the investigation.

In order to conduct a background investigation, your sponsoring agency will ask you to complete an electronic questionnaire, sign a certification of the information you provided, and sign releases. If you have any questions while filling out the form, you must contact your sponsoring agency. If this is the first time you have ever been investigated, you will be requested to submit fingerprints. Supporting documentation may also be requested from you, depending on your situation, to include but not limited to citizenship documents, residence history, employment history, and selective service number. If you are filling out a Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, please see page 7 of the guide, Completing Your Investigation Request in e-QIP for a full listing of information you should collect for the form.

Providing the information requested on the form is voluntary. However, if you do not provide the information requested, it may adversely affect your ability to gain a national security position or receive eligibility to access classified information as may be required by the position for which you are applying. Additionally, withholding, misrepresenting, or falsifying information may also negatively affect your employment prospects and job status, and the potential consequences include, but are not limited to, removal, debarment from federal service, loss of eligibility for access to classified information, or prosecution. 

Step 2

Once you fill out your form and provide all necessary documentation to your sponsoring agency, your sponsoring agency will review it for accuracy and complete documentation. Your agency may send the electronic questionnaire back to you to correct any missing or inaccurate information.

Your sponsoring agency has the right to begin determining your suitability and make an unfavorable determination at any point during the investigative process.  A final favorable determination, if appropriate, can only be provided after the investigation is complete. However, interim eligibility or access may be granted to you at the discretion of your sponsoring agency if specific portions of your investigation return favorable results. 

Step 3

During your investigation, an Investigations Service Provider (like NBIB), may conduct searches at police departments, sheriff’s offices, courts, creditors and other record repositories. Your friends, co-workers, landlords, family and neighbors may be contacted to verify where you lived, worked or went to school.  Additionally, an investigator may interview you to verify, expand upon and/or clarify the information you provided on your investigative questionnaire.

Several Investigators may work on your investigation at the same time depending on the locations of your listed activities.  They may be federal employees or contractors to an Investigations Service Provider, all doing the same work and following the same laws, rules, and regulations.  The investigators submit results of record searches and interviews through a report of investigation.  Once the investigation is complete, it is sent back to your sponsoring agency so that your sponsoring agency can make a suitability, fitness and/or security determination concerning your employment. 

Step 4

When your sponsoring agency receives your completed background investigation, they will review all contents of the investigation and make a suitability, fitness and/or security decision based on the position you are applying for, or are currently holding.  

Step 5

If your position requires access to classified information or facilities, your sponsoring agency will make a decision as to whether you will be granted a security clearance based on the results of your background investigation. If a clearance is required for the position, this decision may or may not impact your ability to be employed by that sponsoring agency or contractor. 

See the FAQs for the most commonly asked questions.