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Cooperation in Federal Background Investigations

Digitally Signed Releases

The National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) implemented the use of digital signatures on the General Release form (Authorization for Release of Information) and Medical Release form (Authorization for Release of Medical Information) on September 8, 2014. NBIB uses the electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) system to collect information for the subject of an employment background investigation for Military, Federal or Federal contractor employment. E-QIP is a web-based system that was designed to facilitate the processing of these investigations by collecting the subjects investigative Standard Form data electronically. The use of digital signatures with the electronic collection of investigations data improves the efficiency, timeliness and quality of the background investigation. Digital Signatures are commonly used at financial institutions, private companies and government agencies. For example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has authorized the use of digital signatures on Federal Tax forms.

For information on how an individual digitally signs within e-QIP, please view the e-QIP Applicant Click-to-Sign Instructions.

Educational Institutions

Subjects of federal background investigations have the ability to digitally sign their release pages in the e-QIP system. The digital signature captured in the e-QIP system is legally recognized in accordance with the Federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-SIGN) 15 U.S.C. 7001, the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act (UETA), which is a United States Uniform Law Commission between state level governments, and the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), as well as Federal information processing and security standards. As addressed in 34 CFR Part 99 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Final Rule, FERPA was modified to allow more fluid and flexible standards for those schools that choose to accept digital signatures.

How the Individual 'digitally' signs the forms:

During the electronic signature process, the individual is presented with the option to "digitally sign" the certification of their investigation questionnaire and supporting release forms. The individual is not required or forced to complete the signature process electronically, and is provided with the option to print their forms and sign using traditional pen and ink.

When digitally signing forms the individual must enter the self-created password that authenticates the digital signature and creates an imprinted secure hash code that ties the receipt to the original electronically signed document. The record is created to provide an audit trail and a specific logical association to all related signed material.

Following electronic signature, the individual has the option to print the forms, as a receipt of digitally signed material is required by United States law. Individuals are prompted print each form immediately following each digital signature. Printing the forms provides individuals with a record of and assurance that the form was successfully electronically signed and saved in the e-QIP system.

The resulting signature appears as:

Screenshot of digital signature field on the printed e-QIP online application form. The text reads: Signature (Sign in ink), This form was digitally signed by: First Middle Last in accordance with the Electronic Signature Act 15 U.S.C. 7001, Public Law 105-277 the Uniform Electronic Transaction Act, and other regulations governing electronic signatures and access controlled U.S. Government systems to include CFR-2004-title34-vol1.

NBIB has the authority to allow subjects to digitally sign their release pages in accordance with Public Law 105-277, Title XVII which states "Electronic records submitted or maintained in accordance with procedures developed under this title, or electronic signatures or other forms of electronic authentication used in accordance with such procedures, shall not be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability because such records are in electronic form."  Each background investigation conducted by NBIB is accomplished with the full knowledge and consent of the subject of the investigation.

Law Enforcement

If you are a law enforcement agency, NBIB asks for your compliance with 5 U.S.C. 9101, which requires that you make available to NBIB criminal history record information regarding individuals under investigation for the purpose of determining eligibility for access to classified information; assignment to or retention in sensitive national security duties; acceptance or retention in the armed forces; and appointment, retention, or assignment to a position of public trust or a critical or sensitive position while either employed by the Government or performing a Government contract.

If you have more questions about your role as a record provider, please see our Frequently Asked Questions.

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