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Cooperation in Federal Background Investigations

Law Enforcement Agencies

Why do we receive written requests for criminal record information?

Written inquiries (INV 44) are the primary method for conducting initial requests about a person’s character and conduct from criminal justice sources. This information is relied upon by the employing agency to make a determination regarding a person’s suitability or fitness for employment. Your timely response helps the Government place persons in critical positions without delay. Further, it assists NBIB in meeting the timeliness requirements for completing background investigations that are mandated by Congress.

What is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), National Background Investigations Bureau (NBIB) and why does it conduct background investigations?

NBIB is the primary provider of effective, efficient, and secure background investigations for the Federal Government and is designed with an enhanced focus on national security, customer service, and continuous process improvement to meet this critical government-wide need now and in the future.  NBIB’s mission is to deliver efficient and effective background investigations to safeguard the integrity and trustworthiness of the Federal workforce.

NBIB is home to an international network of Special Agents and contract investigators who conduct background investigations for members of the U.S. Military, current Federal employees, applicants for Federal positions, and employees of Federal agency contractors.  NBIB actively serves more than 100 Federal agencies, or approximately 95 percent of the total background investigations government-wide, ranging from the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense-- charged with protecting America, its citizens and vital national interests-- to the Department of Health and Human Services and Environmental Protection Agency, where employees research cures for disease and develop remedies for a cleaner planet. Agencies use NBIB investigations to determine whether individuals meet the suitability or fitness requirements for employment or continued employment, are eligible to hold a sensitive position, or are eligible for access to Federal facilities, automated systems or classified information. 

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Who conducts the background investigations?

Federally-employed NBIB Special Agents and contract Investigators working on behalf of NBIB conduct the investigations. NBIB contracts with a number of experienced companies to perform background investigation services. Federal law (5 U.S.C. 9101(a)(6)(J)) provides that as authorized agents of NBIB, contract Investigators have the same right as NBIB Special Agents to obtain criminal history record information from Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Special Agents and contract Investigators undergo rigorous investigations training and are held to the same high standards of conduct and professionalism.

How do we know if Special Agents/contract Investigators work for NBIB?

NBIB Special Agents and contract Investigators carry credentials identifying them as representatives of NBIB. They will present their credentials upon introduction.  Please note that through December, 2016, NBIB investigators may continue to carry credentials that indicate that they belong to the Federal Investigative Services (FIS, NBIB’s predecessor within OPM) while updated NBIB badges and credentials are provided to investigators on a rolling basis.  All credentials—either FIS or NBIB-- should include the words “U.S. Office of Personnel Management” and contain the OPM seal.  Further questions related to an Agent’s/Investigator’s identity or status should be directed to NBIB Safety and Security Team between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at: 1-888-795-5673 or

May we photocopy the credentials of Special Agents/Investigators?

No, credentials may not be photocopied under penalty of law. (18 USC 701)

What does a background investigation cover?

The scope of an investigation varies depending on the nature of the position, the type of clearance required for someone to occupy the position and/or the degree of harm an individual holding the job could potentially do.

By law and Executive Order, NBIB investigations include a check of records with local police departments in locations at which the subject has or had personal and/or professional connections. The subject’s fingerprint charts are sent to the FBI for possible match against the Bureau’s criminal history files.

In addition, investigations generally include interviews with the subject of the investigation, the subject’s neighbors, the subject’s employers, officials at schools the subject attended and references. A credit history and record of military service also may be reviewed as well as other federal records.

How does NBIB determine which law enforcement authorities to contact?

Investigators contact local law enforcement authorities in the states, cities and towns where the subject of the investigation lived, worked and attended school; and/or in locations where the subject has admitted to violations of law during the scope of the investigation (usually a 5- to 10-year period). While the subject may no longer have ties to a  locality, the investigative work is necessary to identify any possible unadmitted/unreported criminal activity by the subject and to obtain a complete history of subject’s activities.

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What type of information will the Investigator request or need to access?

The Investigator will want to know if the subject of the investigation has a criminal history record with your department. A criminal history record includes felonies, misdemeanors, traffic offenses or other violations of law that may or may not have resulted in a conviction. The Investigator will request pertinent information about each offense, including the date/place of the offense, statement of the actual charge, circumstances in the offense, and its disposition. In addition, the Investigator may ask for a copy of the police report. Please note that the alleged or suspected criminal activity is pertinent whether or not it led to an arrest or conviction.

May we request a release signed by the subject authorizing us to provide the information?

Yes, the Investigator will provide a copy of the Authorization for Release of Information if requested. Note that the release may be digitally (electronically) signed. Releases that are digitally signed are as valid as those with handwritten signatures (Public Law 105-277, Title XVII).

Who can I contact with questions or concerns?

You can reach a member of NBIB's, Law Enforcement Liaison Team at 724-794-5612 or

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What authorizes NBIB to conduct background investigations?

NBIB, through OPM, derives its authority to conduct background investigations from Executive Orders, laws, statutes and Federal regulations including, but not limited to the following:

Pursuant to 5 USC Chapter 91, section 9101, criminal justice agencies must make available upon request by Federal Agents and Contractors of OPM’s NBIB access to the full and complete criminal history record information regarding individuals under investigation for a security clearance, eligibility for employment in a sensitive position, basic suitability or fitness for federal or contract employment, suitability for a public trust position, accession or retention in the armed forces, and identity credentialing under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12). Information that must be made available to NBIB upon request includes identifiable descriptions and notations of arrests, indictments, informations, and other formal criminal charges; disposition information; information on sentencing, correction supervision, and release; and those records of a State or locality sealed pursuant to law if such records are accessible by State and local criminal justice agencies for the purpose of conducting background checks.

The Civil Service Rules of Executive Order (E.O.) 10577, as amended, 5 U.S.C. 3301 and 7301, and 5 C.F.R. Part 731 make OPM the agency responsible for conducting investigations of qualifications, suitability, and fitness for employment in the civil service.  E.O. 13467, as amended, assigns these investigations to NBIB.

E.O. 13467, as amended, and 50 U.S.C. 3341(c), make NBIB the primary executive branch service provider to conduct background investigations for eligibility for access to classified information (security clearances) for civilians, military personnel, and contractors.   E.O. 12968, as amended provides the parameters for OPM, as an authorized investigative agency, to conduct investigations of individuals whose jobs will require them to have access to classified information.

E.O. 13467, as amended also makes NBIB the primary executive branch service provider to conduct background investigations for the eligibility to hold a national security-sensitive position, fitness to perform work as a Government contractor, fitness to work as a non-appropriated fund employee of the Armed Forces, and authorization to be issued an identity credential for access to facilities and information systems.

These executive orders also establish the requirement for Federal Investigative Standards issued by OPM and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, under which an investigation must include a check of the records of schools attended.

Once a NBIB investigation is complete, the information is provided to the employing agency for adjudication—a decision regarding whether the action to hire an individual or continue his or her employment is consistent with the interests of national security.

Each background investigation conducted by NBIB, or contractor on behalf of NBIB, is accomplished with the full knowledge and consent of the subject of the investigation. Our subjects sign a release giving us the authority to obtain information, to include criminal history record information.

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