Investigations & Clearance Process

Our Role

To protect the welfare of the American people, all people who work for the United States government must be reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, and of complete and unswerving loyalty to the United States. Federal employees, contractors, and military members must undergo a background investigation. The extent of the investigation will depend on the type of job and the degree of harm the person in that job could cause. Even if a job does not require a security clearance to access classified national security information, regulations require an investigation for a suitability determination. 

The sponsoring (employing or hiring) agency initiating your investigation determines the appropriate level of investigation. If they're an authorized Investigations Service Provider (ISP), they may conduct the investigation themselves. If they're not, they may ask another ISP, like DCSA, to conduct the investigation. 

What You’ll Need to Submit

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, contact your sponsoring agency. You'll need to submit fingerprints if this is your first time being investigated or certain requirements apply. 

Supporting Documentation 

You may need to submit supporting documentation depending on your situation. Supporting documentation may include, but is not limited to: 

  • Citizenship documents 

  • Residence history 

  • Employment history 

  • Selective service number 

If you are filling out a Standard Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Positions, please see page 7 of the (guide), for a full listing of information you should collect for the form. 

Omitting Information on the Form 

Providing the information requested on the form is voluntary. But, if you don't provide the information requested, it could impact your eligibility for the position or access classified information. Withholding, misrepresenting, or falsifying information may also impact your eligibility and job status. Potential consequences include, but are not limited to: 

  • Removal 

  • Debarment from federal service 

  • Loss of eligibility for access to classified information 

  • Prosecution 

After you submit your form and documents, your sponsoring agency will check for accuracy and completeness. If they find errors or missing information, they may send the questionnaire back to you to correct. 

Your sponsoring agency has the right to begin determining your suitability. TheThey have the right to make an unfavorable determination at any point during the investigation.  You can receive a final favorable determination only after the investigation is complete.  

Your sponsoring agency can grant you interim eligibility or access, at their discretion. This requires specific portions of your investigation return favorable results. 

Who We’ll Contact 

During your investigation, DCSA may conduct searches at: 

  • Law enforcement entities 

  • Courts 

  • Employers 

  • Educational institutions 

  • Creditors and other record repositories 

Your friends, co-workers, landlords, family and neighbors may be also contacted. They will be asked to verify where you lived, worked or went to school, as well as questions regarding your character and conduct. Additionally, an investigator may interview you to verify, expand upon, or clarify the information you provided on your investigative questionnaire. 

About Your Investigators 

Several investigators may work on your case 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 do the same work and follow the same laws, rules, and regulations.  

The investigators submit their results through a report of investigation. Once the investigation is complete, it's sent back to your sponsoring agency. They can then make a suitability, fitness, or security determination concerning your employment. 

Other Methods of Request 

For some types of investigations, we'll  the Investigative Service Provider (ISP) will gather information with a written request. In these cases, we'll send a written inquiry to the employer to verify your employment history and gather relevant information. For other types of investigations, we may send an investigator in person to gather this information. No matter how we collect information, we appreciate your timely cooperation. It helps the government efficiently fill critical positions with qualified applicants. 

When your sponsoring agency receives your completed background investigation, they'll review all its contents. They'll then make a suitability, fitness, or security decision based on the position you are applying for or currently hold. This determines whether you are eligible for employment with or on behalf of the federal government. If your position requires a security clearance, it also determines if you're eligible to access classified information. 

If your position requires access to classified information or facilities, your background investigation helps determine if you'll receive a security clearance. Your sponsoring agency will often determine your clearance and employment eligibility at the same time. Depending on your position, your clearance decision may or may not impact your employment eligibility.  

As a clearance holder, you're expected to report any issues or life circumstances that may affect your eligibility to hold your position or access classified information. If you have any questions on self-reporting, reach out to your Security Office. Learn more about your expectations for self-reporting.  

Investigations policy and procedures have changed a lot since 2016. Today, the investigations community is changing how it ensures continued eligibility for employment and access to classified information. We're shifting from a periodic reinvestigation procedure to a continuous evaluation (CE) model, also known as continuous vetting (CV). 

The CE model enrolls you in a program that alerts your employer to changes in your eligibility. Alerts are based on suitability 5 CFR 731 and security SEAD 4 factors. You may be enrolled at any time while employed with, or on behalf of, the federal government.