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Background Investigation Process FAQS

A favorably completed background investigation is required for your placement in a position with Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Final determination of your suitability for the position will be determined by CBP.

Please view this message from Office of Professional Responsibility on the importance of being truthful and fully forthcoming during the hiring process, including when completing the background investigation and polygraph requirements.

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Provisional Clear Statement of Understanding

What is the purpose of a background investigation?

A background investigation is conducted to ensure that the candidate is suitable for employment, i.e. reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, and loyal to the United States.

What is adjudication and what is involved in the adjudication process?

Adjudication is the evaluation of data contained in a background investigation, and/or any other available relevant reports, to determine whether an individual is suitable for federal employment or eligible for access to classified information.

How long does a background investigation take and why do some investigations take longer than others?

Pre-employment investigative screening (such as the collection and review of fingerprints and the Questionnaire for National Security Positions, the polygraph exam, and the background investigation) can take up to 12 months, or longer. Although most issues are resolved, you cannot be authorized to enter-on-duty until all potentially disqualifying issues are resolved.  If you do not provide accurate information or answer all of the questions on the background investigation forms, the process may be delayed. Some individuals have more complex backgrounds than others and, consequently, more time is required to conduct a complete investigation. Other factors that may delay the process are a candidate’s having resided in multiple geographic areas and having numerous past employers.

What is the difference between a suitability determination and a security clearance?

Suitability refers to an individual’s identifiable character traits and conduct that is sufficient to decide whether the individual’s employment or continued employment would or would not protect the integrity or promote the efficiency of the service.  Suitability is distinguishable from a person’s ability to fulfill the qualification requirements of a job, as measured by experience, education, knowledge, and skills.

A security clearance is a determination that allows an employee access to classified information or systems when the employee has a “need to know.” A security clearance may be granted based on an administrative determination that an individual is eligible for access to classified information or systems based on the favorable security adjudication of a background investigation. Although all employees must meet the suitability requirements for employment, not all employees require a security clearance.

Why are you going to investigate me? I'm only applying for an entry-level job and I don't need a security clearance.

Suitability is always a consideration for Federal employment. All individuals employed by the Federal Government shall be reliable, trustworthy, of good conduct and character, and have complete and unswerving loyalty to the United States. This means that each employee appointed to a position in any department or agency of the government is subject to an investigation.

What does a background investigation involve?

The background investigation will include credit and criminal history checks, records checks to verify citizenship of family members, verification of date of birth, education, employment history, and military history.  Interviews of individuals who know the candidate and of any current or former spouse (divorced within the past ten years) will be conducted. Residences will be confirmed, neighbors interviewed, and public records queried for information about bankruptcies, divorces, and criminal or civil litigation. Additional interviews will be conducted, as needed, to resolve any inconsistencies or issues which have developed during the course of the investigation.

Will I need to be interviewed for my background investigation?

Yes. A personal interview with an investigator is part of the investigative process. You will be contacted in advance by telephone to arrange a time and location for the interview. Declining an interview may result in the cancellation of the investigation and the withdrawal of the tentative offer of employment.

What happens if I withhold information or provide false information?

The agency may remove an employee or disqualify applicants who materially and deliberately falsify or conceal information (such as the omission of arrests, drug use, employment, medical history, assets, and liabilities, etc.) on the background investigation documentation or who make false statements during the personal interview with the investigator.  In addition, the U. S. Criminal Code (18 U.S.C. § 1001) provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines up to $10,000and/or 5 years imprisonment.

Why would I receive an unfavorable suitability determination at the conclusion of my background investigation?

Some issues that may result in an unfavorable suitability determination include: financial irresponsibility; poor credit history; drug/alcohol abuse; arrest history; misconduct in prior employment; association with individuals involved in illegal activities such as drug use and drug trafficking; and demonstrated lack of honesty/integrity in providing complete and comprehensive information about current/past behavior which may be unfavorable.

Where do I find more information on the Prior Drug-Use Guidelines?

Last modified: 
Tuesday, August 15, 2017 - 08:44
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