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Polygraph Exam FAQS

Candidates for law enforcement officer positions at Customs and Border Protection are required to undergo a polygraph exam as part of the background investigation. The results of the polygraph will be used to determine the candidate’s suitability for placement in the law enforcement officer position. The suitability information provided by and collected on applicants, including CBP polygraph exam results, will be kept for a minimum of two (2) years for use in future background investigations.

 

 
Watch the video for general information on the CBP polygraph examination and see three agents and officers share their experience about the process.

 

 
This video is intended to provide general information of what to expect during a CBP polygraph and to help applicants prepare for their polygraph examination in advance. It also serves as a good reminder of the importance of being forthcoming during the polygraph and the other phases of the CBP hiring process.
Polygraph Exam Frequently Asked Questions

How do I prepare for the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) polygraph examination?

  • You will receive written reporting instructions prior to your assigned testing date. Please read and follow them in their entirety.
  • Please plan to be available and free of any scheduling conflicts the entire day as there is no way to predict how long your examination may take.
  • Try to get plenty of rest the night before your scheduled polygraph examination and please do not work a midnight shift prior to the morning of your examination.
  • Eat something prior to arrival and feel free to bring snacks and/or drinks.  You will be provided intermittent breaks during the examination, but there will not be a full lunch break.
  • Please continue to take any prescribed medications as scheduled.
  • Dress in neat business attire. Please keep in mind you will be in a professional office setting.
  • Bring official photo identification (driver’s license, passport, etc.) to your examination.
  • Do not bring weapons or recording devices of any kind to the examination.
  • Leave your cell phone in your vehicle, if possible. Otherwise, please notify your examiner of it being in your possession and ensure it is powered completely off during the examination.
  • If any issue(s) would preclude you from being tested on the day of your examination, please contact the examiner via email to re-schedule your examination as soon as possible.
  • Be completely truthful on your application forms to include the e-QIP or Standard Form-86. Be prepared to discuss any updated e-QIP or SF-86 information during your examination.   
  • It is recommended that you do not seek or necessarily trust information about the polygraph found on the internet, chat rooms, social media, YouTube or other non-official sources (unless sanctioned or provided by CBP) as those sources often provide inaccurate information which could be detrimental to your success.  Please ask your examiner if you have any questions or concerns.
  • Your Polygraph Examiner will explain the examination process to you and the two of you will discuss all of the questions you will be asked prior to taking the examination.  You will also have opportunities to ask questions or clarify your answers prior to the examination.
  • The most important thing to remember about taking a polygraph examination is to follow instructions and to be forthcoming when asked to provide information.  Your examiner will be there to guide you through the process.
  • Many people before you have been successful in their examinations and you can be successful as well.
  • Informational videos regarding CBP’s polygraph examination are also available on this frequently asked questions site for your reference:  https://www.cbp.gov/careers/car/poly

What types of forms will I be required to sign on the day of my polygraph examination?

  • There are required forms that will be reviewed with each applicant to include the following:
    • “CBP Applicant Release of Liability”
    • “Polygraph Examination Consent”
    • “Applicant Confidentiality Agreement for U.S. Customs and Border Protection Polygraph Examination”
  • Upon review and discussion with your examiner, you will be asked to sign each form prior to your polygraph examination.

Will being nervous affect the outcome of my polygraph examination?

  • No.  Most applicants are nervous prior to taking their polygraph.  Please know that nervousness is normal and taken into account when reviewing your exam results.  Nervousness will not affect the outcome of the exam.
  • Please do not try to help yourself or your examiner by attempting to “fix” your nervousness by relaxing or calming yourself, as that may affect your natural physiology and extend your polygraph examination session.

Will the polygraph examination be recorded?

  • Yes, the standard protocol is to audio record every CBP polygraph examination in its entirety.

What type of questions will be asked during the polygraph examination?

  • You will be administered a standardized polygraph examination that will include pre-employment screening questions regarding your suitability for employment with CBP and national security issues.
  • All questions will be thoroughly explained and reviewed with you prior to the actual examination.
  • You will be given an opportunity to discuss any concerns or issues you may have with any question(s) prior to the actual examination.

How long does the polygraph examination take?

  • While the length of polygraph examinations vary, the average CBP polygraph examination time is approximately four (4) hours.
  • Short breaks are provided throughout the exam.
  • Very little time is actually spent collecting data via the polygraph equipment; typically, this involves intermittent periods of 10 to 15 minutes at a time when polygraph components are attached and applicants answer questions while their physiology is recorded in response the examination questions.
  • Each applicant is different and has a unique background and life experience which can affect the time needed to complete the examination.
  • In some instances, additional days are needed to complete your examination.

Will the Polygraph Examiner discuss my examination results?

  • Yes.  Before you leave the polygraph suite, the examiner will inform you of your preliminary polygraph examination results and offer you the opportunity to ask questions and/or comment on any areas of concern.

Is the Polygraph Examiner’s decision final and what type of checks and balances are included in the process?

  • No. Polygraph examination results are not deemed final until a Quality Control review has been completed.
  • All of CBP’s Polygraph Examiners are federally certified and held to strict guidelines and standards governed by the National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA).
  • CBP Polygraph Examiners work hard to provide each applicant with a fair and accurate examination; however, applicants must be forthcoming and cooperative in order to successfully complete the polygraph examination.

What is Quality Control?

  • Quality Control (QC) consists of a team of experienced senior level federal polygraph examiners.
  • Under Federal polygraph policies and procedures, polygraph examination results are submitted to the polygraph Quality Control team within the polygraph program for a final review and determination for the exam result.
  • If QC concurs with the examiner’s preliminary analysis of your polygraph examination, the results become final and will be forwarded to CBP’s Personnel Security Division for inclusion in your background investigation file.
  • Otherwise, you may be contacted for additional testing.

How are complaints addressed?

  • CBP takes all complaints seriously and handles all complaints in a timely, fair, thorough, factual, and impartial manner. All complaints are reviewed and responded to within 30 days of receipt.
  • Applicants are encouraged to submit any specific concerns about their polygraph examinations in writing to IACADSCHEDULING@cbp.dhs.gov or to: U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Credibility Assessment Division, 90K NE, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20002.
  • All complaints are processed to determine the nature and validity of the complaint. 
  • Every examination is audio recorded and available for review by Quality Control and/or management as needed.

Under what authority am I required to take a polygraph examination?

  • The Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010 requires CBP to administer polygraph examinations to all applicants applying for law enforcement positions with CBP prior to being hired.

Am I eligible for a waiver or can I be exempted from the polygraph examination requirement?

  • There are no post-examination waivers.
  • However, CBP has the authority to grant waivers to certain veterans under section 1049 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 as outlined below (ALL of the following criteria must be met in order to be eligible):
    • Must qualify as a veteran, as defined in section 2108 or 2109a of title 5, USC.
    • Must have a current Tier 5 (single scope) background investigation (or the equivalent).
    • Must hold a current, active Top Secret security clearance issued without a waiver.
    • Must currently be able to access Sensitive Compartmented Information or SCI.
  • Instructions regarding application for a waiver are provided in each applicant’s background investigation (BI) packet; Applicants who apply for a waiver are asked to reply to their CBP Human Resources Specialist whose information is included within the BI packet.
  • Additionally, there is a “Limited GS-1811 Polygraph Exception” for those Investigative Operations Division applicants seeking voluntary reassignments, who are currently employed as Criminal Investigators (Series 1811) within the Department of Homeland Security; if applicable, those individuals may be exempt from the polygraph requirement as of May 2, 2018.
  • The “It’s Time to Come Home Campaign”, effective April 13, 2017, allows current DHS employees who were former CBP law enforcement personnel (Customs and Border Protection Officers and Border Patrol Agents) to return to frontline positions with CBP through a voluntary reassignment personnel action, without requiring a polygraph examination.

What if I have taken a polygraph exam with another agency? Will those results be accepted?

  • The CBP “Pre-Employment Polygraph Examination Reciprocity” Directive allows applicants who meet specific criteria, to include passing a previous federal pre-employment polygraph examination, to apply for polygraph examination reciprocity.
  • CBP’s Credibility Assessment Division staff reviews all reciprocity requests under this authority to ensure the applicant meets all criteria for the final approval or denial determination.
  • Applicants who apply for reciprocity are asked to reply to their CBP Human Resources Specialist whose information is included within the background investigation (BI) packet.
  • CBP reviews previous polygraph examination results and determines reciprocity eligibility based on  the following factors:
    • Must have completed a polygraph administered by a National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA)-recognized federal polygraph program.
    • At a minimum, the polygraph examination must have covered the same issues addressed by the CBP polygraph examination.
    • Polygraph examinations must have been conducted within the past two (2) years or within the last five (5) years if hired and still (continuously) employed in that position for which the applicant was hired. Examinations conducted outside of a 5-year timeframe will be reviewed for partial reciprocity.

If I passed another polygraph examination, will my CBP polygraph examination be automatically waived?

  • No.  Not all polygraph examinations are the same. Federal polygraph programs have different standards and training requirements than state and local agencies.
  • Even within the federal government, agencies have different hiring standards and mission requirements, as well as different approved testing formats which address agency specific objectives or needs.

If I do not successfully complete the CBP polygraph examination, will that preclude me from applying for other federal law enforcement positions?

  • No. Other agencies can request the status of your application process with CBP, but the results do not preclude you from applying for other jobs.

Who can I contact with questions before or after my polygraph examination?

  • You may contact your assigned Polygraph Examiner identified in your written reporting instructions if you need to cancel or reschedule.
  • If you have specific questions or concerns regarding your polygraph examination, please contact the Credibility Assessment Division at IACADSCHEDULING@cbp.dhs.gov or address correspondence to 90K NE, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20002.
  • The CBP Hiring Center does not have access to information regarding your polygraph examination. The Hiring Center will not know the results of your exam before the “CBP Jobs” mobile app is updated.

Will any illegal drug use preclude me from obtaining a federal law enforcement position with CBP?

  • No.  However, any use of marijuana, anabolic steroids, or misuse of prescription drugs within two (2) years of applying for a position with CBP will disqualify an applicant from further consideration in the hiring process.
  • Any use of other drugs (Schedule I-V, excluding marijuana, prescription drugs and anabolic steroids) within the previous three (3) years will disqualify an applicant.
  • Please note the Personnel Security Division makes all adjudicative decisions. The polygraph program has no role in the adjudicative process.
  • It is important that applicants are forthcoming about any and all pertinent drug use information.

Will the polygraph program contact me again after the polygraph examination?

  • The polygraph program will only contact you again if additional testing is required.

Does the polygraph program decide if I will be hired?

  • No.  The polygraph program is not authorized to make suitability determinations or hiring decisions.

What if I have made mistakes and I do not want to mention them during my examination for fear they will prevent me from being hired?

  • The purpose of the polygraph examination is not to determine if the applicant is perfect, but rather to help determine if the applicant is willing to be forthcoming and demonstrate that s/he has the integrity required to be a federal law enforcement officer or agent.
  • Each applicant’s case is reviewed by an adjudicator from OPR’s Personnel Security Division who will utilize a whole person concept when applying suitability and eligibility guidelines. CBP’s main interest is safeguarding and maintaining the high standards and integrity of its workforce.
  • Withholding information, minor or otherwise, can impact an applicant’s ability to be successful with the polygraph examination.

How will I know if I will be able to continue in the application process?

  • Polygraph examination results are submitted to Personnel Security Division and are adjudicated as part of your background investigation.
  • The polygraph program does not participate in the adjudication process.
  • The Personnel Security Division may contact you during the background investigation process to schedule additional interviews or request additional information.  Please respond by the requested deadline if you receive a request.
  • You may check the status of your application by using the “CBP Jobs” mobile app.

What are the current pass and fail rates for CBP’s polygraph examination?

  • On average, approximately 37% of applicants pass the polygraph examination.
  • On average, approximately 33% of applicants fail the polygraph examination.
  • The remaining 30% of applicants either provide information that is adjudicated and deemed disqualifying in nature or they attempt or deliberately manipulate the polygraph examination.

How long are my CBP polygraph examination results valid?

  • Applicants may reapply at any time. However, CBP polygraph examination results are valid for a two-year period.

I know someone or heard of someone who failed the polygraph and s/he is an ideal candidate/person. How could s/he fail?

  • While we cannot speak to individual experiences, most who fail withhold information (whether minor or otherwise) during the polygraph examination. The majority of the time, applicants who fail the examination withhold information related to past indiscretions that are embarrassing to them or that they believe will prevent them from obtaining a position with CBP.
  • There are also applicants who do not pass the polygraph examination because they intentionally attempt to manipulate the polygraph results. Other applicants provide information during the examination that disqualifies them from obtaining a position with CBP.

Can I request to withdraw my application after the polygraph examination?

  • You may withdraw your application at any time during the process by contacting your assigned Polygraph Examiner with a follow-up call to the CBP Hiring Center in Minneapolis, MN at (952) 857-2914; (952) 857-2943 for CBPO applicants; or (952) 857-2910 for BPA applicants or (952) 857-2932 for AMO applicants.

What if I have other questions regarding the hiring process?

  • All hiring questions should be forwarded through the CBP Hiring Center which has already been in contact with you throughout the process.
Last modified: 
Friday, April 5, 2019 - 15:13
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