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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 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 exam may take.
  • Try to get plenty of rest the night before your scheduled 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 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 call the examiner and re-schedule your examination as soon as possible.
  • Be completely truthful on the SF-86/application forms. Bring any updated e-QIP (SF-86) information to your examination and be prepared to discuss those updates and changes.   
  • Do not seek (or trust) information about the polygraph found on the Internet, chat rooms, social media, YouTube or other non-official sources as those sources will only 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 testing process to you and the two of you will discuss all of the questions you will be asked prior to taking the exam.  You will also have opportunities to ask questions or clarify your answers prior to the exam.
  • The most important thing to remember about taking a polygraph 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 exams and you can be successful as well
  • Please visit our website for answers to many frequently asked questions:

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

  • There are required forms that will be reviewed with each applicant to include the following:
    1. “CBP Applicant Release of Liability”
    2. “Polygraph Examination Consent”
    3. “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 test?

  • 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 testing session.

Will the 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 exam?

  • 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 exam take?

  • While the length of the exams vary, the average exam time is approximately 4 hours.
  • Short breaks are provided throughout the exam.
  • Very little time is actually spent collecting data via the polygraph equipment
  • Each applicant is different and has unique background and life experience which can affect the time needed to complete the exam.
  • In some instances, additional days are needed to complete testing.

Will the Polygraph Examiner discuss my exam results?

  • Before you leave the polygraph suite, the examiner will inform you of your preliminary test 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?

  • 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


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.
  • All complaints are processed to determine the nature and validity of the complaint. 
  • Every exam is audio recorded and available for review by Quality Control and/or management as needed.

What is Quality Control?

  • Under Federal polygraph policies and procedures, polygraph examination results are submitted to the polygraph Quality Control (QC) Team within the Polygraph Division 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

Am I eligible for a waiver?

  • There are no post-exam waivers afforded to anyone.
  • CBP has the authority to grant waivers to certain veterans under section 1049 of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 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 V (single scope) background investigation (or the equivalent.)
    • Must currently hold a final Top Secret/SCI level security clearance issued without a waiver.
    • Must be eligible to access Sensitive Compartmentalized Information (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.
  • Investigative Operations Division (IOD) applicants seeking voluntary reassignments, who are currently employed as Criminal Investigators (Series 1811) within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) seeking voluntary are exempt from the polygraph requirement as of May 2, 2018.

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

  • The CBP Reciprocity Directive allows applicants who have meet specific criteria, to include passing a previous federal pre-employment polygraph examination to apply for polygraph 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 exam results and determines reciprocity eligibility to include the following factors:
    • Must have completed a polygraph administered by a National Center for Credibility Assessment (NCCA) Federal Polygraph program.
    • Examination must have been conducted within the past 2 years or within the last 5 years if hired and still employed in that position. (Examinations conducted outside of a 5-year timeframe will be reviewed for partial reciprocity.)
    • At a minimum, the examination covered the same issues addressed by CBP’s exam.
  • Applicants can find information regarding reciprocity on the careers page at:

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

  • No, not all polygraph exams are the same. Federal polygraph programs have different standards and training than state and local organizations.
  • 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 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 exam?

  • You may contact your assigned examiner identified in your written reporting instructions if you need to cancel or reschedule.
  • Customs and Border Protection Applicant Contact Center
    Hours of Operation: M-F, 7am-7pm ET
  • The CBP Hiring Center does not have access to information regarding your polygraph exam. The Hiring Center will not know the results of your exam before the “CBP Jobs” mobile app is updated.

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

  • Any use of marijuana, anabolic steroids, or misuse of prescription drugs within 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 3 years will disqualify an applicant.
  • The Personnel Security Division makes all adjudicative decisions. The Polygraph Division 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 Division contact me again after the Polygraph Examination?

  • Only if additional testing is required.

Does the Polygraph Division decide if I will be hired?

  • No. The Polygraph Division does not make hiring decisions.

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

  • Polygraph results are submitted to the Personnel Security Division and are adjudicated as part of your background investigation.
  • The Polygraph Division 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.

How long are my CBP polygraph results valid?

  • Polygraph results are valid for a two-year period, upon which time applicants are eligible to reapply.

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, the only way to fail a polygraph examination is by withholding information (whether minor or otherwise) from the Polygraph Examiner. The majority of the time, applicants who fail the exam 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 because they intentionally attempt to manipulate the polygraph results. Other applicants provide information during the exam 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 the Customs and Broder Protection Applicant Contact Center at
    833-405-8051 or;
    Hours of Operation: M-F, 7am-7pm ET.

What if I have other questions regarding the hiring process?

  • Please contact the Customs and Border Protection Applicant Contact Center for questions regarding the hiring process at 833-405-8051 or;
    Hours of Operation: M-F, 7am-7pm ET.

Last modified: 
Monday, February 4, 2019 - 10:53