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Suitability Overview

Applicants for law enforcement positions in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are required to undergo a Tier V background investigation, previously known as a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI), and must submit to a polygraph examination as required by the Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010. The results of your polygraph examination, in conjunction with information gathered as part of the background investigation process, will be used to assess your overall suitability and/or eligibility to hold a law enforcement position with CBP. Many of the questions you will be asked during the polygraph examination and during the personal interview part of the background investigation will involve responses you previously provided to questions on your application and background investigation forms.

Integrity is a core value of CBP. As an applicant for a law enforcement position with CBP, it is important that you be honest and forthcoming about any/all information you provide during each phase of the hiring process (application, SF-86, background investigation, polygraph examination). Depending on a number of factors, it is possible that concerns raised regarding previous actions/behaviors have the potential to be mitigated, and are therefore not automatic disqualifiers, by CBP when making a suitability or eligibility determination. Conversely, concerns that arise when applicants provide false or misleading information on any application or background investigation forms or during the personal interview will not be mitigated and typically result in a negative suitability or eligibility determination. Therefore, it is imperative that you respond to all questions truthfully.

The questions during the polygraph and personal interview relate to your current situation and also past actions/behaviors. For some individuals, speaking about past actions/behaviors might be uncomfortable. It is important to understand the polygraph examiners and the investigators conducting the personal interviews are trained professionals who are tasked with gathering the facts. A trained personnel security specialist will later review these facts and make a final determination regarding suitability of employment and/or eligibility to hold a national security position. Therefore, it is important to be truthful when filling out all forms and when speaking with the polygraph examiner and investigator, even if it is uncomfortable.

One of the most common areas where applicants do not fully divulge past actions/behaviors involves questions pertaining to illegal drug use. Questions pertaining to illegal drug use are asked multiple times throughout the background investigation process. Your responses on the SF-86 will be compared to your responses during your personal interview and your responses during the polygraph examination. To help you make an informed decision about whether you should continue with the pre-employment process, CBP is sharing the basic guidelines used regarding prior drug use during the adjudication phase. If you have used marijuana, anabolic steroids, or misused prescription drugs (recreational use or provided to someone for recreational use) within the last two (2) years, you will not be found suitable for employment and/or eligible to hold a national security position. CBP recommends you wait until at least two (2) years have passed from your most recent use and apply again at that time. If you have used other illegal narcotics (cocaine, methamphetamine, heroine, and other schedule I-V drugs) within the past three (3) years, you will not be found suitable for employment and/or eligible to hold a national security position. CBP recommends you wait until three (3) years have passed from your most recent use and apply again after that time. However, even if you reapply once the two or three year periods, described above, have expired, there is no guarantee that you will be found suitable. CBP conducts a “whole person” analysis in order to determine whether an applicant is suitable based on previous illegal drug use, considering both aggravating and mitigating factors such as frequency and recency of use, circumstances surrounding the use, the age of the person at time of use, contributing societal conditions, likelihood of recurrence, and/or a demonstrated intent to not use illegal drugs in the future. It is important that you be honest about any/all previous drug use during the entire hiring process (application, SF-86/85P, background investigation, polygraph exam). It is possible that previous illegal drug use may be mitigated, whereas dishonesty and/or falsifying federal application or background investigation forms will not be tolerated and will typically result in a negative suitability finding.

  • Applicants for law enforcement positions in U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) are required to undergo a Tier V background investigation, previously known as a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI), and must submit to a polygraph examination as required by the Anti-Border Corruption Act of 2010.
  • Many of the questions you will be asked during the polygraph examination and during the personal interview part of the background investigation will involve responses you previously provided to questions on your application and background investigation forms.
  • Concerns that arise when applicants provide false or misleading information on any application or background investigation form or during the personal interview will not be mitigated and typically result in a negative suitability or eligibility determination.
  • Questions during the polygraph and personal interview relate to your current and past actions and behaviors.
  • It is important to understand the polygraph examiners and the investigators conducting the personal interviews are trained professionals who are tasked with gathering the facts. A trained personnel security specialist will later review these facts and make a final determination regarding suitability of employment and/or eligibility to hold a national security position.
  • Depending on a number of factors, it is possible that concerns raised regarding previous illegal drug use or other behaviors have the potential to be mitigated by CBP when making a suitability or eligibility determination.
  • Questions pertaining to illegal drug use are asked multiple times throughout the background investigation process. Your responses on the SF-86 will be compared to your responses during your personal interview and your responses during the polygraph examination.
  • If you have used marijuana, anabolic steroids, or misused prescription drugs (recreational use or shared with someone for recreational use) within the last two (2) years, you will not be found suitable for employment and/or eligible to hold a national security position.
  • If you have used other illegal narcotics (cocaine, methamphetamine, heroine, and other schedule I-V drugs.) within the past three (3) years, you will not be found suitable for employment and/or eligible to hold a national security position.
  • CBP recommends you wait until enough years have passed from your most recent use and apply again after that time.

Due to federal reciprocity directives, CBP will share background investigation and/or polygraph information with future potential Federal employers, if it is requested. For example, if someone undergoes a CBP background investigation and/or a polygraph and then applies for a job with another Federal agency, CBP will share the results if the hiring agency requests them. All CBP background information and polygraph results are maintained in a system of records shared across the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As such, the personnel security unit for all DHS components may have access to see the results of a CBP background investigation and/or polygraph.

Except for this information sharing with Federal agencies based on reciprocity directives or with DHS personnel security units, CBP does not, generally, share information from a background investigation and/or polygraph exam. The exceptions to the general rule include instances when the applicant is involved in ongoing criminal activity, has committed a serious crime that does not have a statute of limitations or that is still within the statute of limitations, or there is a threat to national security or public safety.

Last published: 
March 20, 2017
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