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Background Investigation and Polygraph Examination Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Background Investigation Process

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. You will be provided the opportunity to personally explain, refute, or clarify any unfavorable/discrepant information before a final decision is made.

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

Q: What are the basic requirements for employment?
A: U.S. Citizenship: United States citizenship; proof of citizenship required, if selected.

Residency: Meet one or more of the following primary residence criteria for the last three years prior to submitting an application for employment: a) resided in the United States or its protectorates or territories (excluding short trips abroad, such as vacations); b) worked for the U.S. government as an employee overseas in a federal or military capacity; or c) been a dependent of a U.S. federal or military employee serving overseas.

Exceptions may be granted to applicants if they can provide complete state-side coverage information required to make a suitability/security determination. Examples of state-side coverage information include: the state-side address of the company headquarters where the applicant's personnel file is located, the state-side address of the Professor in charge of the applicant's "Study Abroad" program, the church records for the applicant's overseas church missions, and/or the state-side addresses of anyone who worked or studied with the applicant while overseas. If selected for a position, applicants must provide this information when completing the Residency Requirement form.

Background Security Investigation: Successfully complete a background investigation before being appointed (to include successful completion of a polygraph exam for law enforcement office positions).

Drug Testing: If in a drug testing position (e.g., Border Patrol Agent, Customs and Border Protection Officer, Intel Specialist), submit to a drug test and receive a negative test result before being appointed.

Q: What is adjudication and what is involved in the adjudication process?
A: 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.

Q: How long does a background investigation take and why do some investigations take longer than others?
A: If you do not provide accurate information or answer all of the questions on the background investigation forms, the investigative 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 overseas coverage, living in multiple geographic areas, and numerous employers.

Q: What is the difference between a suitability determination and a security clearance?
A: Suitability is a determination based on 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 or promote the efficiency of the agency.

A security clearance is requested when an employee requires access to classified information or systems and 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.

Q: Why are you going to investigate me? I'm only applying for an entry-level job and I don't need a security clearance.
A: 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 of complete and unswerving loyalty to the United States. This means that the appointment of each employee in any department or agency of the government is subject to investigation. The scope of the investigation will vary, depending on the nature of the position and the degree of harm that an individual in that position could cause.

Q: What does a background investigation involve?
A: The background investigation will include credit and criminal history checks, records checks to verify citizenship of family members, verification of birth, education, employment history, and military history. Interviews will be conducted with people who know the candidate and with any current or former spouse (divorced within the past ten years). 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 developed issues.

Q: Will I need to be interviewed for my background investigation?
A: Yes. A personal interview with an investigator is a normal 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 your investigation being canceled and the conditional offer of employment being rescinded.

Q: What happens if I withhold information or provide false information?
A: The U. S. Criminal Code provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines up to $10,000, 5 years imprisonment, or both. In addition, the agency may fire or disqualify individuals who have materially and deliberately falsified information (omission of arrests, drug use, employment, medical history, assets, and liabilities, etc.) on the background investigation documentation or made false statements during the personal interview.

Q: What issues would keep me from successfully completing a favorable background investigation?
A: 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.

Polygraph Examination

Law enforcement officer positions at Customs and Border Protection require a polygraph exam as part of the background investigation. The results of the polygraph will be used to determine your suitability for placement in the law enforcement officer position.

Q: How should I prepare for the polygraph examination?
A: Some of the things you should consider are:

  • Try to get plenty of sleep the night before your scheduled exam.
  • Eat prior to arriving for your exam.
  • Dress is business casual, but you should wear comfortable clothing.
  • If any issue would preclude you from being tested on your scheduled date, please call the examiner and re-schedule your exam.
  • Do not schedule other events for the same day as your scheduled exam. The polygraph process generally takes four to six hours to complete, but may run longer.
  • Bring photo ID (Driver’s License, passport, etc.) to your exam.
  • Bring any updated e-QIP (SF-86) information to your exam.

Q: What type of questions will be asked?
A: You will be administered a standardized polygraph exam, that will include questions on your suitability for employment with CBP and national security concerns. All questions will be 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 prior to the actual exam.

Q: What are the possible outcomes of the polygraph exam?
A: Before you leave the polygraph suite, the examiner will advise you if you passed or failed the exam and offer you the opportunity to comment on any areas of mutual concern. The examiner will explain the polygraph Quality Control process to you. In some instances, the examiner may schedule you for additional testing.

Q: What is Quality Control?
A: Under Federal polygraph policies and procedures, your Polygraph Examination results are submitted to the Polygraph Quality Control (QC) section in the Credibility Assessment Division for final review. If QC concurs with the examiner’s opinion of your polygraph examination, the results are final and will be forwarded to the Personnel Security Division for inclusion in your background investigation file. If not, you may be contacted for additional testing (re-test).

Q: Will the Credibility Assessment Division (Polygraph Unit) contact me again after the Polygraph Exam?
A: No, not unless additional testing is required.

Q: Does the Credibility Assessment Division (Polygraph Unit) decide if I get hired?
A: No. The Credibility Assessment Division does not make hiring decisions.

Q: How will I know if I will continue in the application process?
A: Polygraph results are submitted to the Personnel Security Division (PSD), and are adjudicated as part of your background investigation. The Credibility Assessment Division (Polygraph Unit) does not participate in the adjudication process. PSD may contact you during the background investigation process to schedule additional interviews or request additional information. You may check the status of your application by visiting the Central Applicant Self-Service System (CASS). ( )

Q: Can I request to withdraw my application after the Polygraph Exam?
A: You can withdraw your application at any time during the process by contacting the Minneapolis Hiring Center at (952) 857-2943 (CBPO applicants) or (952) 857-2910 (BPA applicants).

Q: If I do not successfully complete the CBP Polygraph Exam, will that preclude me from job application processes with other agencies?
A: No. Other agencies may request and be given the status of your application process with CBP, but the results do not preclude you from applying or being considered for other jobs.

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