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What is a Government Background Check?

Fingerprinting is often a mandatory procedure.
A government background check may focus on the credit history of an applicant.
Positions with access to classified information require background checks.
An executive order, signed by President Eisenhower in 1953, gave agencies the authority to use background investigations.
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  • Written By: Jessica Hobby
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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When American citizens choose to work for the federal government in positions that require access to classified information, they are required to undergo an intense government background check. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible for conducting the majority of background checks for most federal agencies and their contractors. An executive order signed by President Eisenhower in 1953, gave OPM and other agencies the authority to regulate the security of federal personnel through the use of background investigations. Government background checks that aren’t performed by OPM are usually conducted by the Department of Defense or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The agency conducting the government background check has a first priority to make sure that the applicant is reliable, trustworthy and loyal to the United States. To what depth they investigate an applicant depends on the position that has been applied for. Positions that require the most access to classified information and that give an employee the opportunity to do the most individual harm, require a background check of the largest scope.

A government background check is regarded as the most thorough of background investigations, therefore, it is considered very intrusive by many people. The first step of a government background check requires an applicant to fill out a security questionnaire that has extremely personal questions on it. Additionally, applicants must be fingerprinted, so their prints can be entered into the computers of the FBI and confirm that they are not criminals.

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Next, interviewers that work for whichever agency performing the government background check, find and locate people listed on the security questionnaire and others that may not be, so they may have an unbiased account of an applicant’s character. They will conduct interviews with an applicant’s friends, family, acquaintances, current employers, past employers and anyone they can find to give personal information to them about an applicant.

In addition, a credit report will be run to make sure there are no major credit problems with an applicant. Most government background checks take at least 30 days, and many of them 90 days or longer. The length of the investigation depends on the number of contacts an applicant has outside of the United States and the difficulty that an interviewer has contacting people on an applicant’s security questionnaire. After the pertinent information has been gathered about an applicant, adjudications officials at the agency requiring the investigation will evaluate the information communicate their recommendation to the appropriate personnel or security office.

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Discuss this Article

anon351269
Post 6

We normal citizens can do our part by doing our own background check on a person or stranger that we engaged for personal and business. You cannot afford not to in today's dangerous world. A look at the criminal records map of major US cities shows a very scary, high incidence of reports daily.

anon168954
Post 4

Are particular investigations made during World War II for employment in defense industries available to succeeding generations, especially if the persons are deceased and the information is needed for answering unknown information concerning these persons?

Armas1313
Post 2

In order to pursue employment in certain countries, FBI criminal background checks are required. The FBI is able to easily access any information that you have typed up on the internet at any time, and uses these things to assess your character and loyalty to your country. They also want to be sure that you are not willing to break the law. Ultimately, the primary trust is placed in your character as a person, and this is how they hire.

Renegade
Post 1

The FBI will often check with neighbors and close friends to find out more about an individual during a background check. They are looking for any red flags that might come up because they don't want to be caught with their pants down.

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