Services - Know Before You Go
DPSAC Process Overview


The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s premier biomedical research agency — making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. 

For the next few days, you will be working closely with the Division of Personnel Security and Access Control (DPSAC) to satisfy all of the federally mandated requirements for obtaining access to NIH facilities or information systems, obtaining a Personal Identity Verification (PIV) or other NIH ID badge, or completing the background investigation required for your position with the U.S. Government. These requirements must be completed before you can start your new position or be granted access to NIH resources. This includes the requirement obringing two forms of valid government identification to your appointment, one of which must contain a picture. Visit the FIPS 201-2 PDF to view a complete list of approved identification documents.    

The following steps are provided to help you successfully complete the DPSAC Prescreening process.     

Please note, to complete the DPSAC prescreening process, it takes on average 30 business days from administrative sponsorship in NED to badge issuance.​

Please click on each different step below for more detail.

1. Administrative Sponsorship

1. Administrative Sponsorship

Candidates at NIH who require access to NIH resources such as physical access to facilities/doors and logical access to information systems will be assigned an Administrative Officer (AO) from their Institute or Center who will sponsor a request in the NIH Enterprise Directory (NED) for an NIH badge and account needed to access those resources. Candidates who require more than 6 months of physical and/or logical access to NIH resources are subject to a background investigation commensurate with the duties and responsibilities of the position they hold at NIH. Even candidates who do not require physical or logical access to NIH may require a background investigation due to the work they are performing on behalf of NIH. It is recommended that administrative officers sponsor these records at least 6-8 weeks in advance of the individuals start date, to allow time for DPSAC prescreening.

Only certain NED requests are processed by DPSAC:

  • Sponsored HHS PIV Badge Requests (Long term, more than 6 months; Employees, Contractors, Fellows, Guest Researchers, etc.)
  • Sponsored Restricted Local Access (RLA) Badge Requests (Foreign Nationals in the U.S. less than 3 years; Short Term less than 6 months; Summer Students)​
  • Employee classification changes requiring a badge change or DPSAC prescreening (i.e. conversion from non-FTE to FTE)
  • Background Investigation Position Sensitivity/Risk Level upgrades/downgrades
  • Critical Data Changes requiring a badge change or DPSAC validation (Name change or Citizenship change)

The following requests are processed by the NIH Police:

  • Legacy badges for Special Government Employees (these individuals undergo an NCIC check) 
  • Extended Visitor Badges for patients, service providers, blood donors, etc. (these badges do not require NED entries)

Badge Type:

​​The badge type requested is determined by employee classificationcitizenship status and duration of access needed:

1. Long-term (greater than 6 months) physical & logical access:

  • ​Subject to prescreening & background investigation and will receive:
    • Personal Identity Verification (PIV) badge (U.S. Citizens)
    • Restricted Local Access (RLA) (Non-U.S. Citizens/under 3 years U.S. Residency)
    • Blue Stripe PIV (Non-U.S. Citizens/over 3 years U.S. Residency)

2. ​Short-term (less than 6 monthsphysical & logical access:

  • Subject to a fingerprint check (SAC) and will receive the short term RLA badge

Badge Classification Chart:
For a better understanding of the different badge types, please see the Badge Classification chart​​​

2. Employment Eligibility Vertification for Foreign Nationals

2. Background Investigation Requirements

Prior to DPSAC Processing, all non-immigrant foreign nationals must first have their U.S. employment eligibility authorization validated by the NIH Division of International Services (DIS). DIS does not process Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR). DPSAC prescreening does not begin until the AO completes badge sponsorship and DIS completes validation for a foreign national.​

The non-Immigrant Foreign National record will route to DIS automatically for validation once the FN badge/account is sponsored by the AO. AOs should request proof of citizenship from the Foreign National (FN)/LPR to avoid errors in the Citizenship/LPR registration fields in NED which can cause significant delays downstream for the applicant, including:  

  • Termination of a pending badge task and re-sponsorship  
  • Additional fingerprinting appointments  
  • Additional delays due to re-processing request   

The individual will be required to visit DIS with their U.S. employment authorization documentation. Once DIS completes validation favorably, the individuals record will be routed to DPSAC for prescreening if the individual requires access to NIH facilities and/or information systems.   

Please note, DPSAC cannot complete prescreening on candidates who do not possess a valid U.S. Social Security Number.   

Please visit the DIS website for more information at:

3. DPSAC Prescreening

3. Enrollment Services (Photo & Fingerprinting and Identify Proofing) for your badge

Once the AO sponsors the candidate's badge/account request for access to NIH facilities and/or information systems and DIS validation has been completed in NED (for non-immigrant foreign nationals) DPSAC will begin the Prescreening. ​

The DPSAC Prescreening Process includes:

1. A check of federal investigation databases to determine if the individual has a suitable investigation that meets/exceeds NIH requirement.

  • ​If no, DPSAC will initiate e-QIP for new Background Investigation & Prescreen.
  • If yes, DPSAC will Prescreen & apply reciprocal acceptance criteria.
    • ​While investigation/reciprocal acceptance requirements are being determined, NED status will remain at “Waiting for DPSAC to determine investigation requirements”  

2. ​Collection and review of the following:  

  • ​​​Electronic Questionnaires for Investigation Process (e-QIP) background investigation questionnaire (if new investigation required; please visit our e-QIP page for more info)
  • Resume/Employment history (needed to check for a break in service; failure to provide this can result in significant delays)
  • OF-306 Declaration for Federal Employment - New federal applicants must have an OF-306 completed in USA Staffing Onboarding system for DPSAC to complete prescreening. Additionally, the Selective Service Registration must be completed. If individual was required to register for Selective Service and answered no to registering, the case will be sent back to HR. 
  • Fingerprints (via crossmatch, Field Print or Enrollment) - Please visit our Fingerprint Services page for more information on the different types of fingerprinting/Enrollment requirements.
  • Other sources of suitability information if required (i.e. court documentation if required for criminal history, additional employment history information, federal debt delinquency paperwork, ink fingerprint cards and state forms for childcare law checks if required, etc.)

3. Once all documentation collected from the candidate, DPSAC will review and make a prescreening and interim badge issuance determination utilizing HSPD-12 credentialing standards:

  • An interim badge determination will be made based on prescreening in cases where the individual required a new investigation. This means that the individual's badge is issued on an interim basis, pending the results of the background investigation and suitability adjudication. Once the investigative results are returned, the badge determination will be finalized if a favorable suitability determination is made. If a suitability determination is unfavorable, the badge will be revoked in conjunction with the unsuitable determination and associated action. 
  • Non-Responsive Applicants: If a candidate does not respond or fails to complete the requested prescreening items in the allotted time, DPSAC will find the individual ineligible for issuance of a PIV/RLA badge due to failure to complete federally mandated prescreening requirements. DPSAC provides ample reminders and warnings, and will also escalate to the Administrative Officer, Supervisor and/or Project Officer if the applicant is not responsive. 
  • Prescreening Determination: If the prescreening determination is favorable (including reciprocal acceptance of prior investigation or e-QIP released to DCSA), DPSAC will authorize PIV/RLA badge and Prescreening Clearance for EOD.
  • If prescreening is not favorable, DPSAC will alert the candidate of the determination made. DPSAC will also notify the program office that the candidate was not eligible for a PIV/RLA badge and will recommend the candidates employment offer be withdrawn due to ineligibility for a position at NIH/issuance of a PIV/RLA badge. 

How long does DPSAC Prescreening take?

  • DPSAC allots 7 days for applicants to complete the prescreening requirements; which is well above the public burden estimation. ​
  • The average timeframe for the DPSAC prescreening process is about 30 days from the date the badge is sponsored in the NED system, to the date the badge is authorized. This timeframe is mutually dependent the applicant and DPSACs prompt completion of actionable items.


​This timeframe DOES not include:

  • Additional time required for DIS to complete employment authorization after badge sponsorship
  • Corrections required on applicant-submitted information
  • Applicant delay in completing requirements or providing requested corrections to documents
  • Applicants who are not able to travel to an NIH or Field Print location to complete their fingerprinting
  • Issues that arise on the applicants paperwork that require mitigation

Estimated Public Burden Information:

  • The amount of time it takes applicants to complete the prescreening forms depends on the investigation type they are completing and the applicants personal background (such as employment, residential and educational history, etc.). 
  • DCSA provides estimated public burden information within the instructions for each of the investigation standard forms.

  • Standard Form 85, 85P and 86

    • Public Burden reporting for this collection of information is estimated to average 155 minutes per response, including time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering and maintaining the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information. 

    • DPSAC finds that most applicants are able to complete the e-QIP questionnaire and forms in under 24 hours; usually between 30 minutes and 3 hours. If additional time is needed to collect information needed for the questionnaire, this can add to the total. 

  • OF-306 Declaration for Federal Employment: 

    • Public burden reporting for this collection of information is estimated to vary from 5 to 30 minutes with an average of 15 minutes per response, including time for reviewing instructions, searching existing data sources, gathering the data needed, and completing and reviewing the collection of information.

  • Fingerprinting/Enrollment Service: 

    • ~20 minutes​

​Please note, DPSAC average processing time from badge sponsorship to badge authorization is 30 days for individuals without issues on prescreening. However, this is subject to the candidate's timely response to DPSAC requests. If the candidate does not provide the requested information in the allotted time, this will delay the prescreening process. 

DPSAC will need to adjudicate any issues that are discovered during the prescreening process before the badge can be issued; this may require additional processing time. To make PIV card eligibility determinations, DPSAC utilizes federal guidelines including, but not limited to:

  • Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 (HSPD-12)
  • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Federal Information Process Standard 201-2 Personal Identity Verification (PIV) of Federal Employees and Contractors  
  • Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) HSPD-12 Credentialing Standards  
  • Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 731

Please visit our Policy page for more information on what polices drive the Personnel Security process. 

5. Identity Proofing and Enrollment for PIV/RLA

5. Determining Your Eligiability for a badge

Once prescreening and investigation requirements have been determined, DPSAC will send a notification to the candidate to complete the Enrollment Process. Enrollment is comprised of Identity Proofing, Photographing and Fingerprinting for the PIV/RLA badge.

The applicant must bring two forms of valid government identification, one of which must contain a picture. Visit FIPS 201-2 PDF to view a complete list of approved identification documents.

Individuals who have not yet been authorized for Badge Enrollment, and who are undergoing prescreening, will need to complete what is known as “Crossmatch" or “Prescreening fingerprints. Crossmatch fingerprinting should not be confused with Enrollment, which is a process that ties individuals biometrics and photograph to the PIV/RLA badge. Crossmatch is different in that it only captures the individual's fingerprints needed for the criminal history repository check. These fingerprints are typically required during Prescreening before Enrollment is authorized. DPSAC has Crossmatch fingerprinting capability at our Main Office in Bethesda, Maryland; and DPSAC can also collect Crossmatch fingerprints remotely using a Third-Party service (also not to be confused with “Enrollment" which is an entirely separate process). For more information, please visit our Fingerprint Services page.​

If the applicant has been approved for both Enrollment and Badge Issuance, and made an appointment for each of these two services, then the applicant will be able to pick up their badge at the NIH facility with an NIH Enrollment Work Station (EWS), where the applicant completes their enrollment. However, there are cases where an applicant will not be able to immediately pick up their badge after completing Enrollment as it may take several days (in those instances) for the fingerprints to clear and for other prescreening items to be completed by the applicant. ​For more information, please visit our Fingerprint Services page.​

8. Final Suitability and Determination (Adjudication)

7. Adjudication of your Background Investigation &Final Badge Determination

Candidates are issued PIV/RLA badges on an interim basis. The badge and employment at NIH are contingent upon the final suitability determination made by DPSAC adjudicators upon receipt of the completed investigation conducted by DCSA. NIH adjudicators apply the suitability standards outlined in Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Part 731, Suitability, when making suitability determinations for NIH staff.