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Background Investigation and Credential Process

All of this information (and more) can be found on the OPS website.


All interns (paid and unpaid) and fellows must be registered with OFI and receive an award letter in order to receive a badge from the OPS Personnel Security and ID Office.


Does my intern/fellow need an Office of Protection Services (OPS) Background Investigation?

All new employees and affiliated staff (which is what interns/fellows are classified as) who are associated with the Smithsonian Institution (SI) for greater than 30 days, and who require unsupervised access to staff-only areas of SI-controlled facilities and leased spaces, will receive an appropriate background investigation and SI credential. International interns do require a check, and you should contact OPS about the most appropriate way to do so on a case-by-case basis. All intern/fellow coordinators should be familiar with these requirements.

Intern/fellow coordinator/sponsor’s process for initiating an OPS Background Investigation and obtaining an SI badge for their appointee:

  • Issue the OF-306, “Declaration for Federal Employment” and SF-87, Fingerprint Card (only if intern/fellow is outside the metropolitan Washington, DC and New York City areas), and the Tentative Offer Letter to the intern/fellow. (NOTE: If you use SOLAA, this Tentative Offer Letter can be automatically generated and printed)
  • Initiate the intern/fellow’s pre-appointment background investigation. This step can be accomplished in one of two ways:
  1. Enroll the new intern/fellow in the OPS Identity Management System (IDMS). This involves:
      • Entering the intern/fellow personal data
      • Automatically generating an SI-4008, “Application for ID Credential”
      • Uploading a Tentative Employment Letter
  2. If for some reason a sponsor cannot obtain, in a safe and secure manner, all information required to enroll a new intern/fellow, the sponsor may not use the IDMS Enrollment. The sponsor is still responsible for coordinating the new intern/fellow background investigation and request for credential with the OPS Personnel Security and ID Office (PSIO). In this case, the sponsor should complete an SI-4008 Request for Credential, give it to the new intern/fellow, and direct him/her to the PSIO (with his/her tentative offer letter if applicable) to complete Step 3 below. Note: Not using the IDMS Enrollment may delay the completion of the background investigation and credential issuance.
  • Direct the intern/fellow (with a Tentative Offer Letter) to the PSIO or satellite fingerprinting and data collection locations to submit his/her paperwork, have his/her fingerprints and picture taken, and have his/her identity documents (two forms) scanned.  Direct new interns/fellows outside the metropolitan Washington, D.C. and New York City areas to mail their paperwork to the PSIO. (Please see below for further instructions regarding fingerprinting). These staff should be directed to the ID office or satellite fingerprinting and data collection locations to have their picture taken and identity documents scanned when they report for duty.
  • Receive the email notification from PSIO when the background investigation is complete.
  • Sign the SI-4008 (unless already completed in step 2) and direct the intern/fellow to the PSIO office or satellite fingerprinting and data collection locations to retrieve their SI credential with their letter from OFI. The sponsor is also responsible for any subsequent renewal or replacement of the SI credential.

NOTE: Tentative Offer Letters are now being sent out by OFI to all interns (paid and unpaid) and fellows registered through our office. These MUST be used to pick up badge.

Where can my intern get fingerprinted?

Non-local applicants must take the SF87 Fingerprint Chart to their local law enforcement agency or courthouse to obtain fingerprints. A minimal fee is usually involved. The applicant must then mail the completed OF306 and SF87 to the Office of Protection Services (see address immediately below). It is recommended that Applicants return the forms via express mail with a tracking number.

To ship via USPS:

Smithsonian Institution Office of Protective Services

Personal Security Division

PO Box 23793

Washington, DC 20026-3793


To ship via FedEx:

Smithsonian Institution Office of Protective Services

Personal Security Division

Capital Gallery Building

600 Maryland Ave SW Suite 4310

Washington, DC 20024

The SF87 (Fingerprint Chart) is available from the Office of Protection Services. The SF87 cannot be sent via e-mail and must be mailed to the applicant.

Local Applicants (those within commuting distance to Washington, DC or to New York City) must hand-deliver the completed OF306 and Request for Fingerprint Information. At that time, the Applicant will be fingerprinted on-site at no cost.

PSIO Location:
Capital Gallery
Suite 4100
600 Maryland Ave SW
Washington, DC 20024
Tel: (202) 633-1598
E-mail: OPS-PSO@si.edu

Office hours: 8am to 4pm, Monday through Friday

There are six additional satellite locations where new interns/fellows can be fingerprinted and/or photographed for pre-employment background investigations or expired/lost IDs.

Additional locations:
National Zoo Conservation and Research Center
1500 Remount Road, Front Royal, VA 22630
Tel. (540) 635-6592

National Zoo Police
3001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington DC, 20008
Tel. (202) 633-4111

Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center
14390 Air & Space Museum Parkway, Chantilly, VA 20151
Tel. (703) 572-4004

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
647 Contees Wharf Road, Edgewater, MD 21037
Tel. (443) 482-2298

George Gustav Heye Center
1 Bowling Green, New York, NY 10004
Tel. (212) 514-3843

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
2 East 91st Street, New York, NY 10128
Tel. (212) 849-8449

What is the basic process of the Background Investigation?

The Office of Protection Services (OPS) contracts the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to conduct all investigations. Based upon the investigation results, OPS determines the applicant’s suitability for a position at the Smithsonian. OPS discusses any/all background investigation “issues” that may arise with the applicant directly. The turnaround time for investigation results is about 10 days from the time information is received from the applicant. OPS will notify the Intern Coordinator, through an e-mail list, when an investigation is closed. The Intern Coordinator will then contact the applicant to extend a formal internship offer, and to detail the regular orientation procedures.

If an applicant is found unsuitable, Coordinators must mail an “Unsuitable Letter (.doc)” to inform the applicant. The applicant cannot be awarded a Smithsonian internship.

Once an applicant has successfully cleared the background investigation process, the intern may receive a Smithsonian ID badge.

What is the Office of Protection Services’ IDMS System?

The IDentity Management Enrollment Site is to be used exclusively by supervisors and sponsors of new SI employees or affiliated staff to initiate a Pre-Appointment Background Investigation which is required before a new SI credential may be issued. If for some reason a sponsor cannot obtain, in a safe and secure manner, all information required to enroll a new employee, the sponsor may not use the IDMS enrollment. The sponsor is still responsible for coordinating the new employee or affiliated staff background investigation and request for credential with the OPS Personnel Security and ID Offices (PSIO). Not using the enrollment page may delay the completion of the background investigation and credential issuance.

Interns who are former Federal Employees:

If a potential intern was a prior Federal employee (or possibly contractor) and already meets the pre-appointment background investigation requirements, the SI credential can be issued on that basis provided there has not been a break in the employee’s Federal service for more than 24 months since the background investigation was completed. However, OPS reserves the right to conduct another pre-appointment background investigation if deemed appropriate.

My intern is a minor. Do they need the Background check?

Yes. Intern minors need to bring a copy of the Parent Acknowledgement and Release with them to the ID office when they go to get fingerprinted.

How much time should I allot before my intern begins?

Processing and notification of pass/fail typically occurs within 10 business days from the time OPS receives the documents back from your intern. However, the process can take up to 20 business days during peak intern seasons, when more interns begin.

Can I request that my intern be fingerprinted and receive their badge at the same time?

No. To be eligible for an exception, the fingerprint chart must have been pending in the PSIO for 21 days and the OF306-Declaration for Federal Employment must contain no potentially disqualifying information. If these criteria have not been met the form will be returned as ineligible for an exception.

Notes about IDs:

All SI Credentials must be renewed regularly. The credential expiration varies based on the type of staff position. A completed Application for Credential (SI-4008) is required to initiate the renewal.

Occasionally, an SI Credential may be lost, damaged or stolen. Staff sponsors are responsible for generating a new Application for Credential to initiate the replacement.

Request Access

After new interns/fellows receive their SI Credentials or if existing staff have changed positions or responsibilities within SI, they may need to have their credential “programmed” to allow access to certain non-public areas of SI facilities. They also may need to receive keys to certain doors to perform their duties. The staff sponsor is responsible for requesting such access on behalf of their staff person. The access form is not available online. Please contact your local building security for this form.