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Background Investigation and Credential Process

All of this information (and more) can be found on the OPS Share Point Site.


All interns and fellows (paid and unpaid) 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 for this purpose (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. All intern/fellow coordinators should be familiar with these requirements. The general steps below should be completed by the coordinator/sponsor after an appointment has been made to initiate an OPS Background Investigation and obtain an SI badge for their appointee.


Step 1  

Documents provided to applicant by sponsor or coordinating office:

The following forms are required for all applicants:

  1. OF-306: Declaration for Federal Employment
  2. Fingerprint Privacy rights and Acknowledgment Form (* previously SI-4008 Page 2)
  3. Tentative Offer Letter OR Award Agreement Letter from the Office of Fellowships and Interns (If issued already – not required until ID Credential issuance) 

If applicant will be mailing in documents

**Account Request Waiver for Completed Pre-Employment Background Investigation**​​​​​​

  • If intern/fellow faces barriers to getting fingerprinted (e.g., concerns over COVID), the coordinator/sponsor should directly copy their response into the waiver form here. Include that waiver with the network account request (see Step 3 below)


Step 2  

Applicant provides all required documents (detailed in step 1) to OPS Personnel Security and ID Office (PSIO) either in person at our office or a satellite office, OR via mail.

  • Make an appointment through the ID Office on-line scheduler for in-person processing, including fingerprinting, ID photograph capture, and identity proofing (two forms of ID required).


  • Mail documents (Fed-Ex) to: 

Smithsonian Institution OPS-Personnel Security & ID Office
600 Maryland Ave SW Suite 4160
Washington, DC 20024

  • Mail documents (USPS) to: 

Smithsonian Institution OPS-Personnel Security & ID Office
P.O. Box 23793
Washington, DC 20026-3793


Step 3  

Sponsor/Coordinating Office will receive an email notification when the pre-employment background check is completed and applicant is approved. Sponsor/Coordinator can then proceed with on-boarding, and/or network access, and/or ID Credential 

  • The Sponsor/Coordinator must log in to SOLAA and upload a copy of the ‘Notice of Favorable Pre-employment Background Check’ email message (issued by OPS) into the Network Request section for the appointee. This section can be found after clicking on a selected appointee’s Appointment/Registration Info tab. 



Step 4  

If applicant requires a credential: 

  • The Coordinator/Sponsor completes and signs the Application for Identification Credential SI-4008 and provides the form to the applicant (if not completed in step 2) and provides instructions on how to make an appointment with the ID Office or one of its satellite locations using the ID Office On-Line Scheduler
  • Applicant schedules an appointment and brings the required documents below to their appointment to obtain their ID Credential.
    • Completed Application for Identification Credential SI-4008  (if not completed in step 2)
    • 2 Forms of ID
    • Award Agreement Letter from the Office of Fellowships and Interns (if not provided in step 2)

If documents were mailed in step 2: 

  • Fingerprints will be authenticated against submitted fingerprints 
  • ID photograph will be taken 
  • Identity proofing (two forms of ID required). 


Where can my intern get fingerprinted?

Non-local applicants or local interns who would prefer to mail their information to our office should include the forms below and mail to the address listed:

  • Two fingerprint cards-
    • We recommended contacting the local police department to arrange fingerprinting.
  • Tentative Offer letter
  • Declaration for Federal Employment (OF306)
  • Application for ID credential- SI 4008


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

By appointment only. No walk-ins.


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/Fellow Coordinator, through an e-mail list, when an investigation is closed. The 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 academic appointment.

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

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.