Clearance Applicants and Security Freezes on Credit Reports
In 2018, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act was signed into law, enabling those undergoing background investigations to keep a credit report security freeze in place without any impact to completion of the investigation. At the time, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provided guidance to all Federal agencies to instruct individuals filling out the investigation applications to ignore the language on the forms that advised the applicant that credit freezes may adversely impact the completion of the investigation and their eligibility for access. This change was critical for the background investigation service providers to implement Continuous Vetting on the cleared population.
OPM published a reminder (Notice No 24-01) on January 8, 2024 that all Federal agencies continue to follow previous guidance and not instruct applicants to remove any security freezes on their credit reports until the new Personnel Vetting Questionnaire (PVQ) is implemented, which is replacing the current Standard Forms 86, 85P, 85P-S and 85. The PVQ was approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) last November, but has not been implemented into the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) Agency Portal yet. Additionally, the Declaration for Federal Employment (OF-306), another form related to civil service hiring, was recently updated and approved by OMB last August. It modified changes to language in the instructions in order to be in compliance with the Fair Chance Act, which prohibits agencies from asking about criminal history until a conditional job offer has been extended.