Frequently Asked Questions

Review the information found on the USAJOBS Help Center web page for further information on the background investigation process.

Occasionally a center requests that we cancel appointments due to equipment issues or registrar availability. When this occurs, we will cancel the appointment as soon as possible and alert you to reschedule.

For up-to-the-minute information regarding the USAccess service, be sure to check the home page of the USAccess website as it is updated regularly with advisories regarding center closings or system related issues that could affect appointments.

It is responsibility of the on-duty registrar/activator and/or the credentialing center manager to initiate a closure email, via the GSA Online Scheduling System, to all applicants with an appointment on a day the credentialing center must close. The GSA MSO also requests that the responsible individual(s) call any applicants with a scheduled appointment if the closure occurs within 24 hours of an appointment.

If a credentialing center anticipates an extended closure, it is the credentialing center managers and/or managing agency responsibility to update the GSA Online Scheduling System, so that appointments cannot be scheduled during the period of known closure.

Once sponsored in the USAccess system, applicants will receive an email prompting them to make an appointment at a nearby USAccess center. View instructions on how to make the appointment at

The name of the person who sponsored you is included in the email you receive prompting you to make an appointment to enroll for your USAccess PIV credential. The person name and email address are listed in this email. You may also contact your agency-specific Help Desk or, in most cases, your agency HR department.

Please contact your sponsor and he/she can work with you to have the credential shipped to a new location. Your sponsor name and email address is located in the email instructing you to make an appointment for enrollment (photo and fingerprints). The subject line of this email is USAccess Sponsorship Complete.? If this email no longer exists, please reach out to your agency lead/POC or agency-specific HSPD-12 Helpdesk.

Once your PIV credential has been delivered to a USAccess center, you will receive an e-mail directing you to set an appointment to pick up and activate your PIV credential. The e-mail will come from the account, with the Subject Line USAccess Credential Ready for Pick Up?.

The e-mail also contains a password/PIN that you will need to activate your credential. Be sure to bring this PIN with you to your appointment, so you can successfully activate your credential.

It is important that you make an appointment at the same USAccess center identified in the e-mail, as this is where your PIV credential is located.

Once you have made your appointment, you can get driving directions by using the Find USAccess Center feature on the USAccess Program website.

Please contact your sponsor for the status of your credential delivery.

The PIV credential PIN can be reset at any USAccess activation station. Reset your one time use activation password and use Unattended Activation to reset your PIN. If you do not know or have not reset your one time use activation password, the PIN must be reset with the assistance of an activator using Attended Activation.Attended PIN reset is required for credential holders who did not successfully capture fingerprints during enrollment.

The expiration date printed in the top right corner of the credential refers to the expiration of the physical credential, and is (usually) on a 5 year expiration cycle. The certificates, referred to in the email, are on a 3 year expiration cycle. This is based on government-wide policy for this specific type of electronic certificates. Please follow the directions in the email to schedule an appointment at a credentialing center for a Card Update in order to update the certificates before they expire. The update should take no more than 10 minutes.

There are a couple important notes about the certificate expiration date. First, it is impossible to change the date of the expiration. Second, the certificates expire on the date after that provided. For example, if the email states that the certificates expire on 7/1/12, they must be updated by 6/30/12. If a credential holder attempts to update them on 7/1/12, the certificates will already have expired and the update will fail. If the certificates expire, the credential is terminated and will no longer work and you must contact your sponsor. Your sponsor's name and email address is located in the email instructing you to make an appointment for enrollment (photo and fingerprints). The subject line of this email is USAccess Sponsorship Complete. If this email no longer exists, please reach out to your agency lead/POC or agency-specific HSPD-12 Helpdesk.

The GSA MSO does not dictate the operations of the credentialing centers. Some are flexible on late appointments, while others do not honor late appointments, so we cannot recommend a specific course of action if you are late. However, if you think you may be late to your appointment, it is in your best interest to check the Operating Hours Online to make sure the center is at least open for your planned time of arrival.

Many of the credentialing centers operate on a limited schedule and may not have available time slots. The GSA MSO does not have the ability to make special exceptions for specific credentialing centers, as each one is managed individually or regionally by the hosting agency. If time is a factor, please look for available time slots at other nearby credentialing centers.

The USAccess centers do not have publicly accessible telephones. If you need to locate a center, please visit and use the Find USAccess Center tool. The information includes the hosting agency name, address, hours of operation and whether it is open to all agency personnel or if it is for restricted use. From the tool, you will also be able to view a map and get directions to the USAccess center.

A link to the List of Acceptable Forms of Identification is available on the home page.

When you go to your enrollment appointment, you will need to present the registrar with two (2) acceptable forms of identification. At a minimum, you must present at least one primary acceptable forms of identification, which must be valid on the date of your appointment:

Your secondary form of identification can be an additional primary form of identification, or one of the secondary forms of identification described on the List of Acceptable Forms of Identification.

You may present two primary forms of identification if you do not have any secondary forms.

Note: If you do not have at least one form of Primary ID and another secondary form of ID, you will NOT be able to enroll/register for your PIV credential.

Please do not enroll for your HSPD-12 PIV credential until you personally receive an email from your agency sponsor stating that you have been sponsored. All personnel - employees and contractors - will receive their own communication, so do not forward any emails pertaining to your new PIV credential.

The one time use system password is typically sent to the applicant in an e-mail that notifies him or her that the credential has been delivered and is ready for pickup. The password is in the body of the e-mail and is used to activate the applicantcredential for the first time. The Self Service Password Reset Portal is ONLY to reset the one time use system password it does not reset the credential holder PIN.

The Self Service Password Reset Portal e-mails the applicant a NEW one time use system password required for some of the Unattended Credential operations. A new password would be useful to an applicant who did not receive the Credential Delivered e-mail, lost or deleted the e-mail, or forgot to bring the e-mail or password to the activation appointment.

The password is used for the following operations for applicants/credential holders who have successfully enrolled fingerprints:

1. Unattended Activation.
2. Unattended PIN Reset (for a Credential with a previously locked PIN).

The PIV credential PIN is created by the credential holder during the activation of the USAccess PIV credential. The credential PIN is six to eight digits long, and is used to protect the private information on your USAccess credential.

The credential holder uses the PIN for the following operations:

1. Performing transactions, such as digitally signing an e-mail with the credential.
2. Completing a certificate update using an Unattended Activation Station or Light Activation Station.
3. Changing a PIN (where the current PIN is known and the credential is not locked).

To have your credential updated, you must visit an activation station. You may use unattended or attended activation. Watch this website for announcements about the addition of credentialing centers around the country. For information on the location of Light Activation Stations, contact your agency program management office.

If your agency participates in the USAccess Program, contact your agency sponsor. If you do not know who your sponsor is, you might research this information on your agencies intranet to find the agency USAccess Program manager or lead, alternatively contact the agency human resource department.

1. Access the Find USAccess Centers tool.

2. In the "type" field, select the type of center you wish to search for. Choices are enrollment or activation.

3. Enter in the City and State where you are located, or the Zip Code. This tool uses your starting point in order to find a center located near you.

4. In the "within" field, select the range of miles you wish to search for. For example, if you select 25 miles, the locator will return a list of centers located within 25 miles of your starting location.

5. Click on the Find button.

6. The tool will return a list of centers located near the starting point. View the results to find one nearest you.

If a center is marked For use by agency personnel only, it is a dedicated center and is only open to employees and contractors of that specific agency. If you are not affiliated with that agency, you should select another center located near you.

You can also click on View Map to get detailed directions to each center.

7. Go to the GSA Online Scheduling System and make an appointment at the center you have chosen.

You will need to contact your sponsor whose contact information is included in the e-mail. Please note that the name in the system should match two authoritative sources of documentation.

It is important that the name displayed in system (and is included in the e-mail you received) matches the name that is on your proof of identification documents that you will need to present to enroll and pick up your PIV credential. See the List of Acceptable Forms of ID in the Credential Holders section of this website.

In order to enroll, you must verify that your full name, as entered by your sponsor, matches the name listed on the primary and secondary forms of identification you plan to bring to your appointment.

Note: Your ID documents MUST match the name entered in the system. If your information on your ID documents that you bring to your appointment do not match your information in the system, you will NOT be able to enroll, and will be asked to reschedule your appointment.

Some examples of mismatches that require a correction are:
1. Apparent typo or transposition of letters in the name (ex. Jmaes vs. James)
2. Mismatch between a given name and an alias, nickname or derivative name (ex. Jim vs. James)
3. Mismatch between maiden name in one record and married name in the other
4. Mismatch of the suffix

If mismatches appear and the system is incorrect, you need to contact your sponsor (the person who entered your information in the system), who will update your information in the USAccess system. Once this update is made, you will receive another email to make an enrollment appointment. Once again, verify the personal information on the email to be sure it is correct and matches the names on your identification documents.

If a mismatch occurs, but your ID documents are correct (i.e. you have recently been married), you can bring what is called a "linking document", which can be used to link two names on two ID source documents.

Acceptable linking documents include:

  • Marriage certificate
  • Certified copy of birth certificate
  • Court record of name change

The linking document must have both the former and current legal names on it and both the primary and secondary document must be valid and not expired. For example, a married woman may use both a current driver''s license (in the married name) and a certified copy of her birth certificate (in her maiden name) but will be required to bring her marriage license with her as a linking docum


The USAccess offering provides the capability for users to update certificates utilizing the activation workstation, which can be accomplished in either an attended or unattended mode (self-service). The USAccess system will generate an email to credential holders notifying them that the PKI certificates will expire based on 90, 60, and 30 days intervals.

A credential reissuance is required whenever there is a change to any of the information printed on the outside of the PIV credential or following a revocation/termination of the PIV credential. Contact your sponsor should you require a credential reissuance.

The PIV credential issued by the USAccess Program follows the standard set by NIST. An image of a sample PIV credential is displayed on our home page. As outlined by the NIST standard, each credential contains a set of mandatory information, such as the issuing agency seal, a photo of the credential holder, and the credential holder physical characteristics. Customizable features include the agency logo and the return address in event the credential is lost and needs to be returned.

The information written on the PIV credential is done so in an encrypted manner by the credential management system. Each PIV credential contains an integrated circuit chip (ICC), optional bar codes, and magnetic stripe. The applicant picture, name, issuing agency, and expiration date are visible on the front of the credential. For a detailed account of the credential and its capabilities, please refer to NIST FIPS 201-2.

There are four PKI certificates and they are stored in an area on the credential called the PIV container. The PIV container is in the circuit chip visible on the front of the credential.

The four certificates used for various functions are:

Digital signature
PIV Authentication
Card Authentication

As a federal employee or contractor, your agency has decided to participate in GSA USAccess Program. The program was developed in response to Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) requiring federal agencies to issue a common identity credential. Over time, all existing federal government issued badges will be replaced with a PIV-compliant credential.
Ultimately, your USAccess PIV credential will enable you to gain access to buildings and systems for which you are authorized. Without a PIV credential, you may not be able to enter certain buildings, or will need to be registered as a guest.

The PIV credential is designed to securely store your identification verification data. It does not contain personal information, such as your social security number, date of birth, or personal address. The only data stored in your credential are your digital photograph, fingerprints, and cryptographic keys. The back of your credential contains your height, eye color and hair color.

Cryptographic keys are methods for securely transmitting and authenticating information, such as emails. Cryptographic keys can be used to digitally sign and encrypt emails, such that ensures your emails are kept confidential and only read by the intended receiver.

A sponsor is an official representative from your agency who substantiates an applicant''s need for a PIV Credential or temporary identification badge and attests to the validity of the applicant requiring a PIV credential. The sponsor initiates the creation or your identity in the USAccess system.

Each agency has an implementation schedule for their organization. Contact your agency program office to get sponsored. You might check your intranet or with your Human Resources manager to find that specific contact.

You will receive an e-mail with the subject _Your Sponsorship is Complete?. This will have your personal information in it, the name of your sponsor and the next steps that should be taken to register for enrollment.

The enrollment appointment itself generally takes about 15 minutes.

You are receiving emails from the USAccess system because your agency selected GSA USAccess Program to issue their HSPD-12 compliant PIV credential. The first email communicates that you have been sponsored and explains the steps you need to follow in order to get your PIV credential. You will receive approximately 2 emails, to confirm your appointment for enrollment, to communicate that your PIV credential is ready for pick-up and activation. Each agency has the ability to customize these emails, so this might vary slightly.

There are USAccess credentialing centers that are open to use by all agency personnel (shared) and some that only can be used by employees or contractors from that agency (dedicated).

To determine a centeravailability in the GSA Online Scheduling System:

1. Select a location in the GSA Online Scheduling System.
2. If a center is dedicated and can only be used by employees or contractors of that agency, it will have ONLY in the center location.
3. If a center is shared and is open to all applicants, it will have Shared in its center location.

Applicants can also verify a center availability by using the Find a Center tool on the USAccess Program website. This tool uses an individual starting point in order to find the closest center. Dedicated centers are labeled as For use by (specific agency) personnel only.

Contact your agency sponsor or USAccess point-of-contact. Normally what that means is that your agency has not elected to use the GSA Online Scheduling system.

You need to bring two acceptable forms of identification for proof of citizen. Visit the Credential Holders Credential Appointments section of this website for a list of acceptable forms of identification and for more detailed instructions. Be sure to review this list prior to visiting a USAccess center, as you will need to present proper proof of identification in order to enroll or pick up your PIV credential.

You will need to bring some piece of identification with you, preferably one or all of the documents that you presented at the time of enrollment. You should also bring the temporary password contained in the email that was sent to inform you that your credential was ready for pick-up. You will be prompted to enter this password when you insert your credential into the card reader during activation.

If your PIV credential is damaged at any time, either when you first pick it up or after using it, you will need to contact your agency sponsor or your agency security officer. In the case where your PIV credential is incorrect or damaged when you first pick it up, a replacement may take some time, depending on where you picked up your PIV credential. If you picked up your PIV credential at a shared services site, the PIV credential will have to be returned to your agency sponsor or security officer. Then, the sponsor will request a reissue or reprint. You will be notified by email to return to the enrollment center to re-enroll or to activate the new PIV credential. Please be patient, as it may take several weeks for the process to be complete.

A credential activation appointment takes approximately 5-10 minutes.

If you are unable to activate your credential, ask the registrar working in the USAccess center for assistance. The registrar will work with the USAccess Help Desk to activate your credential. The registrar will give you instructions in the event he/she is unable to activate your credential.

Never! There is no need to change your Personal Identification Number (PIN). You should protect your PIN as it is your personal password. Please do not write down your PIN or share it with anyone.

No, the PIV credential will not demagnetize. The PIV credential has a memory, and interaction with magnetic fields will have no impact on the integrity of the stored data.

Your agency will determine if you are to receive a badge holder. Your agency will also determine what kind of holder it will provide for your credential. If you did not receive one when you picked up your credential and think you should have, contact your agency sponsor.

No, please do not store you PIV credential in your wallet, purse, or any unapproved plastic card holder or sleeve. The volatile chemicals in some plastics and leather can damage your credential.

The PIV credential is required [by NIST] to be stored in an electromagnetically opaque sleeve/holder. You should have received a sleeve or credential holder when you picked up your PIV credential. Contact your sponsor to get an approved credential holder.

Each agency develops its own PIV credential deployment plan. They may decide to deploy by various criteria, such as certain bureaus, regions, or employee types. You should contact your supervisor or contracting officer representative (COR) who will guide you through the initial steps for getting a PIV credential.

Every agency has an out-processing procedure for when an employee terminates or retires. You will be required to turn your PIV credential over to the designated agency representative. The PIV credential will be deactivated at that time.

Contact your sponsor for specifics about how you should proceed with regard to waiting. Prior to requesting a new PIV credential and change in the USAccess system, please make sure you have the required acceptable forms of identification for proof of citizenship documentation available with your new name or relevant personally identifiable information on it that has changed. Please read the Acceptable Forms of ID Guide for detailed instructions about what to bring to each appointment.

Next, you contact your sponsor to ensure that your name may be changed in the USAccess system. You will receive another sponsorship complete email. You must re-enroll, and get a new PIV credential. You will need to bring you new forms of identification with you to your enrollment.

The USAccess Program provides a dedicated helpdesk to role holders.

USAccess Role Holder Helpdesk

The USAccess Program utilizes UPS overnight shipping. Once printed, the PIV credentials are shipped according to the sponsor selected shipping preference. Credentials must be shipped to valid shipping addresses, registered in the USAccess system. PO Boxes may not be used to ship credentials.

Monthly payments on Fixed Dedicated Stations are stopped by a decommission. Payments will not be stopped or suspended due to inactivity or by taking a station offline. In the event that a site wishes to decommission a fixed (shared or dedicated) station, please follow the checklist below: 1. Email with notification of the intent to decommission. 2. The MSO will coordinate the paperwork and the site POC will be contacted within a few weeks with instructions on returning the equipment, as well as pre-paid boxes to use for return shipment. 3. If you wish to replace your station with a mobile solution, credentialing units can be leased from GSA USAccess.

No, the USAccess Program does not issue temporary credentials or certificates.

Agencies interested in ordering new USAccess CUs, Printers, Light Activation Kits can contact the MSO at If the equipment ordered is for a new Fixed Site (a Credentialing Center with a Fixed CU), then the GSA USAccess MSO will send a SET Worksheet for the Site to complete. Completed forms and SET Worksheets should be submitted to the MSO at

The Light Activation Kit allows for all credentialing actions, except enrollment.

The kit contains the following:

  • Two card readers and drivers
  • One single fingerprint device and drivers
  • ActivClient v6.1 with appropriate Service Packs and Hot Fixes
  • CMS Public Root certificate
  • Java runtime v1.6 Update 12 or newer
  • Consolidated install utility
  • Network connection test utility
  • Shortcuts to PIN Reset portal and Privacy Act
  • Light Activation Installation and User Guides and various Job Aids


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