Your Credential

Identity management has become an important part of our homeland security since September 11, 2001.The 9/11 Commission Report recommends that all federal employees or contractors be screened with biometric identifiers across all government agencies as a global strategy to protect against terrorist attacks.

The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) developed the USAccess Program as an efficient way for federal agencies to issue common HSPD-12 approved credentials to their employees and contractors. You will receive a USAccess credential if your agency has elected to participate in the USAccess Program. (You may hear the credential referred to with another name within your agency because some agencies have opted to re-brand their program and credential.)

Most of the contents of this page are also printed in the About The USAccess Credential Guide.

Why Do I Need This Card?

As a federal employee or contractor, you may need your USAccess credential in order to gain access to buildings and systems for which you are authorized. Over time, all existing federally issued badges will be replaced with a PIV-compliant credential. Without a PIV credential, you may not be able to enter certain buildings, or will need to be registered as a guest.

What Information about me is Stored on this Card?

The information about you that is stored on your PIV credential includes:

  • A printed picture of your face
  • Your full name
  • Agency and organization with which you are associated
  • Credential expiration date
  • Credential serial number
  • Agency particular data and an issuer identification number
  • Your Personal Identification Number (PIN)
  • Two electronic fingerprint templates
  • Digital certificates

The digital certificates stored on your credential can be used for authenticating your identity, digita signatures, and encrypting email.

How Does This Credential Ensure My Security?

Your credential can ensure your security by allowing you to easily, quickly, and reliably identify yourself to any federal agency using a single credential, as well as, trust the identity of other USAccess credential holders.

Your Roles and Responsibilities as a Credential Holder

As a USAccess credential holder, you have important responsibilities to do your part to safeguard the security of the nation, your fellow employees, and yourself.

1. Safeguard Your PIN:

When activating your card, you will be prompted to select a unique PIN. Your new PIN:

  • Must contain 6-8 numbers
  • Must not be too simple (e.g., 1234)
  • Must not contain number strings (e.g., 4444)
  • Must be correctly confirmed

IMPORTANT: Never store your PIN with your USAccess credential or share your PIN with anyone!

2. Report Lost or Stolen Cards Immediately:

Contact your agency’s security officer if you have lost your credential or believe it has been tampered with. Your current credential will be terminated, and the process for issuing you a new credential will be initiated.

3. Know Your Privacy Rights:

View the complete directives and policies governing the USAccess Program available on this website and the USAccess Privacy Statement. It is important that you understand how data is collected and stored on your USAccess credential, not only for your security, but also as a reminder of how important it is to protect and safeguard your credential.

Maintaining Your USAccess Credential

It is your responsibility to protect your USAccess credential and exercise the same care with it as you do with other identification credentials. For best protection, please keep your card in your badge holder when not in use.

Other Protective Measures:

  • Do not mark on, punch holes in, or bend your credential, as this will void the card warranty and could cause the protective plastic covering to peel away prematurely.
  • Do not scratch the magnetic stripe on your credential
  • Avoid storing your credential in areas subject to excessive heat (e.g., clothes dryer) or in direct sunlight (e.g. car dashboards) as the card could warp.
  • Do not allow the credential near magnetic fields (e.g., stereo equipment, magnets, or other magnetic stripe cards, etc.)

Updating or Rekeying Your Credential Certificates

Your USAccess credential contains digital certificates. The certificates must be renewed 3 years after initial activation to keep your credential active. The start of the 3 year period begins on the day your credential is activated when the certificates are encoded on your card. As the certificate renewal date of your credential nears you will be contacted by email (i.e., 90, 60 and 30 days before expiration) to make an appointment at a nearby enrollment/activation center to update your certificates. If you do not update your certificates your credential will be terminated.

Renewing Your Credential:

Your USAccess credential is active for a period of 5 years. The credential expiration date appears on the front of your credential. As the expiration date of your credential nears, you will be notified by email to make an appointment at a nearby enrollment/activation center to renew your credential.

How To Obtain A Credential

Acceptable Forms of ID
Valid IDs
View a List of
Acceptable Forms of Identification

How and when applicants get their credentials is based on when their agency decides they are eligible to receive them. GSA MSO does not decide when applicants are eligible to receive their credentials. If you have any questions about when you will be receiving your credential, contact your agency's supervisor.


Steps To Obtain A Credential

Steps to Achieve an Active Credential - select to view larger picture.
Steps to Achieve
an Active Credential
(select for full image)

The USAccess Program has developed an integrated, end-to-end system to automate and ease the process of issuing a credential to applicants.

The 9 steps to obtain a credential include:

Step 1: Applicant data is entered into the USAccess system.

Applicant data such as name, address, date of birth, employee type, and Emergency Response Official (ERO) status is entered into the system by the sponsoring agency. This completes the applicant sponsorship record in the USAccess system. 

Step 2: Applicant receives an email invitation to enroll. 

  • The applicant receives an email invitation to enroll in the USAccess Program.
  • The email lists the applicant’s name as it appears in the sponsorship record and asks the applicant to verify that his or her name is correct.
  • Next, the email describes how identity documents must match the name. A link is provided to a document outlining the proper forms of identification that applicants must bring with them to their enrollment appointment. (List of Acceptable Forms of ID).
  • If the applicant notices that the name in the email is incorrect and does not match any of their other identity documents, the applicant should contact the agency sponsor before going to enroll.
  • The email also provides instructions on how to make an appointment to enroll for the credential at a USAccess center. A link to the USAccess Assured Identity Scheduler  (if used by the agency) is provided for applicants to schedule appointments.

Step 3: Applicant schedules an enrollment appointment online.

Using the GSA Online Scheduling System, the applicant makes an appointment to enroll for the USAccess credential.

  • The applicant must first create an account in the scheduling system, and then make an appointment at a nearby center. To find an available center nearby, visit Find USAccess Centers. Account setup typically takes less than 5 minutes.
  • Once the appointment is made, the applicant will receive a confirmation email confirming the date and time of the appointment.
  • Before traveling to a USAccess credentialing center for an appointment, the GSA MSO encourages applicants to check the advisory section located near the top of the USAccess website home page, . Occasionally, the system may be experiencing difficulties or a center may be closed and the applicant’s appointment may be affected.
  • Note: Service Advisories are updated three times daily, so applicants should check for updates before traveling. If an appointment is canceled by the center, an email will be sent to the applicant noting the appointment was canceled and will request the applicant to make a new appointment. 

Step 4: Applicant attends enrollment appointment as scheduled.

During the enrollment appointment, the applicant must present proper identification documents (List of Acceptable Forms of ID)  to the registrar at the center, have a photo taken, and have fingerprints captured using an electronic fingerprint capturing system. Provided there are no issues during the enrollment process, the appointment typically takes 15-20 minutes.

If the applicant notices that any information in their record is incorrect prior to the appointment, the applicant must contact the agency sponsor (see FAQs on how to locate your Sponsor).  The registrar is not able to make changes to applicant sponsorship record during the enrollment process.

Step 5: Agency completes background checks and approves applicant.

Following a successful enrollment appointment, a background check is conducted on the applicant by the sponsoring agency. Once the background check is completed, the agency adjudicator will record the adjudication decision for the applicant in the USAccess system. When adjudication is complete and approved, the applicant’s credential is printed and shipped to the pick up location.

Step 6: Applicant receives email that credential is ready for pick up and to make an appointment to activate the credential.

When the applicant’s credential is ready for pickup, the applicant will receive an email explaining where to pick up the credential. The applicant will also be prompted to make an appointment in the GSA Online Scheduling system to activate the credential.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This email may also contain the temporary one time use password that is needed to activate the credential for self-activation. Applicants must bring this password with them to their appointments, or they may experience difficulties during Activation. 

Step 7: Applicant schedules an activation appointment online.

Using the USAccess Assured Identity Scheduler or other system per agency:

  • The applicant makes an appointment to activate their USAccess credential.
  • The applicant logs on to the GSA Scheduling System with the account user name and password. If the applicant cannot remember the user name and password created to make an enrollment appointment, a new account can be created.
  • Once logged on, the applicant can make an appointment at the center listed in their "Credential Ready for Pick up" email. Account setup typically takes less than 5 minutes.
  • Once the appointment is made, the applicant will receive a confirmation email confirming the date and time of the appointment.

NOTE:  If your agency has deployed Light Activation stations, you have the opportunity to use one of those locations to have your credential activated. The GSA Online Scheduling System is not used to make appointments at Light Activation stations at this time. Please contact your agency’s program management office or check your agency’s intranet for information about Light Activation stations available for your use.

Step 8: Applicant attends appointment and activates credential.

The applicant visits an activation station, and activates the credential using Attended or Unattended Activation. Attended Activation is performed by the activator. Applicants are encouraged to attempt activation unassisted. Please see the Unattended Credential Activities Guide for more infomation on how to complete these steps.

During activation, the applicant is prompted for their temporary password. This password is contained in the "Credential Ready for Pick Up" email sent to the applicant. The applicant’s credential is then “personalized” with security certificates and the applicant is prompted to create a PIN for the USAccess credential. Applicants will also be prompted to digitally sign a USAccess Privacy Statement that explains the USAccess credential holder responsibilities. Provided there are no issues in activating the credential, this appointment can take as little as 10 minutes.

Step 9: Credential is now active and ready to use.

USAccess credential holders can now use the credential and should care for their USAccess credential as they would any other valuable form of personal identification. For guidance on how to care for the credential, as well as what information is stored on the credential, view the Your Credential page and the About the USAccess Credential Guide located on this website.

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