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Background Investigations Suitability Adjudications



Under title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, part 731 (5 CFR 731) OPM and agencies with delegated authority, can make suitability determinations and take suitability actions in cases involving covered positions that are subject to investigation. Positions covered by 5 CFR 731 are those in the competitive service, those in the excepted service where the incumbent can be noncompetitively converted to the competitive service, or a career appointment to the Senior Executive Service. The subject to investigation requirements are described at 5 CFR 731.104. Under 5 CFR 731, if an unfavorable suitability determination is made, the following actions may be applicable: cancellation of eligibility; removal; cancellation of reinstatement eligibility; and debarment.

The Suitability Adjudications office of the OPM Federal Investigative Services, handles those cases in which OPM has retained jurisdiction to make a suitability determination and take a suitability action. The office is also available to assist agencies with matters related to suitability adjudications. Our phone number is (724) 794-5612, extension 7400.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Information Requirements for Suitability Referrals to OPM

How to make:

  • Referrals for Applicant Suitability Review
  • Expedited Requests
  • Referrals Based on Agency-Conducted Investigations
  • Referrals on OPM Conducted Investigations
  • Requests Based upon Conduct to Pass over a Preference Eligble with a 30% or More Compensable Disability

Suitability Referral Chart – Agencies may use this chart to determine which issues or combinations of issues warrant referral to the agency adjudications office for suitability review, adjudication, and potential agency debarment or referral to OPM for debarment consideration.

Referral Guidelines

Information Requirements for Suitability Referrals to OPM

  1. Referrals for Applicant Suitability Review
  2. Referrals of Agency Conducted Investigations
  3. Expedited Requests
  4. Referrals of OPM Conducted Investigations
  5. Advisory Opinions
  6. Passover Requests Based on Conduct (CPS eligibles)

Referrals Prior to Background Investigation and Referrals Based on Agency-Conducted Investigations

Cases involving covered positions (as defined in 5 CFR 731) made subject to investigation by 5 CFR 731.104, to include cases of individuals investigated by agencies with delegated investigative authority, must be referred to OPM as follows:

  • There is evidence of material1, intentional falsification, or deception or fraud in examination or appointment;
  • There is evidence of refusal to furnish testimony as required by 5 CFR 5.4; and/or
  • A potential Governmentwide debarment is indicated

1 The definition of “material” is capable of influencing, affects, or has a natural tendency to affect, an official decision even if OPM or an agency does not rely upon it.

NOTE: In cases involving falsification, deception or fraud, or refusal to furnish testimony, agencies can elect to proceed with an action under a different authority without prior approval by OPM; however, notification of the case to OPM is required. The notification to OPM can be made by calling 724-794-5612 ext. 7400.

The following information must be submitted with the referral:

  • A completed INV 60, Request for Determination or Advisory OR a statement outlining the basis for the referral.  The referring official’s contact information and SOI/SON must be included with the submission.  (Note: The referral cannot be based upon information that was obtained solely from a confidential source.)
  • The subject's application, OF 306, and related papers (including supplements, amendments, and attachments to forms), including any documentation either provided by the subject or obtained by the agency that specifically relates to and/or supports the issues and establishes the basis for the referral (i.e., evidence of the matter falsified, details establishing the conduct potentially warranting government-wide debarment from all or specific positions, etc.).  
  • Permission to confront the subject with the information from your agency-conducted investigation and to directly release the information to the subject upon his/her request and/or to all necessary parties in the event of an appeal of an unfavorable suitability action to the Merit Systems Protection Board (only applies to agencies with delegated investigative authority).
  • Information to establish the position is covered (i.e. legal hiring authority, etc.), involves an appointment that is subject-to-investigation per 5 CFR 731.104, and if the subject has been appointed, the appointment SF 50.

Questions regarding referrals can be directed to 724-794-5612 ext 7400. Referrals can be submitted via the secure portal, fax, or mail as follows:

Secure Portal

Using the secure messaging feature on the OPM Secure Portal, send the required information high priority with external notifications to the Suitability Referrals mailbox.

NOTE: You must be a member of the secure portal to use this submission method. If you are not member and would like information on how to become one, please contact your agency point of contact or your OPM Liaison.


Fax the required information to 724-794-9498.

NOTE: This is not a secure line; therefore, to ensure personally identifiable information is properly protected, please contact OPM by phone at 724-794-5612, ext. 7400 prior to faxing and request confirmation of receipt.


Send to:

Attn: NACI & Agency Referral Adjudications
PO Box 618
1137 Branchton Road
Boyers, PA 16018-0618

Expedited Requests

An expedited request is made when there are limited vacancies to be filled with no further appointments anticipated in the near future or when there will be no further employment opportunities as a result of immediate certification. When submitting expedited requests meeting this criteria, the INV 60 should be prominently marked "EXPEDITED REQUEST - SPECIAL HANDLING." Include the name and telephone number of the requesting official, so that he/she can be notified of OPM's decision.

Referrals Based on OPM-Conducted Investigations

If an agency receives the results of an OPM conducted investigation in which there are issues that meet the criteria for OPM adjudication under 5 CFR 731 and OPM has not made contact to coordinate adjudication, the agency should call 724-794-5612 ext. 7400 to discuss referring the case to OPM for possible adjudication. If it is determined OPM will assume jurisdiction to adjudicate we will need copies of any application materials not originally submitted with the background investigation request, information to support the position is one covered by 5 CFR 731, and any additional information the agency may have relevant to possible adjudication of the case by OPM.

General Questions

To discuss/seek advice on a specific case or for general questions related to suitability adjudication matters, agency representatives can contact (724) 794-5612, extension 7400.

Objection Requests to Pass Over CPS Preference Eligibles Based on Conduct

Per 5 USC 3318, an appointment official must request to pass over a preference eligible prior to selecting a non-preference eligible. Requests to pass over preference eligibles having compensable service-connected disabilities of 30 percent or more must be referred to OPM. Requests to pass over a preference eligible for reasons based on conduct are handled by the Federal Investigative Services, NACI & Agency Referral Adjudications branch. When submitting these requests, the objecting agency must complete and provide:

  • An SF 62, INV 60 and any supporting documentation. Position sensitivity and risk level must be shown on the INV 60.
  • A copy of the certificate of eligibles that shows non-preference eligibles are within reach
  • Proof of the disability dated within the past year, and
  • A copy of the letter sent to the preference eligible notifying him/her of the request and  the reason for it and of the right to respond to the Office of Personnel Management within 15 days in accordance with 5 USC 3318(b)(2).

NOTE: The request cannot be based upon information obtained solely from a confidential source.

Please refer all requests to:

NACI & Agency Referral Adjudications P.O. Box 618
1137 Branchton Road
Boyers, PA 16018-0618

Questions can be directed to 724-794-5612, extension 7400. For information on submitting a pass over request of a CPS preference eligible based upon qualifications or medical reasons, please refer to the SF 62 and the Delegated Examining Operations Handbook located on the OPM website.

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Referral Chart

Agencies are responsible for identifying admitted and developed issues prior to appointment and may use the chart that follows, or develop their own more specific guidelines, to determine which issues or combinations of issues warrant referral to their agency’s adjudications office for suitability review and adjudication. The agency adjudication office is responsible for assessing the issues and determining which cases require referral to OPM for debarment consideration.

Information Requirements for Suitability Referrals
  • Any evidence of dishonesty or fraud in the competitive examination or appointment process (such as falsification of application)
Always refer, regardless of the date of occurrence
  • Any statutory debarment issue
  • Any loyalty or terrorism issue
Always refer, regardless of the date of occurrence
MAJOR & SUBSTANTIAL ISSUES, including but not limited to:
  • Patterns of conduct (such as a pattern of drug or alcohol abuse, financial irresponsibility or major liabilities, dishonesty, unemployability for negligence or misconduct, criminal conduct)
  • Other than honorable military discharge
  • Felony offense
  • Illegal drug manufacturing, trafficking, or sale
  • Major honesty issue (such as extortion, armed robbery, embezzlement, perjury)
  • Serious violent behavior (such as rape, aggravated assault, arson, child abuse, manslaughter)
  • Sexual misconduct (such as sexual assault, sexual harassment, prostitution)
  • Illegal use of firearms or explosives
  • Hatch Act violation
  • Employment related conduct involving dishonest, criminal, or violent behavior
Refer all within 3 years
For patterns, the conduct may begin prior to, but must extend into, the last 3 years
MODERATE ISSUES, including but not limited to:
  • Driving while intoxicated 
  • Drug-related offense (excluding infrequent use or possession of marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia , to include arrests or charges for possession of marijuana)
  • Petty Theft or Forgery
  • Assault, criminal mischief, harassment
  • Employment related misconduct involving insubordination, absenteeism, rules violations
Refer for 2 or more occurrences within 3 years
May be a combination of Moderate and Minor issues within 3 years
MINOR ISSUES, including but not limited to:
  • Minor liquor law violation
  • Minor traffic violation
  • Bad check
  • Minor disruptive conduct (such as disorderly conduct, trespassing, vagrancy, loitering, disturbing the peace)
  • Minor employment related misconduct
Refer for 3 or more occurrences within 3 years
May be a combination of these issues within 3 years

For any issues not shown on the chart, look for a similar issue or consult the agency's department or office responsible for adjudication for guidance on whether or not referral is necessary

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