Apply for an individual license only if you plan to perform investigations on your own and under your own name. You could also work in association with another West Virginia licensed private investigator, but you may not employ or allow any other person to assist with investigations without obtaining a firm license.
1. Decide the type of business structure you plan to use to operate your private investigation business. If you will be a sole proprietor, you may want to wait to obtain a business license with the State Tax Department until after your private investigator license is approved. If you prefer to establish a legal entity, such as a corporation or limited liability company, you should at least reserve your name before you apply for a license to make sure the name on your license application and the name under which you do business are the same.
2. Get the application form and fingerprint cards. Use one of these ways:
- Download the application form and request fingerprint cards by e-mail or
- Call (304) 558-8000 to request an application packet with the correct fingerprint card
The online form requires the Acrobat Reader. You can fill it out on screen, then print. If you start with a printed form, please type or print in ink and make certain every entry is legible.
3. The fingerprint card must be an official West Virginia fingerprint card -- no substitutes. Taking clear fingerprints is difficult, therefore, we urge you to go to your local state police detachment or sheriff's office and have them take the prints. If you live out of state, request the card and go to your local law enforcement office for assistance. Also, be sure the card is completed fully and signed or it will come back to you and cause delays. The authorization on the back of the card must also be completed.
4. Get the two required photographs taken within the last year. You should have passport size color photos taken by a photographer. A colored background, such as light blue or gray, works best. Attach two photos to your application.
5. Find a surety company authorized to do business in West Virginia who will agree to issue a surety bond of $2,500 naming you, the applicant, as principal. Take the surety bond form and instructions (included in the application) to the agent representing that company. Your signature as principal must be notarized. The agent's signature must be notarized, and a power of attorney must be attached.
6. Provide a blank character reference letter form (included in the application) to five reputable citizens who have known you for five years and who are not related to you by blood or marriage. Ask them to complete and sign the reference and return it to you. DO NOT mail or deliver your application until you have five completed references.
7. Provide copies of the documentation proving that you have met the training and/or experience requirements.
Documentation may include:
- A copy of your diploma from an accredited college or university showing graduation from a two or four year program in criminal justice, criminal investigation, law enforcement or a related investigative field; or
- A transcript showing successful completion of at least sixty hours of credit in investigative studies; or
- A sworn statement (under penalty of false swearing) signed by one of the principals of a licensed private investigative firm which specifies the time you were employed (hours per week and number of weeks), the skills you acquired, and your competency; or evidence of equivalent law enforcement employment. If all requirements are to be met by this experience, the work must include a minimum of 32 hours per week for 100 weeks; or
- A combination of transcripts and experience certified as provided above. To determine if the requirements are met, divide the number of appropriate college credits by sixty to determine the percentage of the total requirement met by education. For example, 24 credit hours / 60 hours = 40% met by education. This leaves 60% to be met by experience. Multiply the percentage to be met by experience times 100 weeks. For example 60% x 100 weeks = 60 weeks (minimum 32 hours per week) of experience.
8. Pay the fee. A $50 non-refundable processing fee is included in the fee. If your license is denied, the remainder will be refunded. The license is for one year. If it is not renewed after one year and you wish to do private investigations, you must register as a new applicant. The fee for an individual license is:
- $150 West Virginia Resident
- $550 Non-Resident of West Virginia
9. Submit your application, fingerprints, photographs, references, surety bond, documentation of qualifications and fee to:
Secretary of State
Bldg. 1, Suite 157-K
1900 Kanawha Blvd. East
Charleston, WV 25305
10. If your license is approved, complete your business registration. (See step 1)