Applying for a Private Investigation Firm License
Apply for a firm license if you plan to employ or allow anyone to help you perform investigations. Your firm may be a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, limited liability company, limited liability partnership or voluntary association.
Follow these steps:
- Organize your company in West Virginia or get an out-of-state company authorized by registering with the Business Division. A good standing certificate will be required with your application if the company is an entity from another state.
- Get the application form and fingerprint cards. Use one of these ways:
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.
- Download the application form and request fingerprint cards by E-mail
- Call (304) 558-8000 to request an application packet.
The fingerprint card must be an official West Virginia fingerprint card no substitutes.
- You will need cards for your qualifying agent, for officers, members or partners of the firm, and for each employee who will conduct investigations under the firm's license.
- Taking clear fingerprints is difficult. We urge you to go to your local law enforcement 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 signed.
Make sure the qualifying agent (the person who is eligible to be licensed as a private investigator and who will be responsible for the operation of the investigations of the firm) completes the private investigator license application.
- [Note: It is not permissible to have a person act as qualifying agent unless that person is directly involved with and responsible for supervising the investigations of the firm.]
- Also, each officer, member or partner of a corporation, LLC, or partnership is required to submit a completed application form including references. Documentation of qualifications are not required for anyone other than the qualifying agent
- Complete the firm application, including the list of employees (include only those employees who will conduct investigations in West Virginia). Each officer of a corporation or voluntary association, member of a limited liability company, or partner of a partnership must sign the application.
Get the two required photographs for the qualifying agent, and for each officer, member or partner, taken within the last year. Have passport size color photos taken by a photographer. A colored background, such as light blue or gray, works best. Attach two photos to the application for the qualifying agent and one for each officer, member or partner.
Also, photographs of each employee who will conduct investigations under the firm's license must be on file at your firm's main office throughout the year.
- Find a surety company authorized to do business in West Virginia who will agree to issue a surety bond in the amount of $2,500 naming the firm as principal. Take the surety bond form and instructions (included in the application) to the agent representing that company. If your firm is a corporation, the president or vice-president is required to sign the bond and have that signature notarized, unless a corporate resolution authorizing someone else to sign is attached, and a corporate seal must be attached if applicable. The surety agent's signature must be notarized, and a power of attorney must be attached.
- For the qualifying agent, and for each officer, member or partner, provide a blank character reference letter form (included in the application) to five reputable citizens who have known the individual for whom the reference is given for five years and who are not related to that individual by blood or marriage. Ask each person to complete and sign the reference and return it to you. DO NOT mail or deliver the firm application until you have five completed references for each individual.
- Provide copies of the documentation proving that the qualifying agent has met the training and/or experience requirements. Documentation may include:
- A copy of the qualifying agent's degree 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 the qualifying agent was employed (hours per week and number of weeks), the skills acquired, and the agent's 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.
- Pay the fee. A $50 non-refundable processing fee is included in the fee. If the license is denied, the remainder will be refunded. The license is for one year.
- $250 West Virginia Resident
- $550 Non-Resident of West Virginia
- Submit your applications, photographs, fingerprints, references, surety bond, documentation of qualifications, and fee to:
Private Investigator Licensing
Secretary of State
Bldg. 1, Suite 157-K
1900 Kanawha Blvd. East
Charleston, WV 25305