The 7 steps to getting a California Private Investigator license,
from application through PI licensing test to initial business set-up!
If everything goes right, you can have a PI license in your pocket in about ten weeks.
The information below is like having a close friend in the business share the secrets with you!
1. Get a California Private Investigator license application.
Call (800) 952-5210, and after choosing through many options and waiting on hold a long time,
ask them to send you 2 things: a PI license application and a set of three LiveScan fingerprint forms
(they really should include the LiveScan fingerprint forms in with the PI application but they do not).
Download a PI license application yourself from http://www.bsis.ca.gov/forms_pubs/pi_app.pdf
and also download a set of three LiveScan fingerprint forms from www.bsis.ca.gov/forms_pubs/livescan/index.shtml .
2. Complete the application.
The application is 20 pages long but you'll only be filling out about 6 of them.
The two hardest parts: documenting your experience per BSIS requirements, and choosing a business name that will be approved by BSIS.
Documenting your required 6000 or more hours of paid investigative experience:
--You must use their 2-page form known as 'Certificate In Support Of Experience'.
--Someone other than you must attest (sign their signature) to you having the experience.
--If the box 'Was on Payroll' is not checked on its second page, the experience will probably not be accepted.
--You list how many hours you worked at a job or agency, then estimate what
percentage of the time was spent on investigative-related duties, then do the math of
Hours You Worked There (X) Investigative Percentage = Hours of Investigative Experience.
Working at a job full-time for 20 years is 40000 hours (20 X 2000 hours per year = 40000 hours.
If, overall, you estimate about half of past work hours were spent related to investigating,
the math would be 40000 hours X 50% inv hours = 20000 investigative hours credit.
In this example, this is more than 3 times the state-required minimum 6000 hours.
Experience does not have to be recent, local, or all from one employer.
No proof is needed (or accepted) other than what is signed for on the 2-page form.
Choosing a PI business name that BSIS will approve:
--Right now, there nearly 10,000 currently licensed private invesigators in California.
So first check here to see if some other PI is already using anything similar to your
possible business name on a California Private Investigator PI license by clicking here:
If you want a name that is 'confusingly similar to an existing licensee',
you will likely get a name-denial letter after you pass your test.
BUT: if you see a name that looks like you want for yourself,
go ahead and click on it to get a full set of information about it--
it may have expired long ago but is still in the state database--
you can probably choose it for yourself if it is long expired.
--Advice: when checking on names, enter just one key word from your possible PI
business name in the Business Name search box, and then click on the Find button.
--More advice: the BSIS form used for choosing business names is titled 'Authorization For Business Name'.
It asks for at least 3 name choices; give them more than 3 if you can think of them.
They will give you your first choice if it is available and acceptable. If not, they go down your list, in order.
Mail BSIS the completed application with your payment, passport photos, and 2 completed LiveScan forms.
Usually two or three weeks later, you are invited to sit for the test.
3. Prepare/study for the 2015 CA Private Investigator CA PI license examination test.
About 7 out of 10 people fail the California Private Investigator license examination test.
Law enforcement applicants have the worst time, because there is almost no
questions that have to do with criminal items or other police duties from their past.
No matter where you got your required experience, it didn't cover all that the test does.
--There is a lot of 'specific knowledge' needed.
--There are many versions of the test, so persons who fail and pay to re-test later get a completely different test.
--Know ethics, administration, firearm carry, trespass, planning, AOE-COE, tape recording, and general provisions.
--BSIS only gives you reference material to cover what they can fine you for; the rest is supposed to come from your own experience.
--About this test, the state has said 'We are here to regulate you, NOT to educate you-- you are expected to know this profession'.
--Know arrest power, sexual harassment, California Penal Code, terminology, lie-detection law, office regulations, and reports.
--Like passing a DMV written test, you need to know all to pass whichever questions they give you.
--Lots of 'research' questions: is this available, what agency has it, where do you get it, how do you get it.
--Know real estate records, business practices, badges, locating, disciplinary proceedings, traffic accidents, and prohibited acts.
--Many versions of thye test. Each test is 150 questions in 120 minutes. Many don't finish. Most don't pass.
--Some questions come from Federal 'Codes': Fair Credit Reporting Act, EPPA, Graham Leach Bliley Act, US Postal Code, and more.
--Know protection work rules, defense, US employment eligibility, criminal, tax withholding, and California Financial Information Privacy Act.
--Some questions come from many California XYZ 'Codes': Penal, Labor, Business & Professions, Civil, Regulations, Civil Procedure, and Vehicle.
--Being 'multiple-choice' doesn't make it easier; 'wrong' answers often seem better than the 'right' answer.
--Know employee reporting requirements, subrosa, privacy, undercover, photography, information gathering, disciplinary proceedings, and reporting.
--Most 'books' thought to be 'helpful' for this test turn out to be virtually worthless. Don't use 'pass-books', 'legal guides' or 'almanacs' or 'nationwide generics'.
--Getting 70% or more correct might sound easy-- until you try it!
--Know process serving, hearsay, related laws, surveillance, prohibited acts and citations, evidence, conduct of business, and analysis.
--The testing is done on computers in small cubicles side-by-side with other applicants taking testing for various licenses.
--Most prospective PIs have never been 'employers', yet that is part of the required knowledge.
-- Know the California Public Records Act, auto accident investigation basics, and evidence terminology.
The 13-pound GUARANTEED PASS California Private Investigator License Test Study Material & PI Business package with sample
questions available from www.thepigroup.com/test_preparation.htm is the only worthwhile choice. Written, edited, and compiled
by a person who BSIS has previously hired to assist them in the re-write of the CA Private Investigator license test,
it not only helps you pass but also teaches additional topics and includes things to help get a PI business going NOW.
4. Go pass the CA PI license examination test.
The test is administered five or six days every week at fourteen locations in Calfornia and about ten in other states.
You can choose testing sites in Anaheim, Atascadero, Bakersfield, Carson, El Monte,
Fresno, Hayward, Redding, Riverside, Sacramento, San Diego, Santa Clara, and Santa Rosa
(the three most popular are highlighted in red).
Don't be late. Don't bring anything in with you.
VALUABLE SECRET: Don't leave any answer blank-- there is no penalty for guessing, it can only help.
You get the results immediately upon completion or running out of time.
Fail number scores are issued, with Pass there is not a number score.
5. Preparing for the California PI license to arrive.
About two weeks after you pass the licensing test, you will receive a bill for your license.
In a hurry to get licensed? Overnight a money order to them immediately. Could speed it up by a few days.
You will now also know what business name BSIS approved for you.
If you want a bank checking account in this new company name, the bank will require that you first
file a 'Fictitious Business Name' (FBN) statement with your county, through a local newspaper.
Without a website, you're not really in business:
Without you having a website, no matter how good you are, you are 'the invisible PI'.
If the public can't find you in a Google-search for a PI, you are missing out.
Go to www.GoDaddy.com or call them at 480-505-8877 to
pay your $12 a year to own a business dot-com website name
such as ABCinvestigations.com or WilliamSmith.com.
GoDaddy is open 24-hours a day, and they are are happy to deal with website beginners.
As soon as you buy a dotcom name (known as a 'domain name', and you must
see if your choice is available first), then nobody else worldwide can take it.
You can pay for as many years in advance as you like. Until you put up a site, visitors will get an 'Under Construction' sign.
Websites are easy or inexpensive nowadays to design and then get hosted on
the Internet, and are like an all-day and all-night brochure available to anyone.
You can usually find your new PI license number on the BSIS website about two weeks after they get your money.
6. Join the nationwide 4000-PIs network known as 'thePIgroup'-- for free!
Most PI organizations do very little for you. Some charge 'dues' that bring nothing in return.
Some have member Internet forums that are nothing but name-calling and arguments.
But the largest of them all is free, has an all-day Internet member forum, and is business-only
with no jokes, chit-chat or garbage: the nearly-4000 members of www.thePIgroup.com !
With membership (again, it's free!), you have the power of the biggest agency
in the country, as thePIgroup is THE biggest organization of PIs in the world.
Go on the member forum and ask for anything: Who can run a New York license plate for me?
Who can do an Arizona criminal record check for me? What's the best camera for this job?
Who can cover a one-week surveillance in (city)? Watch for direct answers promptly.
7. Once the license arrives.
You won't be able to to 'locates' or 'background checks' without having database access.
There are a dozen to consider, but a recent survey of CA PIs revealed which two work the best.
--www.SkipSmasher.com offers many unique searches, most geared to locating persons.
--www.MerlinData.com is a full-choices database, backgrounds and much more.
Both of these top databases are operated by veteran California PIs.
And both offer free initial searches to members of thePIgroup.
Many PI cases require the ability to 'run' a license plate or a driver history.
It it easy to get your own DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) account.
It costs $50 for a two-year permit. Current application: www.dmv.ca.gov/forms/inf/inf1133.pdf
If a California PI wants to offer 'security' or 'bodyguard' services,
he/she is required to apply for and then pass the California Private
Patrol Operator PPO license examination test.
It is a misdemeanor crime to offer
protection services without a PPO license.
Much different than the PI license test,
the website www.PPOlicenseTest.com tells of 600 sample
PPO license test questions and other study material.
Learn polygraph lie-detection
at home and/or with seminars.
No license needed in California.
The highest paid-per-hour
of all investigative specialties!