Security Licensing Compliance Guide

Private Investigation Licensing Compliance

Private Investigation Firm Licensing

Your mission: an easier way to license your firm.

Overview of Licensing Requirements

As part of a highly regulated industry, private investigation (PI) firms must manage three levels of state licensing requirements: basic business registrations with the secretary of state, individual private investigator licenses, and private investigation firm licenses.

Before providing services in any state, you must typically register your business with the secretary of state either by forming a new business entity or registering to do business as an out-of-state or “foreign” firm. In both cases, the secretary of state issues a certificate authorizing you to conduct business within that state.

In addition to those general business requirements, more than 80 percent of states require private investigators to obtain firm licenses. Where required, licenses must usually be in place before offering or providing services in that state. One unusual aspect of private investigator licensing is that a few states provide licenses only at the local level.

Firm licenses require appointment of a licensed private investigator in charge. If the licensed investigator leaves, a new one must be appointed, often within a specific time, or the license may become inactive.

Professional licenses for private investigators and PI firms are administered by a mix of state licensing boards, law enforcement departments, and other state agencies. If your application is approved, the license department issues a Certificate of Authorization.

The application process differs in each state, but generally professional licensing follows SOS registration. Some states have prerequisites such as getting name approval from the state insurance department before filing your secretary of state registration. Make sure you research the entire process before beginning any filings in a new state.

While requirements vary, applications for PI firm licenses typically require:

  • Proof of incorporation or foreign qualification with the secretary of state
  • Lists of officers and percentages of ownership
  • Certified copies of founding documents
  • Bonds, usually ranging from $5,000 to $10,000
  • Criminal background checks, including fingerprints and photos of investigators
  • Information on training, experience, and employment history

Approvals generally take from four to 12 weeks, so it’s important to plan ahead.

Reciprocal Licensing

Some states have reciprocal licensing agreements that allow licensed private investigators to work across state lines for a limited time, usually 30 days or less. The investigator may not establish a business or set up residence during that time.

Renewal Requirements

Most PI firm licenses must be renewed every one to two years. Failure to maintain a current license can lead to substantial penalties and sanctions. In some cases, doing private investigation work in a state without the proper license could prevent you from getting a license in the future.

Fees for Licenses and Renewals

License fees for private investigation firms vary widely. Initial firm licenses range from as low as $75 in Wisconsin to $1,700 in Minnesota, while two-year renewals range from $100 in Iowa to $1,000 in Connecticut.

Mission Accomplished

Whether you want to launch a private investigation agency, expand your territory, or manage your existing licenses more efficiently, our compliance specialists can help. We’ll take care of the entire process, from research and file preparation to tracking and renewals, to ensure that your licenses are always in place wherever your next lead takes you.

Contact a specialist today and put Harbor Compliance on the case.

Firm Licensing Requirements by State

Ready to license your private investigation firm in a new state? You’ll find everything you need to get started in this table, including relevant state agencies, fees, and deadlines for license applications and renewals. Click on “more info” for more detailed instructions in each state.

Alabama

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Not required

Alabama does not currently license private investigator firms, but individual licenses are required.

Alaska

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More Info

Not required

Alaska does not currently license private investigator firms at the state level.

Arizona

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Arizona Department of Public Safety

Initial Application

Fee:

$250 application fee + $22 fingerprint fee for the qualifying party. The License fee is $400.

Form:

Private Investigation Agency Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$250 license fee + $22 fingerprint fee.

Form:

Private Investigation Agency Renewal

Due:

Licenses expire two years from the date of issuance.

Arkansas

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Arkansas State Police

Initial Application

Fee:

Varies by license class: $600 for an investigations firm, $850 for a combined security and investigations firm, or $1,200 for a general license including class A, B, and E licenses.

Form:

Private Investigator Company Applications

License Renewal

Fee:

$300 for an investigations firm renewal, $500 for a security and investigations firm renewal, or $600 for a general license renewal.

Form:

Private Investigator Company Renewal

Due:

Licenses expire two years from the date of issuance.

California

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services

Initial Application

Fee:

$50 application fee + $175 license fee once the application is approved.

Form:

Private Investigator Application for License

License Renewal

Fee:

$125

Form:

Renewal Application for Private Investigator License

Due:

Licenses expire two years from the date of issuance.

Colorado

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More Info

Not required

Colorado does not currently license private investigator firms, but individual licenses are required.

Connecticut

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More Info

Agency

Connecticut Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection

Initial Application

Delaware

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Delaware State Police - Professional Licensing Section

Initial Application

Fee:

$345 for agency licenses or $230 for sole-proprietorships + $65 processing fee.

Form:

Class A Private Investigative Agency License Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$345 for agency licenses or $230 for sole-proprietorships + $65 processing fee.

Due:

Biennially by the last day of the month of initial licensure.

District of Columbia

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

District of Columbia Occupational and Professional Licensing Administration - Security Officers Management Branch

Initial Application

Fee:

$500

Filing Method:

Online

License Renewal

Fee:

$500

Filing Method:

Online

Due:

Annually by October 31.

Florida

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Division of Licensing

Initial Application

Fee:

$50 application fee and $42 fingerprint per member/officer of a company + $450 license fee once the application is approved.

Form:

Class A, B, R Agency License

License Renewal

Fee:

$450

Due:

Triennially

Georgia

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Georgia Board of Private Detectives and Security Agencies

Initial Application

Fee:

$100 application fee + $300 license fee once the application is approved. Combined detective and security company licenses are available for $800.

Form:

Application - Agency (Company) License

License Renewal

Fee:

$300 for detective companies or $700 for combined detective and security companies

Due:

June 30 of odd-numbered years.

Hawaii

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More Info

Agency

Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs - Professional and Vocational Licensing: Private Detective and Guard Licensing Area

Initial Application

Fee:

$50 application fee + $344 license fee if issued between July 1st of even-numbered years and June 30th of odd-numbered years, or $140 if filed outside of this timeframe.

Form:

Private Detective and Guard Agency License

License Renewal

Fee:

$260

Due:

June 30 of even-numbered years.

Idaho

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More Info

Not required

Idaho does not require private investigator firms to be licensed.

Illinois

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation - Division of Professional Regulation - Private Detective, Private Alarm, Private Security, Fingerprint Vendor and Locksmith Board

Initial Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$450

Filing Method:

Online

Due:

Triennially by August 31.

Indiana

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Indiana Private Investigator and Security Guard Licensing Board

Initial Application

Fee:

$150 if filed during the second half of the biennial renewal period, or $300 if filed during the first half.

Form:

Application for Licensure as a Private Investigator Firm

License Renewal

Fee:

$300

Form:

Private Investigator Firm Renewal

Due:

October 1 of every fourth year.

Iowa

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Iowa Department of Public Safety

Initial Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$100

Due:

Biennially by the date issued.

Kansas

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Kansas Attorney General - Private Detective Unit

Initial Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$175

Form:

Agency Renewal Application

Due:

Biennially by the date issued.

Kentucky

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Kentucky Board of Licensure for Private Investigators

Initial Application

Fee:

$500 for a company license or $100 for sole-proprietorship + $34.75 fingerprint fee

Form:

Private Investigator Company Application Packet

License Renewal

Louisiana

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Louisiana State Board of Private Investigator Examiners

Initial Application

Fee:

$338

Form:

Agency Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$250

Due:

Annually by the date issued.

Maine

Our Resources:

More Info

Not required

Maine does not currently license private investigator firms, but individual licenses are required.

Maryland

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Maryland State Police

Initial Application

Fee:

$375 for incorporated entities or $200 for unincorporated entities. Combined security and detective agency licenses are available for $375 for unincorporated entities and $750 for incorporated entities.

Form:

Private Detective Agency Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$400 for incorporated entities or $200 for unincorporated entities. Combined security and detective agency renewal fees are $400 for unincorporated entities and $800 for incorporated entities.

Form:

Private Detective Agency Renewal

Due:

Biennially by the date issued.

Massachusetts

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Massachusetts State Police - Certification Unit

Initial Application

Fee:

$550

Filing Method:

Online

License Renewal

Fee:

$100

Filing Method:

Online

Due:

Annually by the date issued.

Michigan

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) - Bureau of Corporations, Securities & Commercial Licensing - Licensing Division

Initial Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$300

Due:

Triennially from the date issued.

Minnesota

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Minnesota Private Detective and Protective Agent Services Board

Initial Application

Fee:

$1,900 for corporations and LLCs, $1,700 for partnerships.

License Renewal

Fee:

Ranges from $540 for companies with 1 employee to $1,220 for companies with 51 or more employees.

Due:

Biennially

Mississippi

Our Resources:

More Info

Not required

Mississippi does not require private investigator firms to be licensed, however, firms may need to apply for city level business licenses.

Missouri

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Missouri Board of Private Investigator and Private Fire Investigator Examiners

Initial Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$200

Due:

Biennially

Montana

Our Resources:

More Info

Not required

Montana does not currently license private investigator firms, but individual licenses are required.

Nebraska

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Nebraska Secretary of State - Licensing Division

Initial Application

Fee:

$100 license fee + $38 background check fee.

License Renewal

Fee:

$100

Due:

June 30 of even-numbered years.

Nevada

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Nevada Private Investigator's Licensing Board

Initial Application

Fee:

$20 application fee + $100 exam fee + $100 abeyance fee + $500 license fee (pro-rated)

License Renewal

Fee:

$500 license fee + $100 abeyance fee.

Filing Method:

Online

Due:

Annually by July 1.

New Hampshire

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

New Hampshire Division of State Police - Permits and Licensing Unit

Initial Application

Fee:

$500 application fee (per license classification) + $25 criminal record check fee + $10 background check fee

Form:

Agency Application for Private Investigator

License Renewal

Fee:

$500 application fee (per license classification) + $25 criminal record check fee + $10 background check fee

Form:

Agency Renewal Application for Private Investigator

Due:

Biennially

New Jersey

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

New Jersey State Police - Private Detective Unit

License Renewal

New Mexico

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

New Mexico Private Investigations Advisory Board

Initial Application

Fee:

$300 application fee + $44 fingerprint fee.

Form:

Private Investigation Company Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$200

Form:

Private Investigation Company Renewal

Due:

Biennially

New York

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

New York Department of State - Division of Licensing Services

Initial Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$500

Due:

Biennially

North Carolina

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

North Carolina Private Protective Services Board

Initial Application

Fee:

$150 application fee + $38 fingerprint fee + $500 license fee.

Form:

Application for Company Business License

License Renewal

Fee:

$500

Due:

Biennially

North Dakota

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

North Dakota Private Investigation and Security Board

Initial Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$250

Form:

License and Registration Renewal

Due:

Annually by September 1

Ohio

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Ohio Private Investigator Security Guard Services

Initial Application

Fee:

$30 qualifying agent fee + $375 license application fee.

Filing Method:

Online

License Renewal

Fee:

$5 rap back fee + $275 license renewal fee.

Filing Method:

Online

Due:

Annually by March 1.

Oklahoma

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Oklahoma Council on Law Enforcement Education and Training

Initial Application

Fee:

$300 for an investigative agency license and $600 for a combined security and investigative agency license.

Form:

Agency Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$300

Form:

Agency Renewal Application

Due:

Every 5 years.

Oregon

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More Info

Not required

Oregon does not license private investigator firms, however, firm information is requested on individual license applications.

Pennsylvania

Our Resources:

More Info

Not required

Pennsylvania does not issue private investigation agency licenses at the state level. Private investigative agencies should apply for a county level license through the clerk of courts.

Rhode Island

Our Resources:

More Info

Not required

Rhode Island does not issue private investigator firm licenses at the state level, however, cities and towns may require licensure.

South Carolina

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

South Carolina Law Enforcement Division

Initial Application

License Renewal

South Dakota

Our Resources:

More Info

Not required

South Dakota does not require private investigator firms to be licensed, however, a sales tax license from the department of revenue is required.

Tennessee

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance - Private Investigation and Polygraph Commission

Initial Application

Fee:

$250 application fee for companies with 1 investigator, $500 for companies with 2-5 investigators, and $1,000 for companies with more than 5 investigators + $38 fingerprint fee. In addition, license fees are either $125, $250, or $500 depending on company size.

Filing Method:

Online

License Renewal

Fee:

$250 renewal fee for companies with 1 investigator, $500 for companies with 2-5 investigators, and $1,000 for companies with more than 5 investigators.

Filing Method:

Online

Due:

Biennially

Texas

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Texas Department of Public Safety

Initial Application

Fee:

$361 for investigation only license or $556 for investigations and other services.

Form:

Company License Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$361 for investigation only license or $556 for investigations and other services.

Filing Method:

Online

Due:

Annually by the last day of the month of issuance.

Utah

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Utah Department of Public Safety - Bureau of Criminal Identification

Initial Application

License Renewal

Vermont

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Vermont Office of Professional Regulation - Board of Private Investigative and Security Services

Initial Application

Fee:

$250 for sole-proprietorships, $340 for investigative agencies, and $400 for combined investigative and security agencies.

Filing Method:

Online

License Renewal

Fee:

$300

Filing Method:

Online

Due:

Biennially

Virginia

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services

Initial Application

Fee:

$550 for a one-year license or $800 for a two-year license + $50 fingerprint fee for all principals. Additional license classes can be added for $50 each.

Form:

Private Security Servives - Initial Business License Application

License Renewal

Fee:

$500 application fee + $50 fingerprint fee for all new principals.

Form:

Private Security Services - Renewal Business License Application

Due:

Biennially after the initial license expires.

Washington

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Washington Department of Licensing - Business and Professions Division

Initial Application

Fee:

$600 for agencies with an unarmed principal or $700 for agencies with an armed principal.

Form:

Private Investigative Agency Application

License Renewal

West Virginia

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

West Virginia Secretary of State - Business and Licensing Division

Initial Application

Fee:

$200 for in-state or $500 for out-of-state private investigator firms. $400 for in-state or $1,000 for out-of-state combined private investigator and security firms.

Form:

Initial Application for License as a Private Investigator

License Renewal

Fee:

$200 for in-state or $500 for out-of-state private investigator firms. $400 for in-state or $1,000 for out-of-state combined private investigator and security firms.

Form:

Renewal Application for License as a Private Investigator

Due:

Annually by the date issued.

Wisconsin

Our Resources:

More Info

Agency

Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services

License Renewal

Fee:

$107

Filing Method:

Online

Due:

August 31 of odd-numbered years.

Wyoming

Our Resources:

More Info

Not required

Wyoming does not require private investigator firms to be licensed.

Firearm Qualification - An additional qualification attached to license applications for armed private investigators.

Private Investigator Apprentice - Apprentices are issued limited licenses and can only operate under the direction of a licensed investigator.

Qualified Representative - A licensed private investigator who is responsible for the operation and management of an investigative agency.

Reciprocity - When a private investigator is allowed to do business in a different state under the license issued by their home state.

National Association of Legal Investigators (NALI)
Industry association that sponsors education and certification efforts for members.

National Council of Investigation and Security Services (NCISS)
Private investigation and security advocacy group.

United States Association of Professional Investigators (USAPI)
Industry association focused on education and certification.

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