Applying for an Individual Private Investigator License

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.

Follow these steps:

  1. Decide the type of business structure you plan to use to operate your private investigation business. Registration of your business structure is a separate registration from your Private Investigator license and may be filed online through the One Stop Business Portal.

    • If you will be a sole proprietorship, you may want to wait to apply for the business registration certificate 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 (LLC)), you should at least file a Name Reservation (Form NR-1) to reserve the business name through the Secretary of State before you apply for a license to make sure the name on your license application and the name under which you will do business are the same.

  2. Complete the application form and follow the instructions for the fingerprint requirement.
    Use one of the following methods:

    • Download the application form.

    • Request the application packet by e-mail at or

    • Call (304) 558-8000 to request an application packet with the correct fingerprint instructions.

  3. Get the one (1) required photograph taken within the last year. You should have a passport size color photo taken by a photographer. A colored background, such as light blue or gray, works best. Attach the one (1) photo to your application.

  4. Choose one (1) of the following methods of proof of bond:

    • Find a surety company authorized to do business in West Virginia who will agree to issue a surety bond of $5,000 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; or
    • Provide sufficient proof of liability insurance as required by Secretary of State.

  5. Provide five character references. 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.

  6. 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 or
    • Verification of the training you received during your military service relating to the private investigator and/or security guard business.

  7. Pay the fee. A $50 non-refundable application processing fee is included in the fee. If your license is denied, the remainder will be refunded. The initial license is valid for two (2) years. If it is not renewed after the initial two (2) year period, and you wish to do private investigations, you must register as a new applicant. After the initial two (2) year term, the license can be renewed each subsequent year for an effective term of two (2) years by filing the renewal application. The fee for an individual license is:

    • $150 West Virginia Resident
    • $550 Non-Resident of West Virginia

  8. Submit your application, photograph, references, surety bond or proof of liability insurance, documentation of qualifications, and fee to:

    West Virginia Secretary of State
    Licensing Division
    1900 Kanawha Blvd. East
    Building 1, Suite 157-K
    Charleston, WV 25305
  9. If your license is approved, complete your business registration (see step 1 above).

Contact the Licensing Division for further assistance regarding Private Investigator and/or Security Guard licensing.

If we may be of any further assistance, please don't hesitate to contact us:  304.558.8000   toll free 866.767.8683  email: