The Office of Personnel Management released guidance March 25 addressing another issue federal agencies are facing in completing the hiring process due to the spread of the new coronavirus: fingerprinting.

Because of the outbreak of COVID-19, the name of the novel disease, agencies are struggling to collect fingerprints to complete FBI requirements for new hires and contractors, as many federal, state and local offices that provide those services are closed.

To relieve the challenges, agencies are temporarily allowed to continue with the onboarding process as long as they follow established guidelines and complete the fingerprinting portion as soon as “processing is feasible," OPM said.

The final results of background checks will be delayed until the fingerprinting process is complete, the guidance added.

“Existing mechanisms for measuring the timeliness of adjudication compliance will continue; however, agencies will not be held accountable for adjudication reporting timeliness during the period this guidance is in effect,” wrote Michael Rigas, acting head of OPM.

The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency, the federal government’s primary provider of background investigations, is implementing its own procedure that allows for the deferral of the fingerprint requirement. Under the DCSA guidelines, the agency that uses DCSA as a background investigation service must submit the prints once it is able to collect them.

The new guidance from OPM is in effect until agencies are further notified in writing.

The onboarding process is not the only piece of the hiring process affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Agencies are also struggling to hand out Personal Identity Verification cards to federal employees. In guidance released March 22, the Office of Management and Budget urged agencies to consider alternative methods of identity verification.

Earlier this week, OPM released guidance allowing new hires to be sworn in using apps like FaceTime or Skype due to ongoing telework.

Andrew Eversden covers all things defense technology for C4ISRNET. He previously reported on federal IT and cybersecurity for Federal Times and Fifth Domain, and worked as a congressional reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune. He was also a Washington intern for the Durango Herald. Andrew is a graduate of American University.

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