Security Guard License Requirements in West Virginia
West Virginia licenses both private security guards and security firms.
Security guards who work as employees are generally not licensed. State code provides for exemptions for both individuals who are hired by licensed security firms and those who are hired to provide services directly to a single business ( http://www.sos.wv.gov/business-licensing/licensing/Pages/ExemptionsforSecurityGuards.aspx). However, employees of licensed security companies must meet a stringent set of requirements. The focus is on character and background; training is left to employer discretion.
High-level supervisors (termed ‘qualifying agents’) must also meet state mandates. At this level, security professionals must have training or experience.
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Security Guard Employee Requirements
A security guard must be at least 18 years old and either a U.S. citizen or resident alien. The individual must have good moral character and meet fitness requirements. An employee cannot have narcotics addictions or be habitually drunk. He or she cannot be incompetent in the view of a court of competent jurisdiction. He or she cannot have had a felony conviction or any other conviction specifically referenced in Chapter 30 of state code. Among the disqualifiers are possessing or distributing drugs, receiving stolen property, or illegally entering a building. Credentials will also be denied on the basis of unfavorable professional history. This would include having had a security guard or investigative license revoked or denied in another jurisdiction. Falsely representing oneself as a licensee is among the other disqualifiers.
Employees do not file applications with the state. However, the company will report its employees to the licensing agency. The employer will maintain a set of fingerprints and passport-style photograph on file. West Virginia code states that it is illegal for an employer to hire an employee who does not meet requirements described in state code.
Private Security Guard Requirements
A private security guard is someone who is not exempted on the basis of employee status, but who provides security services personally and does not employ other guards. To be licensed as a private security guard, an individual must meet general eligibility requirements and also have a year of qualifying experience or training. The experience may be accrued in the security business or at a private investigative firm. The licensing agency can accept other experience deemed substantially equivalent; this may include law enforcement. A professional who puts in 50 32-hour weeks is considered to have accrued a year of experience.
Alternatively, the security guard can qualify on the basis of 30 semester hours of course work in law enforcement, investigative studies, or a related field. The licensing agency can accept combined experience and training; an individual with 15 semester hours of coursework would only need the equivalent of half a year of full-time experience.
The Private Security Guard Application Process
Application packets can be requested by telephone at (304) 558-8000. Applications are also available for download (http://www.sos.wv.gov/business-licensing/licensing/Pages/ApplyingforanIndividualSecurityGuardLicense.aspx). A candidate who downloads the application form will need to email the Licensing Division at ‘Licensing at wvsos.com’ to request fingerprint cards. Fingerprints must be made on official West Virginia cards. Applicants must follow the fingerprinting instructions on the Division website. However, they have the option of having their fingerprints made at any convenient law enforcement office, in-state or out-of-state.
The prospective private security guard will need to take some steps in advance. The licensing agency requires five references on Board-supplied forms; the completed references are to be included in the application packet. References are to come from individuals who have known the prospective licensee for at least five years.
Other documents, such as proof of qualifying experience, are to be included in the application package as well. Security or private investigative experience can be documented through sworn statements by principals; education can be documented through transcripts.
The security guard will also need to provide evidence of a surety bond of $2,500. The application includes a form to be used for this purpose; the form requires notarization.
A West Virginia resident pays a $150 fee; a nonresident pays $550. All but $50 can be refunded in the event the license is denied.
The application requires notarization.
Private Security guard applications are mailed to the Licensing Division in Charleston.
Licenses are renewed annually.
Qualifying Agent Requirements
If the security service is a firm, there must be a qualifying agent. A qualifying agent is a supervisor who is responsible for daily operations. The qualifying agent must meet requirements on a par with those of private security guards.
The other officers and corporate members are not required to meet experience or training requirements. However, they will need to provide references and fingerprints.
Information about security guard requirements is available from the West Virginia Secretary of State (http://www.sos.wv.gov/business-licensing/licensing/pages/aboutInvestigatorGuardlicensing.aspx). Business and Licensing can be reached at (304) 558-8000.
West Virginia Code sets requirements for concealed weapons; the concealed weapons chapter specifically references employees who use such weapons (http://www.legis.state.wv.us/WVCODE/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=61&art=7§ion=4). An individual under age 21 can be issued a concealed firearms license if the weapon is required for employment. Training is required for anyone who carries a concealed weapon. Local authorities may have gun laws more stringent than those enacted at the state level.