How to Get a Guard Card in California? A User-Friendly Guide

October 17, 2023

Guard Card in California

If you’re looking to pursue a career in the security industry in California, obtaining a Guard Card is a crucial step in your journey. A Guard Card, also known as a security guard license, is a requirement for individuals who wish to work as security guards in the state. It provides the necessary training and certification to ensure that security professionals are well-equipped to handle the responsibilities of the job.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of obtaining a Guard Card in California. We will explore the requirements, application process, training, and other essential information to help you navigate the path toward becoming a licensed security guard in the Golden State.

California Guard Card Requirements

Before diving into the application process, it’s essential to understand the basic requirements for obtaining a Guard Card in California. These requirements ensure that individuals are qualified and fit to work in the security industry. Let’s explore the key requirements:

Age Requirement

To apply for a Guard Card in California, you must be at least 18 years old. This minimum age requirement ensures that individuals have reached a level of maturity necessary to handle the responsibilities of a security guard.

Legal Residency Status

Applicants must be legal residents of the United States or have valid authorization to work in the country. This requirement ensures that individuals are legally eligible to work as security guards in California.

Criminal Record Check

All California Guard Card applicants are subject to a criminal record check. This check is conducted by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) to ensure that individuals do not have any disqualifying criminal convictions. The BSIS reviews, both state and federal criminal records during the background check process.

It’s important to note that having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify an individual from obtaining a Guard Card. The BSIS considers each application on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the nature and severity of the offense, the time that has passed since the conviction, and the applicant’s rehabilitation efforts.

Application Process

Now that you understand the basic requirements, let’s dive into the step-by-step process of obtaining a Guard Card in California. The application process involves several stages, including gathering the necessary documents, completing the required training, and submitting the application to the BSIS. Here’s a detailed guide to help you navigate the process smoothly:

Step 1: Gather the Required Documents

Before you begin the application process, it’s crucial to gather all the necessary documents to ensure a smooth and efficient application. Here are the documents you will need:

  1. Proof of Age: You will need to provide a valid identification document, such as a driver’s license or passport, to verify your age.
  2. Proof of Legal Residency: If you’re a U.S. citizen, you can provide your social security card or birth certificate as proof of legal residency. Non-U.S. citizens will need to provide documentation showing their authorization to work in the country.
  3. Criminal Record Information: You will need to disclose any criminal convictions or pending charges during the application process. Gather all relevant documentation, including court records and any certificates of rehabilitation, if applicable.

Step 2: Complete the Required Training

To qualify for a Guard Card in California, you must complete the mandatory training courses for unarmed or armed guards. These courses provide essential knowledge and skills necessary for security professionals. The two main courses are:

  1. Powers to Arrest: This 8-hour course covers the legal aspects of arrest, techniques for handling difficult situations, and the responsibilities of a security guard in making arrests. The course emphasizes the proper use of power and authority in accordance with California law.
  2. Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Terrorism Awareness: This 4-hour course focuses on equipping security guards with the knowledge and skills to identify and respond to potential acts of terrorism and other threats to public safety. It covers topics such as recognizing suspicious behaviors, reporting procedures, and emergency response protocols.

You have the option to complete these courses either in person at an authorized training facility or online through a certified online training provider. Choose the option that best fits your schedule and learning preferences.

Step 3: Submit the Application

Once you have completed the required training, it’s time to submit your application to the BSIS. The application process can be done either online or by mail. Let’s explore both options:

Online Application

Submitting your application online is the recommended method for a faster turnaround time. Here’s a step-by-step guide to completing the online application:

  1.  Visit the BSIS website at  and navigate to the Guard Card application section.
  2. Create an account on the BSIS website if you don’t already have one.
  3. Fill out the online application form with accurate and up-to-date information. Be sure to provide all the required details, including your personal information, training completion dates, and any criminal record information.
  4. Pay the application fee online using a credit or debit card. The current application fee can be found on the BSIS website.
  5. Review your application to ensure all information is correct and complete. Submit the application electronically.

Mail-in Application

If you prefer to submit your application by mail, follow these steps:

  1. Download the Guard Card application form from the BSIS website.
  2. Print out the application form and fill it out completely, providing all the required information.
  3. Attach copies of the necessary documents, including proof of age, proof of legal residency, and any supporting documentation for criminal record disclosure.
  4. Enclose a check or money order for the application fee. The current fee and payment instructions can be found on the BSIS website.
  5. Mail the completed application form, supporting documents, and payment to the address provided on the application form.

Step 4: Live Scan Fingerprinting

As part of the application process, you will need to undergo a Live Scan fingerprinting process. Live Scan is a digital fingerprinting technology that captures your fingerprints electronically and submits them for a criminal background check. Here’s how to complete the Live Scan process:

  1. Obtain the Live Scan form from the BSIS website or the authorized training provider.
  2. Locate a nearby Live Scan facility. The BSIS website provides a list of authorized Live Scan operators in California.
  3. Visit the Live Scan facility and bring the Live Scan form with you. The operator will assist you in completing the fingerprinting process.
  4. Pay the Live Scan fees at the facility. The fees cover the cost of fingerprinting and the background check. The exact fees may vary, so check with the Live Scan operator for the current rates.
  5. After completing the fingerprinting process, you will receive a receipt and a copy of the Live Scan form. Keep these documents for your records.

Step 5: Await Approval and Guard Card Issuance

Once you have submitted your application and completed the Live Scan process, the BSIS will review your application and conduct a thorough background check. The processing time may vary, but the average response time is 15-20 business days.

During this period, your name will appear on the BSIS website as an applicant under review. Employers can verify your registration status by checking the Bureau’s website. Once the BSIS approves your application, they will issue your Guard Card, which will be mailed to the address you provided during the application process.

Renewing and Maintaining a Guard Card

Congratulations! You are now a licensed security guard in California. However, it’s important to note that your Guard Card has an expiration date. To continue working as a security guard, you must renew your Guard Card before it expires.

The renewal process involves completing the necessary continuing education requirements and submitting the renewal application to the BSIS. The specific requirements may vary, but typically, you must complete 8 hours of continuing education courses annually.

Failure to renew your Guard Card on time may result in the expiration of your license, which could lead to a suspension of your security guard duties. It’s crucial to stay proactive and ensure that you renew your Guard Card before it expires.

FAQs about Obtaining a Guard Card in California

Can I apply for a Guard Card if I have a criminal record?

Yes, individuals with criminal records can still apply for a Guard Card in California. The BSIS reviews each application on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the nature and severity of the offense, rehabilitation efforts, and other relevant factors. However, certain criminal convictions may disqualify an individual from obtaining a Guard Card.

Do I need to have a job offer to get a Guard Card?

No, you do not need a job offer to apply for a Guard Card in California. The Guard Card serves as a general license to work as a security guard, and individuals can apply for it without a specific job offer. However, most employers require a valid Guard Card as a prerequisite for employment.

How much does it cost to get a Guard Card in Los Angeles?

The cost of obtaining a Guard Card in California may vary depending on several factors, including the application fee, Live Scan fees, and training costs. The current fees and costs can be found on the BSIS website. It’s important to budget for these expenses to ensure a smooth application process.

What happens if I fail the Guard Card exam?

If you fail the Guard Card exam, don’t be discouraged. You can retake the exam after a certain waiting period, typically 24 hours. Take the time to review the material, study, and prepare for the exam. With dedication and perseverance, you can pass the exam and continue your journey towards becoming a licensed security guard.

Can I use my Guard Card in other states?

No, a Guard Card issued in California is valid only within the state. If you plan to work as a security guard in another state, you will need to meet the specific licensing requirements of that state. Each state has its own regulations and procedures for security guard licensing.

What kind of jobs can I get with a Guard Card in California?

With a Guard Card in California, you can pursue various job opportunities in the security industry. Some common roles include:

  • Security Officer: Providing on-site security and ensuring the safety of individuals and property.
  • Event Security: Guarding venues during events and maintaining crowd control.
  • Retail Security: Protecting retail establishments from theft and ensuring a safe shopping environment.
  • Industrial Security: Monitoring and securing industrial facilities to prevent unauthorized access and protect valuable assets.
  • Healthcare Security: Ensuring the safety of patients, staff, and visitors in healthcare facilities.
  • Campus Security: Patrolling educational institutions and maintaining a secure environment for students and staff.

These are just a few examples, and the security industry offers a wide range of opportunities for licensed security guards.

Do you have to be a U.S. citizen to get a Guard Card?

No, you do not have to be a U.S. citizen to obtain a Guard Card in California. As long as you have legal authorization to work in the country, you are eligible to apply for a Guard Card. The BSIS accepts applications from both U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens who meet the necessary requirements.


Obtaining a Guard Card in California is a significant achievement that opens doors to a rewarding career in the security industry. By understanding the requirements, completing the necessary training, and following the application process, you can obtain your Guard Card and embark on a fulfilling journey as a licensed security guard.

Remember, the security industry plays a crucial role in ensuring the safety and well-being of individuals and communities. By obtaining a Guard Card and committing to continuous learning and professional development, you can make a meaningful impact in your role as a security professional. Good luck on your path to becoming a licensed security guard in California!


Related Posts