Getting Your Common Access Card (CAC)

Much of the process of getting a CAC happens without your even knowing it, but you will still need to understand the process to obtain the card.  Whether you're getting a CAC for the first time or renewing your current CAC, you must follow all four steps listed below:



Step 1: Sponsorship & Eligibility

Applicants for a CAC must be sponsored by a DoD government official or employee.  For the majority of CAC holders (Military and DoD Civilian), your sponsor will be an authoritative data feed from your Human Resources department.  Otherwise, the sponsor is the person affiliated with the DoD or other federal agency who takes responsibility for verifying and authorizing the applicant's need for an ID card. 


Step 2: Registration & Enrollment

You must be registered in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) by your sponsor prior to card issuance.  Also, if you change roles - For example, changing from active-duty to contractor status - you will need to reregister in DEERS.

Contractors will need to be registered into the Trusted Associate Sponsorship System (TASS) by a Trusted Agent (TA). More information for contractors.


Step 3: Background Investigation

Sponsors will initiate a background check for potential cardholders.  This process involves the following steps:

  • A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint check
  • A National Agency Check with Written Inquiries (NACI) check

Since the NACI process can take up to 18 months, you may be issued a CAC before the process is completed and after a favorable fingerprint return.  If the NACI process is completed and you are not approved, however, your CAC will be revoked. Please refer to DoD Instruction 5200.46 for additional information regarding DoD investigative and adjudicative guidance for CAC issuance.


Step 4: Obtaining Your Card

Once your DEERS registration is complete, you must visit a Real-Time Automated Personnel Identification System (RAPIDS) site for final verification and processing.  When you go to a RAPIDS site, you must bring the following items:

  • Two forms of ID in original form.  Both IDs must be among those listed on the List of Acceptable Documents (259k, PDF).  One of the IDs must bear a photo (for example, a passport or a driver's license).
  • A six (6) to eight (8) digit number to use as a Personal Identification Number (PIN).  Your PIN should not be a number derived from something easily known about you, such as part of your Social Security Number (SSN), birthday, anniversary date, telephone number, or address.
  • Your government unclassified email address if you use a government computer.  Be sure to print your full, unclassified Internet email address (not your display name, and not your personal email address).  Your computer system administrators can help you with entering the correct address.  If a work email address is not available, the card will be issued without an email certificate.  You may add or update the email associated with your CAC via ID Card Office Online.

If you encounter a problem obtaining your new card at the RAPIDS site, and the problem is related to vetting, please follow up with your sponsor to update your DEERS profile.  If the problem is related to your record in DEERS, please follow up with your direct supervisor or your personnel hiring office.