A private investigator is a licenced, trained individual who conducts investigations to collect information and uncover facts on behalf of a private client. Private investigators may operate independent investigation firms, be employed by a private investigation agency, or work in-house for a business such as a law firm or insurance company. Private investigators collect information through surveillance and digital research, among other skills. Private investigators must always act within the law and cannot obtain information through illegal means such as wiretapping or trespassing. A private investigator licence allows you to be paid to investigate the character or actions of a person; a person’s business or occupation; or the whereabouts of persons or property.
How do you become a private investigator in Ontario? There is a strict process in place mandated by the Province of Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services which is designed to ensure that only the most qualified individuals earn their private investigator licence.
In order to be considered for a career as a private investigator you need to be over the age of 18; eligible to work in Canada; and possess a clean criminal record. If you meet these criteria you can begin the application and licencing process.
Basic Training and Testing
Before you can take the admission test, you must complete extensive training. The required training can be obtained from a variety of accredited sources such as public universities, community colleges, or private career colleges. There are also some private agencies that are licenced to administer the basic training course. In order to proceed with taking the basic test, you must successfully complete basic training that is at least 50 hours in length. Upon successful completion of the training, you may register to take the private investigator basic test. This test can be completed at select DriveTest centres across Ontario. There are fees associated with both the training and the testing. The fees for training will depend on what accredited source you select. As of January 25, 2015, the fee for the basic test is $66.50 plus HST.
When you complete the test, you will receive an Ontario Testing Completion Number which you will include on your application.
Once you have passed the basic test and completed basic training you can apply for your licence.
You must include the following:
- Passport-quality photo
- Scanned copies of two valid government-issued identification documents
- A method of payment
- Scanned copy of signed guarantor form
- Ontario Testing Completion Number
You must submit two separate pieces of valid application. The first must prove you are eligible to work in Canada. The other piece of identification must be government issued and include your full legal name, signature, date of birth, and photograph.
You must have signed confirmation of the details of your application from a guarantor. This must be someone who is at least 18 years old, has known you personally for at least two years, and is a reputable member of the community with an occupation such as licenced private investigator, lawyer, pharmacist, physician, or professional engineer.
Your application can take approximately 30 days to process and it’s imperative you do not practice prior to receipt of your licence. You are not legally permitted to act as a private investigator in Ontario until you are physically in possession of your licence.
Your private investigator’s licence will expire two birthdays after the date of issue. It is your responsibility to ensure your licence is always up to date. Once you have completed your basic training and testing you are not required to do them again upon expiration of your licence, simply comply with the required renewal process. You must carry your licence with you at all times when you are working as a private investigator.
Private Investigators have a duty to adhere to the Private Security and Investigative Services Act, 2005 (the “Act”) in their everyday practice. Deviation from the rules in the Act leaves them open to charges and possible revocation of their licence.
The decision to become a private investigator in Ontario opens you to an exciting career path which, if done properly, will be both challenging and rewarding.
Here are more helpful resources about private investigators in Ontario:
Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS)
Canadian Private Investigators Resource Center
Canadian Association of Professional Investigators