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BLS Restricted Data Access
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Frequently Asked Questions


How do I know if the data I want for my project is available at BLS?

You are encouraged to contact the subject area experts listed on the contact page to determine the availability of data and the feasibility of your project prior to submitting your proposal. You can contact the Research Economist for the office that produces the data you are interested in using. This individual will be knowledgeable on the data set and happy to discuss the proposal with you.

When should I apply?

You should try to apply at least six months in advance of when you when you would like to access data. If you apply early, BLS can hold the agreement for a few months until you are ready to start.

How long does it take for my proposal to be reviewed?

It takes about three months after the application deadline to receive notification of whether your research proposal is approved. It may take additional time if BLS needs clarification on a proposal. If a proposal is approved, it can take an additional three months to process and fully execute the legal agreement authorizing data access between BLS and the recipient organization.

How long may I access the data?

Initially, access to data for all projects is one year for students and two years for all other applicants conducting research at the BLS headquarters building. Initial access at the Federal Statistical Research Data Centers (FSRDC) is one year for all applicants. At the end of this time period, a researcher may submit a written proposal for an extension to continue to access the data. If resources are available, access may be granted for an additional time not to exceed another two years. If you anticipate needing access to BLS confidential data for more than four years, please contact the Restricted Data Access Administrator to discuss your project before you apply.

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to apply?

No. Non-U.S. citizens are eligible if they are employed by a non-profit U.S. institution or a student at a U.S. college or university. All non-U.S. citizens must have a valid student or work visa. For applicants approved for access at an FSRDC, there may be additional restrictions to meet the Census Bureau's Sworn Special Status (SSS) clearance requirement including the requirement of a Social Security number (SSN). If you have questions about your eligibility, please contact the Restricted Data Access Administrator.

Do I need to include any additional information in my application if I am a student?

Yes, you will need to include the following information:

  • Your expected graduation date.
  • The name and contact information of an employee at your university to serve as the main point-of-contact between BLS and your university. BLS refers to this contact as a project coordinator. Many Ph.D. candidates use their dissertation advisor for their project coordinator. The project coordinator does not need to come to the BLS national office.

Who can I designate as my institution's signing official for the legal agreement?

The signing official is an employee of the institution, who has the authority to enter the institution into a legally binding agreement. For example, you may designate a director or associate director from a contracts office, sponsored research/projects office, or grants office as your signing official.

May I obtain a copy of the legal agreement my institution will need to sign?

Yes, you may obtain a sample agreement by contacting the Restricted Data Access Administrator.

What do I need to do once my project is approved?

If BLS approves your project, you will need to complete the following three steps before you may come to the BLS national office or an FSRDC.

  1. Read the Confidential Information Protection and Statistical Efficiency Act (PDF) to understand the nature of BLS confidential data as well as to understand your legal obligation to protect the confidential data.
  2. Work with the Restricted Data Access Administrator to obtain a signed legal agreement between BLS and your institution.
  3. Provide BLS with your signed BLS Agent Agreement.
  4. Take the online BLS Confidentiality Training.
  5. For FSRDC applicants only: Additional steps are required prior to data access, including obtaining the Census Bureau's SSS clearance and paying a fee to BLS.

Once you complete the required steps for your mode of access, you may begin accessing the data.

What can I do to have a strong proposal?

You are highly encouraged to contact BLS to determine the availability of BLS data and the feasibility of your project prior to submitting proposals. You can contact a Senior Research Economist at

Can I assign a research assistant to travel to BLS and work on the project in my place?

Yes, you may add another researcher to your legal agreement. When you submit your application or when your project is approved by the BLS, provide the names, contact information, and CVs of all project participants. The additional researcher may be affiliated with a different institution, provided that institution is willing to sign a legal agreement with the BLS.


Last Modified Date: December 20, 2019