The thought of an FBI background check causes many people to shiver in fear. A number of employers require them before hiring, however, including those that work with teachers, daycare providers, massage therapists, anyone who works with or around children, and ride services Uber and Lyft. They aren’t as uncommon or as frightening as you might think, but the very real question still remains: what shows up on an FBI fingerprint background check?
A number of online background check services can be used to search for information available as a matter of public record. FBI fingerprint background checks work a little differently, however. We’ve got the full scoop below, complete with the ups and downs of these federal background checks, reasons why you shouldn’t worry about them, and our selection of the best background check services you can use from home.
Basics of FBI fingerprint background checks
If you’ll be working with the public or are handling sensitive information, you can pretty much guarantee your background will be scrutinized before you’re welcomed aboard.
What are FBI background checks?
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) maintains arrest records from both state and local agencies across America. When an FBI background check is requested, the agency collates all of the arrests for the individual in question, including a full sheet of charges and dates. This isn’t limited by state or city, making it a convenient method of checking on a person’s background no matter where they’ve lived across the United States.
FBI checks show both felonies and serious misdemeanors and can include basic financial data such as credit reports. They rarely include moving violations or small fines, which means your parking tickets won’t show up on an FBI background report.
Why do they use fingerprints?
Fingerprints are unique identifiers that form a convenient way to link data to a single individual. More than one person may have the same name, and those names can be faked, changed, etc. Fingerprints, though, are permanent. Any arrest includes fingerprinting the person brought into the precinct before processing. These prints are then used as a sort of umbrella for an individual’s entire arrest record moving forward.
When getting hired for a new job, especially one that involves sensitive information or working with the public, the employer may request fingerprints to run an FBI background check. This is a normal part of the hiring process and does not mean you will suddenly have a record on file with the FBI.
Can I see my own FBI background check?
The Freedom of Information Act made it so that any U.S. citizen has the right to learn what information the FBI keeps on file about them. This means you can submit a formal request with the FBI, providing your own fingerprints and other required paperwork, then receive a copy of your FBI background check for a small fee. The process isn’t simple or straightforward, but it’s technically possible. See the section below for more information.
Should I be concerned about FBI background checks?
If you simply want to run the FBI’s fingerprint check, you usually won’t have anything to worry about. If you do have an arrest record, no matter where or when it happened, your employer may give you the chance to explain things before running the check. Even if you don’t have a record, though, you may still be concerned about the check. Just remember that employers will be seeing dozens of people’s FBI fingerprint background checks at once, so you won’t be unreasonably scrutinized. No one’s perfect, after all.
What’s on an FBI fingerprint background check?
FBI background checks link data based on fingerprints. By submitting your own, either by yourself or via your consent through a potential employer, it’s easy to get access to all of the data the FBI has about your history.
These background checks are different from public records and standard background check information, however. The FBI is mainly concerned with arrests and crimes, not necessarily speeding tickets or your former addresses, so don’t sweat the small stuff, basically.
When you or someone you know obtains an FBI fingerprint background check, expect the following information to show up:
- Arrests from any state in the U.S. extending through your entire adult life.
- Felony and major misdemeanor crimes associated with your identity.
- Major changes to your credit history, such as bankruptcies.
- Times, dates, and a list of charges relating to any arrests.
It’s important to note that FBI background reports may contain other information depending on the entity that requests them. If you’re applying for a government contract or are running for public office, for example, the report could show more information than if a standard employment agency requested your data.
How to see your own FBI background check
While most FBI fingerprint background checks are run by employers before hiring new recruits, the Freedom of Information Act made it possible for U.S. citizens to know what data the FBI stores about them at any time. The process isn’t easy or cheap, but if you want to know exactly what will show up on your FBI background check, this is the way to do it.
Three ways to submit a request
If you want a copy of your identity history summary, or to verify that you do not have a criminal record on file with the FBI, there are three potential ways to do it. The first and most common is to visit https://www.edo.cjis.gov/ and complete the required forms online. This includes submitting your fingerprints and payment for the service.
You can also submit your request directly to the FBI via mail. This process is largely the same as the digital method above, though it does take longer and cost more since you have to pay for secure shipping.
There are also private FBI-approved businesses known as Channelers that contract with the FBI and are capable of requesting background checks on your behalf. This is the most fool-proof way of getting your identity history, as the Channeler knows what procedures to follow and can walk you through the entire process. See the list of FBI-approved Channelers to get started.
For more information about the process, including links and official summaries of the required materials, see the full walkthrough on getting your identity history from the FBI.
How long does it take?
There’s always a wait time associated with seeing your FBI fingerprint background check. Using the electronic method above is fastest, and submitting via snail mail will take the longest. There are also delays that can occur due to shipping or backlogs at the FBI offices themselves.
- Electronic – Processing time is three to five business days after receipt of the fingerprint card.
- Mail – Processing time is 14-16 weeks, which doesn’t take into consideration delivery delays.
- Channeler – Times vary greatly. Ask your Channeler for details.
Can other people see my FBI check?
In general, individuals can only request to see their own identity history summary, not anyone else’s. This means you can’t get an FBI background check on another person without their consent, nor can anyone see your details without your consent. The exception, of course, is law enforcement officers, federal agents, and similar personnel. Employers can also view your FBI background, but only if you give them your fingerprints.
Best background check services
FBI fingerprint background checks are usually reserved for verifying criminal data. Everything else, including names, addresses, financial information, and other personal details, are generally reserved for other types of background checks. These can be obtained by anyone on any person provided they have an individual’s full name.
Running a background check on yourself
If you think your new employer may run an FBI fingerprint background check, it’s a good idea to run a quick search to see what information is publicly available about you. This will include rudimentary details about your identity and will overlap slightly with the FBI report, so you’ll know if there’s any issue that needs to be addressed up front.
What should you look for in a reliable background check service? We’ve zeroed in on the most important features below, followed by the best background report services in the next section.
- Accuracy – You need to be able to rely on the data you receive. If a service doesn’t include up to date information or serves outdated content, your search will be pointless.
- Customer support – Background checks are tricky, which is why services with reliable customer support are invaluable.
- Layout – Does your service deliver information in an easy to understand format, or is it nearly impossible to read? Usability can be a huge issue when it comes to background checking services, so don’t underestimate this feature.
- Speed – Background checks can take time, even online ones that comb through public records. You need a service that delivers information instantly.
Below we’ve gathered the best background check services you can find online. These will help you look up your own background information to get a feeling for what employers may see when they check on your history.
Instant CheckMate is a public records searching service that lets you run your own online background checks with a minimum amount of effort. With it you’ll be able to comb through arrest records, criminal records, known aliases, financial history, previous jobs, and more, all with fast results delivered directly to your PC. There are even mobile apps for Android and iOS you can use for instant background searches on the go.
Using Instant CheckMate is as easy as you can get. All you need to do is type in someone’s name, including your own, select a general location (state and/or city), then begin the search. ICM then dives into tons of real public records to find every possible resource it can. Best of all, every subscription includes unlimited searches and fully up to date information, putting one of the most powerful background checking resource at your fingertips.
When you need to know what an employer will see when they run a background check on you, Instant CheckMate is one of the best services you can use.
Hearing that your employer may run an FBI fingerprint background check before hiring is a frightening prospect. Fortunately, as long as you’re open and honest about your past, there’s little chance something will go wrong. In fact, if you don’t have a criminal or arrest history, the FBI may not have any data on you whatsoever. You can always check yourself just to be sure, or run a public background records search to verify what information the world can see about you.
Do you have any experience with employers running FBI fingerprint background checks? Have you ever obtained a copy of your own? Share your experience in the comments below.