Dec 10, 2019


Depending on the type of background check and the reason you require it, the length of time the check takes can vary. There can be many internal, external, and even legal factors that impact the waiting period. Whether you seek a pre-employment or even a personal criminal record check, you should always be prepared for other delays that can increase the turnaround time.

Here are some of the major types of background checks and the approximate turn-around times:

What Is The Difference Between a Federal Criminal Background Check and a National Criminal Database One? All criminal offenses brought before a Federal court’s jurisdiction will show up on a Federal background check. A Federal check is often confused for a National Criminal Database background check, however, a National check searches state and county databases. Federal criminal background is a search of the federal district courts for any criminal charges that fall under federal jurisdiction. Crimes reported in a federal criminal database search include only those offenses that are federally prosecuted as opposed to local and state law. This means violations of federal law as enforced by the FBI, DEA, ATF, and other government agencies.

In total, there are 94 federal districts. Federal violations will not appear in either a county or statewide criminal check. Offenses listed in a federal criminal database can include:

The national criminal database search for felony and misdemeanor crimes committed in numerous jurisdictions nationwide. These records are indexed from state repositories, state correctional facilities, and some county records, and their availability varies greatly from state to state.

This is not a true nationwide search of all criminal records, but it is a good supplemental search to our county criminal and federal criminal database searches. It can also help identify crimes that occurred in jurisdictions that are not revealed by an application, resume, or a social security number trace.

If there are no possible records in the database you background check will come back within minutes. However, any information returned on a nationwide criminal database search is automatically confirmed at the county of origin before being released to the client to maintain FCRA compliance, if using a reputable background check company.

How Long Do Federal Background Checks Take?
Typically Federal checks can take from 0 – 72 hours but sometimes can take extended number of days to complete depending on the personal identifiers on file. Personal identifiers are not readily available on the federal court system. Researchers have to open up files and search for personal identifiers to the applicant of the request.

What Is The Waiting Period of a National or County Background Check?

County background checks are much more detailed and are the source of the majority of misdemeanor and felony cases. Typically, these take anywhere from 0-72 hour’s time to come back. However, some county offices are yet to completely digitized and often someone (typically a court clerk) needs to manually go through the records and type up the search results which can take time. Depending on the scope of the search, you should expect your background check results back within 3 – 30 days for clerk assisted searches.

What Is An FBI Search and What is The Turn-Around Time?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Name Check Program has over 50 agencies that regularly request information from their databases for the purpose of “government employment or an appointment, a security clearance, attendance at a White House function, immigration benefits, naturalization, or a visa to visit the United States.” If you’re waiting on an FBI Search to come back, you can expect the time to vary depending on your case. Their website reports that they receive over 60,000 search requests each week and that there are over 265 different FBI locations that could be housing information on your name search, although most searches come back clear.

  • If your background check is for the purpose of purchasing a firearm, most of these universal searches are done using the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System which usually releases information within a matter of minutes. If this search does not come up completely clear, the FBI has 3 business days to provide an accurate check or the seller is legally allowed to sell you the firearm.

What is a Fingerprint Background Check?

Fingerprint searches are becoming more and more popular when applying for employment, especially jobs that require working with and around children. The search will explore local, state, and federal databases to find any criminal records, family records, and even records about your education. The FBI keeps all this information in the  Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System. The time it takes to receive information back from the FBI depends on the extent of the search. If you receive results back in the mail, you should expect a wait of up to two weeks, however, electronic applications are received back much sooner.

What Might Impact The Waiting Period of a Background Check?
Usually, the turn-around time remains in the above mentioned time frames, but in extreme cases, The Washington Post reported last year that over 700,000 people were waiting on a backlog of Federal background checks that have left some people, especially immigrants and those seeking employment in military positions, waiting for over a year.

Some other reasons your background check may be delayed:

  • If there are many variations or aliases associated with your name;
  • Your documents and forms are incomplete or missing information. Often employers send away for background checks without having the applicant’s signature of approval to make it legal. When this happens the search will be sent back;
  • If the offices doing the search need to do a manual check. See the above information in National or County background checks;
  • There may be a backlog or other reason that checks are being completed slower than usual; and
  • If you have ever lived overseas or done business/taxes in overseas countries.

  • If your background check is being done as a pre-employment measure, the hiring company may take a few days to a couple of weeks to review your information once received before getting back to you with a response.
  • If your background check is being done for a work visa or to travel/move internationally, you should wait until your search comes back before purchasing any plane tickets, etc., as you can never be 100% positive of turn-around times.

Looking for more information about your background check and which one you might need for your situation, reach out to a member of our team today.

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