How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Before a manager makes a hiring decision, or before a landlord agrees to sign a lease, a background check might be conducted. Depending on the nature of the information that is requested, ease of access to said information, and legal implications, background checks usually take between 1 and five days. Manual searches or searches that require cooperation from other entities may take longer.

Background checking

Because a background check requires knowledge and technology, you’ll get better and faster results if you leave it in the hands of professionals.

Instant Background Searches

Services like offer instant results for certain searches, such as identity verification, social security number, and criminal and sex offenders registries. Because of the technology behind a service like this, information can be gathered, cross-checked, and organized almost instantly. An added benefit of professional services is that they will discard irrelevant or duplicate information.

Gun Background Checks

FBI may perform a background check through The National Criminal Background Check Service or NCIS. These checks are mostly required when a person wants to buy a firearm or will be working in private security or any other role requiring the use of a gun. A gun background check is usually very fast and will be ready in minutes.

Credit Background Check

Only CRA’s or Credit Reporting Agencies are allowed to perform credit background searches, and in most cases, written consent is required. A credit background check will take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours, and it will verify information in the credit bureau. Thorough consumer reports may take up to three days.

Employment Verification

This can take from two days to one week, as it implies more work on a personal level. It often requires the collaboration of a candidate, especially when there are periods of self-employment on their resume. It also means contacting HR departments from prior employers and asking for relevant information. If a candidate has worked overseas, the process may take even longer.

Comprehensive Federal and State-level Criminal Searches

If you need a more thorough search for criminal records, the process can take up to three days. In case of needing a criminal record search from another country, the process may last even longer, up to a month (barring holidays). Rember that thorough criminal searches are contingent on state laws, and on the functioning of the courts.

Professional Qualifications and Academic History

To verify professional qualifications, the background check process takes into account several aspects, such as professional association memberships, licenses, and certifications. Academic history, on the other hand, requires the collaboration of institutions such as universities and schools.

The process may take longer if the university requires a release form from the candidate. Usually, an academic and professional background will take 2-3 business days.

Fingerprint Check

A fingerprint check is required for employees in all government agencies, schools, and airports. Often times, childcare or eldercare agencies also require fingerprint checks.

The process compares the fingerprints of over 35 million people in the United States, through the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, run by the FBI. This process takes three days but may be delayed because of poor quality of fingerprints, or when or when there’s a criminal history behind the fingerprints.

Background check process

What if the Process is Delayed?

Because background checks are currently an industry-standard in HR and real estate, the process is usually fast. If after a week, you haven’t heard back, the reason may be one of the following:

  1. There is a need for an international background check. This happens when someone has lived outside the country in the last 10 years. An international background check can take up to 45 days, depending on the countries laws, technology, and legal requirements to obtain information.
  2. Lack of release and consent forms, or incomplete information.
  3. Your name is very similar or equal to someone else’s.

Conflicting Information or No Information

Everyone has a digital footprint. One that cannot be erased and is very difficult to hide. If you can’t find any information about someone, consider it a red flag. Conflicting or contradictory information can also be considered a red flag. Even after a background check, a final decision should be made considering several aspects beyond data.

Whenever possible, talk to your sources and ask for clarification when you feel something is missing or seems odd. Beware of someone who refuses a background check from the beginning: people who have nothing to hide are usually open.

Many aspects can delay a background check, but usually, it should not take more than one week. Check-in with the person or company performing the background check if it takes longer, as they may have a request for more information or clarification from you.

If you hired a professional service to perform a background check, you should ask for a timeline and clarify expectations upfront. Expect them to comply with the dates they committed to and ask for a refund if this is not the case (ask for their refund policy before making a final commitment). Remember that some sites and services may be scammers, so avoid giving away your personal information.


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