How Long Does It Take to Do a Background Check?
Nancy Patterson - October 9, 2019
Things are moving fast, and time is running short. You need to know how long it takes to run a background check and you need to know now. This article will help you determine what to expect and how to save time with the process.
Background check length depends on a variety of factors. These factors can lead to the process lasting for days or even weeks. Fortunately, there are background check options that can deliver a report within minutes.
Let’s look at different background checks, how long they take, what can delay the process, and how to get one done quickly.
How Long Does a Background Check Take?
The first thing that determines a background check’s length is its scope. For example, a basic background check or a criminal background check may not take as long as an employment background check.
Various factors may affect the turnaround time for a report. Factors such as the type of data needed, the processes required to retrieve that data, legal requirements, and limited access to some information may cause delays.
Below is a summary of how long it will typically take to complete a criminal, employment, gun, federal, and similar background check.
Background Check Length for Criminal History
The time frame for a criminal background check will depend on the extensiveness of a person’s criminal record, especially if they were charged and convicted multiple times across various jurisdictions.
By using traditional methods, the process can take from one day to three business days. But it might take even longer if the background check includes an individual’s criminal record in other countries.
Background Check Length for Employment History
How much information requested from an employment background check varies from employer to employer. Some employers are strictly interested in an applicant’s work and education history. Other employers may be interested in a candidate’s driving, social media, medical, criminal, and credit records.
The more the information an employer expects from a background check, the longer the process is bound to take.
If the employer requires only basic information swiftly sourced through a simple online search, then a report may be completed within a day.
However, if the background check involves manually sorting through physical documents or relies on information from other institutions, the process can take five business days or more.
Background Check Length for Federal Background
The typical time frame for a federal background check is one day. Since all the information needed from the federal government is public record, and a lot of it is digitized.
The process involves searching the 94 U.S. federal courts to find times the person of interest violated federal laws. The background check may reveal crimes such as mail fraud, tax evasion, identity theft, embezzlement, and other federal-related crimes.
Depending on the laws of the state, where the background check originated, the search can delve into a person’s federal record as far back as seven to ten years. For instance, an employer in California can only dig as far back as seven years, while one in Arizona can look as far back as ten years.
Background Check Length for Gun Purchase
Gun background checks (also called universal background checks) can take as little as two to three minutes using the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System).
Without this check, a person will be prohibited from legally purchasing a firearm from a licensed seller or manufacturer. But a NICS search can take longer, as much as two to three business days, if the initial search raises flags that require more research.
How Long for Fingerprint Background Check?
A fingerprint background check is often required if seeking employment in a government-run institution, such as an airport, school, or law enforcement agency. It will also be required if seeking employment in the healthcare industry.
The process typically takes three days or less. It can take longer if the fingerprints taken were of poor quality, or if the background check finds a criminal history.
How Long for an Instant Background Check?
As the name implies, an instant background check means getting a background check report within minutes. While an instant background check isn’t as thorough or in-depth as any of the above-specialized reports, it does provide basic information, which in most cases is enough.
With CheckPeople.com, you can run an instant background check yourself with just a person’s name and location. Included in the search are online activities, national criminal databases, sex offender registries, marriage registries, military records, and more and will provide a report of the searched party’s background.
What Delays a Background Check?
As we’ve stated, you can get the results from a background check within minutes, or within days, depending on the nature and scope of the background check. Aside from these two principal factors, below are other elements that can delay a background check report:
In certain courts, especially county courts, many older records are not yet digitized. Some research of certain documents will require manual research by a county clerk or a court runner, which means more time spent gathering the necessary information.
Depending on how many documents or the extent of the case researched, getting relevant information from a county court for a background check can take anywhere from three working days to a month.
Also, if the court is on holiday, you’ll have to wait until it resumes before the case research can proceed. Also, if the court has a backlog of background check requests, you may have to wait until the court officials get to your request.
An international background check may be required if an individual lived, worked, or went to school abroad. How cooperative and responsive the foreign school or employer is will determine the length of the
time to complete the report.
Any delay will also depend on the resources at the disposal of the foreign school or employer. For instance, if their records are not digitized, it may take them a while to find the relevant information and scan and send it.
Also, some other countries have far-reaching privacy protection laws that can significantly delay the process. There may be a need for specific releases or other documentation to be issued to facilitate the requested search in such a scenario.
Using Name Variants
If the researched party has used different variants of their names in the past, it can significantly delay the background check. In this case, each name variant will require individual research.
For instance, a person who has worked under the names Will Clinton, William Clinton, and Bill Clinton, will require a manual check to confirm these identities and the work history attributed to them is accurate.
People who have legally changed their names or have names that are very similar to someone else’s in the same position can also significantly delay a background check.
Inaccurate or Incomplete Information
Providing incorrect information, such as a wrong address or misspelled name, will delay a background check. Inaccurate information wastes time and resources when researching the wrong person, and the process will require a new search.
Lack of Proper Authorization
As required under federal law, before running a background check to include a person’s credit records, the explicit and written permission of that person must be obtained. The agency performing the background check may proceed until the proper consent is provided.
The said consent or authorization provided may be in the form of a signed letter or release document.
Online Activity Checks
Nowadays, background checks are commonly extended to cover a person’s online life as much as their offline activities. People tend to reveal their true nature and opinions online, where they feel they are anonymous.
It may provide a valuable source of information to employers regarding potential red flags or other signals about a person’s personality. Some information may help employers make good decisions as to who they do or do not hire.
This type of background check will uncover a person’s social media activity and search history, all of which can take a while if a person runs multiple accounts under various aliases.
Employers who want deeper results, than what a Google search can provide, may use CheckPeople.com’s Dark Web Scan to reveal whether a person is up to anything shady on the deep web.
Double Checking Records
Having to review and double-check records to reconcile confusion caused by name variants or other complications will also extend the length of a background check. Often when the person researched has a common name like John Smith, an agency must review records to verify they are looking into the right person.
How to Get Fast Results from a Background Check
How a background check is carried out will affect how fast you get results. The average background check using traditional methods, such as a private investigator, can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks.
The more thorough a background check is, the longer the process is bound to take. When there are more details to look into, there is also an increased likelihood of running into problems that may slow down the process. If a search involves receiving relevant information from a third party who isn’t under any time constraint or obligation to answer you quickly, delays can occur.
For instance, federal background checks involving the FBI can take as long as 30 days to process.
As a job applicant, there are ways to ensure your recruitment process goes faster by making a background check a breeze for your prospective employers.
How do you accomplish this?
Providing accurate and complete information is a must to avoid any unnecessary delays. Also, if you have had a change of name in the past, you should disclose this information, so that whoever’s carrying out the background check knows what to look for and what not to waste time on.
You can also minimize delays and speed up a background check by doing the following:
- Avoiding typos and other mistakes in any document submitted or information provided.
- Provide consistent information across all your documents. That is, do not use different variations of your name or address in different places.
- Signing all necessary release forms
- Provide accurate information regarding past working experience, academic qualifications, degrees, and certifications, the dates they were received, and the institutions that issued them.
Also, if you have multiple social media accounts, aim to delete the ones that don’t reflect well on you or that may cause confusion.
Are you interested to know what a prospective employer or another interested party may see if they were to run a basic background check on you? It is easy to find out by trying CheckPeople.com’s Background Check Yourself tool.
Employers and other parties that request for a background check can also speed up the process by doing the following:
- Make sure, from the outset, to collect all the information needed to run the type of background check they want.
- Specify the type of information they expect from a background check.
- Make sure all necessary release forms and authorization documents are understood and signed by the subject of the background check.
- Follow all legal provisions regarding the execution of a background check.
The Bottom Line
Background checks will provide the needed information within a specific time frame depending on the type of search conducted. However, complications can occur that extend background check length and the delivery of its report.
Such complications are avoidable. Choose the stress-free, user-friendly, fast, and cost-effective option of CheckPeople.com to run a background check right now. Use it to find out within minutes if a job applicant is as qualified as they claim to be, or if a partner has been honest about their past.
CheckPeople.com offers various reporting possibilities. You can save time by choosing a report type that only targets a certain aspect of someone’s background. By choosing a report specific to only certain information will surely take less time than a comprehensive background check. Whether you need to screen an employee or check someone’s credit or criminal history, take the hassle out of the background check process today with CheckPeople.com.