How Long Do Background Checks Take


How Long Does a Fingerprint Background Check Take?

fingerprint background check duration

Hoping to find out more about a potential new employee? Perhaps you need to check an individual’s criminal history before granting them access to classified information? Well, you’re in luck!

A fingerprint background check is an easy and accurate way to match somebody’s identity to an entire database of information, provided you have the time.

A fingerprint background check typically takes a few days to several weeks, depending on various factors like the agency’s efficiency and the databases searched. Accurate and clear fingerprint submissions are crucial for avoiding delays.

But if you’re in a rush, don’t worry! This helpful guide about how long does a fingerprint background check take will explain in detail everything you need to know about the background check process so that your work environment can be safe and secure in no time.

Specifically this guide will cover:

  • What a fingerprint background check is
  • The information a fingerprint background check will provide
  • How long does a fingerprint background check take, dependent on the type of screening
  • How fingerprint background checks work
  • What could cause a potential delay in receiving your fingerprint background check.

So, whether you’re an employer wanting to conduct a criminal background check of a potential new employee or you work in law enforcement and need to cross-reference information on a warrant, this is the article for you. Let’s get into it!

What is a Fingerprint Background Check?

A fingerprint background check is when a person’s fingerprint is collected and then examined to both verify their identity and view their criminal history.

Every individual on the planet has a unique pattern on their fingertip, making it easy for authorities to quickly identify a person if they need to.

Are you reading this article to find possible methods to try and trick or fake a fingerprint screening? Tough luck!

It is extremely difficult to trick a fingerprint background check by faking or changing your fingerprints. So, if you’re a criminal – stop reading this guide now!

What Information Does A Fingerprint Background Check Reveal?

duration of fingerprint background check

A fingerprint background check can reveal a lot about a person. Primarily it lets you know a person’s criminal history through a criminal background check.

This can help to reveal an individual’s convictions, active arrests, warrants, pending criminal charges, whether they have committed mail fraud, or even whether they have been added to a sex offender registry.

This type of check is of particular importance to police when helping to reduce identity theft and making sure government-funded bodies such as public schools are safe from criminals.

They can be done at a county, state, or even federal level if you need to find the court records of a specific person.

Schools and childcare centers or services use fingerprint background checks every day. This is because children often cannot speak up for themselves if an authority figure is committing a crime against them.

Therefore, school bodies and foster family agencies need to conduct thorough checks to reveal whether a person is safe to be in contact with children or not.

Fingerprint background checks can also reveal some more general personal information. On record might be someone’s alias, current immigration status, or medical history.

Furthermore, a fingerprint background check could also be useful for a bank employee who requires information regarding an individual’s credit history or to conduct a credit check.

It’s important to note that unless for law enforcement purposes, conducting a fingerprint background check requires the individual’s consent. Additionally, completing a series of forms or documentation is necessary for every fingerprint background check.

How Long Does A Fingerprint Background Check Take?

In general, fingerprint background check turnaround time can range anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks. However, the speed at which they can be processed will depend on a variety of factors.

This includes the type of screening, quality of fingerprint samples, comprehensiveness of the database, process delays, and the urgency at which the results are required.

Typical Duration for Types of Screening

fingerprint background check length

Employment checks

Standard employment or pre-employment background checks typically take 5 to 7 business days, but the time can vary based on the amount of information the employer needs and the current workload of the office handling the requests.

These types of checks are crucial for employers wanting to conduct a thorough hiring process, allowing them to make informed decisions about potential job candidates.

This is of particular importance when candidates are applying for senior positions such as C-level executive jobs.

Licensing applications

Typically taking 2 to 6 weeks, licensing applications will often be more thorough in their background checks. The variation in time will depend on the type of license that has been requested and state-specific laws.

The types of licenses requiring such a check are usually related to dangerous goods or services such as the purchasing of guns or explosives.

Security clearances

Due to the potential consequences of an inaccurate background check, security clearance checks are extremely comprehensive and may take several months to complete.

However, if the level of clearance required is low and the individual’s history is squeaky clean, the time taken will be significantly reduced.

Immigration processes

Standard fingerprint checks for immigration purposes depend on the need for additional information and whether the relevant authorities are currently experiencing a large number of applicants. In most cases, an international background check will take about 2 to 4 weeks.

Driving record (MVR) check

MVR checks are super fast and can easily be completed in a couple of days. This is because driving and motor vehicle records are easily accessible.

Reference checks

Reference checks do not always involve a fingerprint. However, when they do, they will often coincide with the aforementioned employment check. 5 to 7 business days is the normal amount of time for a reference check to take.

Do note that with some of the above types of screenings, it is extremely important to seek legal advice to make sure that you follow the law and provide the correct information throughout the entire process.

How Do Fingerprint Background Checks Work?

Fingerprint background checks involve 4 key steps:

Capturing fingerprints

Recording the fingerprint in question is the first crucial step. If you’re high-tech, you’ll have access to advanced electronic fingerprint-scanning equipment.

If you’re playing it old school, it’s possible to record even with ink and paper – though you should know that manual searches are uncommon and extremely inefficient.

Don’t have access to this kind of equipment or database? Not to worry! You can make a fingerprint appointment at a relevant office or agency in your state to gather all the information you need.

There are many background check services and companies to choose from across the United States.

To complete this first step, you just need to make sure that you have gone to the correct agency (whether that be federal or local government) and sign the relevant legal release forms.

Transmitting fingerprints

Got the print? Great! Now, it’s time for it to be sent to the relevant authorities and databases.

From there, it will be cross-referenced with a vast list of fingerprints and be accurately matched. This step will more often than not be carried out electronically.

Processing and analysis

This is the most important part of the whole process; the “check” of the fingerprint background check.

Having captured and sent the prints, they are now uploaded to a database for comparison and examination. It is here that the relevant agency will attempt to find potential matches or assess someone’s criminal history.

In the United States, the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) is used.

This system attempts to match the uploaded fingerprint to somebody listed on the database. AFIS is very unlikely to fail as it is one of the biggest identity databases in the world and uses advanced algorithms to compare patterns.

Report generation

A match has been found, and the history has been checked. Now, it’s time to consolidate the information and present it in a concise summary for the requesting person!

This may be an employer, licensing agency, immigration office, or workplace requiring a security clearance.

It is important to make this information clear and accurate, as this report will go on to inform a variety of life-changing decisions.

Some Potential Delays in Fingerprint Checks

Want to make the fingerprint check process as smooth as possible? Make sure you minimize or be aware of these potential delays.

Poor-quality fingerprints or smudges

Make sure that the fingerprint is clear and easy to distinguish! Low-quality scans or smudges will make it difficult for the database to cross-match identities. You do not want to have to waste time re-capturing the prints.

Similarities found with other entries in the database

If two or more potential matches are identified by the electronic database, this will likely delay results further.

It may even require the eye of an individual rather than an automated machine to carefully examine the prints.

Incomplete records or database errors

Depending on how extensive your database is, you may not be able to find a match anywhere.

If this occurs in a police investigation, it will unfortunately delay capturing the criminal for even longer. As such, it’s extremely important that the databases are up to date.

Jurisdictional delays or backlog

This can vary from state to state and from organization to organization. However, in general, some jurisdictions can and will have backlogs or be overwhelmed with fingerprint background check requests.

This may extend the processing time for your check, so it may be worthwhile finding an alternative method to conduct a background check or seek the help of a different agency.

Average Time Frame for Fingerprint Background Checks

When it comes to fingerprint background checks, understanding the average time frame is crucial for both applicants and organizations. Generally, the time frame can vary based on several factors, including the type of background check and the agency checks involved.

While most fingerprint submissions are processed within a few days to a few weeks, there are times when you might experience your ‘Background Check Taking So Long,’ often due to specific reasons. However, if there are issues with fingerprint quality or criminal record discrepancies, this period can extend.

Typical Duration in Various States and Sectors

The duration of fingerprint background checks can differ significantly across various states and sectors. For instance, a government agency might have a faster processing time compared to a private school or a security guard company.

In some states, electronic fingerprinting has expedited the process, reducing the average turnaround times. Law enforcement agencies often have quicker access to criminal history databases, which can speed up the process. On average, most checks are completed within 1-3 weeks.

Comparison with Other Types of Background Checks

Fingerprint-based background checks are often considered more reliable than manual checks or universal background checks. This is because they access criminal history records directly from databases of fingerprints, making them less prone to errors compared to name-based checks.

While electronic fingerprinting offers a quick scan process, traditional methods like hard-copy fingerprint cards might take longer. Background check responses from fingerprinting are generally more detailed, covering everything from criminal records to previous work history.

Case Studies and Real-Life Examples

In real-life scenarios, the time frame for fingerprint background checks can be quite variable. For example, a school district might receive fingerprint responses within a few calendar days, especially if they use LiveScan fingerprints technology.

In contrast, a governmental agency might take longer due to more stringent legal requirements. Case studies have shown that sectors requiring high-security clearance, like those dealing with sex offenses or criminal history background checks for USCIS – Employment Authorization, might have longer processing times due to additional agency checks and criminal database searches.

In conclusion, while the average time for a fingerprint background check can vary, advancements in technology and streamlined processes are making them faster and more efficient.

Expedited Processes and Exceptions

fingerprint background check time

In certain scenarios, the need for faster background checks becomes critical. These expedited processes are designed to meet urgent requirements without compromising the thoroughness of the check.

Situations Requiring Faster Background Checks

Certain situations demand a quicker turnaround for fingerprint background checks. For instance, law enforcement agencies may need expedited checks for urgent investigations. In the corporate sector, companies might require fast checks for immediate hiring decisions.

Additionally, governmental agencies often expedite checks for individuals involved in national security or public safety roles. In the education sector, school districts may seek rapid checks for substitute teachers to fill immediate vacancies.

Available Expedited Services

To cater to these urgent needs, various fingerprint vendors and background check agencies offer expedited services. These services use electronic fingerprinting and direct connections to criminal history databases to speed up the process.

Some agencies provide priority handling of fingerprint submissions, ensuring that the fingerprint responses are processed more quickly than standard requests. Moreover, certain fingerprinting locations might offer same-day processing for an additional service fee.

While expediting background checks is often necessary, it’s crucial to consider the legal and ethical implications. Expedited checks must still comply with all legal requirements, including consent and privacy laws.

Consent forms must be duly filled, ensuring that the individual is aware of the expedited background check response. Ethically, it’s important to maintain the integrity of the check, ensuring that the expedited process does not bypass critical steps or overlook key details, such as criminal records or sex offenses.

In summary, expedited fingerprint background checks are essential in certain situations, but they must be handled with care to ensure legal and ethical compliance. These services provide a valuable option for those needing quick results without sacrificing the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the check.

Navigating the complexities of legal compliance in fingerprint background checks is crucial for both employers and institutions. Adhering to state and federal laws ensures the process is fair, ethical, and legal, protecting all parties involved.

Ensuring Compliance with State and Federal Laws

Compliance with legal standards is paramount in conducting fingerprint-based background checks. This involves adhering to regulations set forth by entities like the Criminal Justice Information Service and various licensing authorities.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) at the federal level governs the handling of background check responses, ensuring processes for personal review and dispute resolution are in place.

State laws may have additional requirements, such as specific consent forms and limitations on considering certain types of criminal records. Employers must also be aware of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines to prevent discriminatory practices.

Best Practices for Employers and Institutions

Employers and institutions should establish best practices to ensure a fair and effective background check process. This includes obtaining explicit consent from individuals through properly filled consent forms.

It’s essential to use reliable forms of fingerprint submissions and ensure that the fingerprinting process is conducted by reputable fingerprint vendors.

Employers should also provide clear email notifications or status update emails regarding the background check response. Keeping records, such as fingerprint receipts and print records, is crucial for accountability and transparency.

Rights of Individuals Undergoing Background Checks

Individuals undergoing background checks hold specific rights that require respect. They have the right to receive information about the type of background check being conducted and to provide written consent.

If a background check results in adverse action, like a decision not to hire, the individual must receive a rejection notice and have the opportunity to dispute any inaccuracies.

They also have the right to access the information collected, such as their criminal history record or fingerprint images. Ensuring these rights are upheld is not just a legal requirement but also a best practice in maintaining ethical standards.

In conclusion, legal compliance and best practices in fingerprint background checks involve a careful balance of adhering to laws, respecting individual rights, and maintaining ethical standards. By following these guidelines, employers and institutions can conduct thorough and fair background checks, contributing to a safe and compliant working environment.


You now know not only how long a fingerprint background check might take but also have insights into questions like ‘How Long Does a Background Check Last?‘, equipping you with comprehensive knowledge about background checks.

Considering factors such as the type of check, poor quality fingerprints, and incomplete records or database errors, you now understand why the background check process can take anywhere between a few days to a couple of weeks.

However, the research journey does not end here. I encourage you to read more about the fingerprint background check process to not only make sure that you’re up to date on your state-specific requirements but also to keep learning new and exciting things on the topic.

You have already taken the first step towards making your work environment a safer place for everyone by reading this article, so keep going! You never know what you might learn next.


Can background checks from other states be used for certification in a different state?

No, background checks from one state are generally not transferable for certification in another state. A fingerprint-based background check must comply with the specific laws and regulations of the state where you seek certification, as each state maintains its own legal requirements and database of fingerprints.

What are the costs associated with fingerprint background checks?

The costs of fingerprint background checks can vary. Factors influencing the price include the type of background check, the fingerprinting locations, and any additional agency checks required. Typically, costs range from a nominal fee to higher amounts, depending on the complexity of the check and whether expedited services are used. Acceptable payment methods often include personal checks and major credit cards.

How to challenge discrepancies in background check results?

If discrepancies are found in background check results, individuals can challenge them by contacting the agency that conducted the check. This usually involves submitting a formal dispute with supporting documentation to correct errors in the criminal history record or fingerprint responses.

What are the implications of a rejected fingerprint background check?

A rejected fingerprint background check can have several implications. It may delay or prevent employment, licensing, or certification processes. The rejection is often due to poor fingerprint quality or errors in the fingerprint card. In such cases, individuals may need to resubmit their fingerprints or provide additional information to resolve the issue.

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