How Long Do Background Checks Take


How Long Does a Background Check Last? Essential Info

background check last

Hoping to buy a house, but worried that the bank will see some unfavorable financial records? Perhaps you’re looking to score a new job, but are wondering if you can provide your employer with the information they need and how long does a background check last?

A background check can last from a few days to several weeks, depending on its complexity and the speed of responses from external entities. This variability is important to consider for anyone awaiting the results of a background check.

Well, you’re in luck! This article will answer every single question you may have on how long does a background check last. It might even answer a few questions you didn’t even know you had until now.

Specifically, this guide will cover:

  • Why there is a time limit on background checks
  • The types of background checks and their specific longevity
  • Whether you can reuse a background check
  • What other factors might affect the duration of a background check.
  • State Regulations on Background Checks

So, whether you’re hoping to leave your past behind and rejoin the workforce, or are a college graduate needing to prove your law school qualifications, this is the article for you. Let’s get into it!

How Long Does A Background Check Last?

How long a background check lasts is dependent on a variety of factors. However, for the most part, it is uncommon for most checks to last longer than 7 years.

Why is there a time limit on background checks?

Just as people change, their personal information and criminal history may develop too.

If background checks did not have a time limit, who knows if, in two years’ time, the individual they represent has new criminal convictions or an invalid education license?

Therefore, to ensure accuracy, background checks must be up to date with a complete record of a person’s information.

Types of Background Checks and Their Longevity

how long does a level 2 background check last

Depending on what the background check is for, its longevity will vary. Below are the most common types of background checks and how long they will remain credible:

Criminal Background Checks

Hoping to employ somebody new? Perhaps, you’re a police officer doing a routine search. Criminal background checks are extremely useful if you want to view an individual’s criminal history before making an important decision.

Criminal background checks provide a lot of information. This may include convictions, active arrests, warrants, pending criminal charges, whether the person has committed mail fraud, or even whether they have been added to a sex offender registry.

The longevity of a criminal background check will depend on the reason and state-specific jurisdictional regulations.

For the most part, criminal convictions will stay on your record permanently, although most people will have restricted access to older information.

This is to protect the reformed public from predatory landlords or employers who do not wish to hire anyone with criminal convictions, even if they were made a long time ago.

For example, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), individuals applying for employment or housing will only have to provide a check detailing the previous 7 years of criminal history.

Credit Checks

Hoping to take out a loan to buy a house? Perhaps you want to borrow money from the bank to fund the great business idea you had in the shower?

Regardless, you better make sure that your credit history is squeaky clean! Often requested by banks, landlords, or employers, credit checks examine a person’s financial responsibility and creditworthiness.

Depending on the information requested, these checks can show an individual’s credit history from 7 to 10 years.

If you’re hoping to pass a credit check, make sure that you do not have any outstanding payments, delinquent accounts, or bankruptcies on file. These all contribute to a low credit score.

Employment Verification

Are you hiring somebody new and want to cross-reference their employment history? An employment verification check will do just this, providing information on all previously held positions, dates of employment, and salaries.

As these records are primarily maintained by the employer in question, they may not exist for much time after an individual leaves their position.

It is, therefore, very common for these records to become less and less accessible and accurate as time goes on.

Educational and Licensing Checks

Are you hiring for a position that requires a specific educational background? Do you need to confirm academic results before selecting next year’s college cohort?

It may be worth conducting an educational and licensing check to make sure they have the necessary qualifications and documentation.

As they’re not of a sensitive nature and are often stored efficiently anyway, these checks remain valid for a long time.

However, individuals in professions such as lawyers or doctors may only have records valid for as long as their license remains active. As soon as it expires or is revoked, the background check will no longer remain current.

Can You Reuse a Background Check?

Stop right there! Before you go and attempt to reuse your background check, it is extremely important to know if you can so that you may avoid potential fines or lose your job.

The answer depends on a variety of factors. For instance, some organizations require checks specific to their needs. If the record is not up to date, they might not accept your application.

Furthermore, it may actually be illegal for you to provide an out-of-date background check – especially when applying for positions requiring clean criminal records.

On the other hand, an individual may wish for an old background check to remain private as it does not reflect their current situation. It might be illegal for an employer to access an old background check without the individual’s consent.

Other Factors That Affect The Duration of a Background Check

background check timeline

Inherent longevity is one thing, but there are many more factors that might result in a background check taking long to complete.:

Regulatory Constraints

Hoping to save time and money by using an old background check?

Think again! You might end up spending even more money on fines and time in court by not following specific laws related to background checks. The aforementioned Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is the perfect example of this.

The imposition of a 7-year rule on certain negative data such as criminal convictions or low credit scores helps protect certain people, but it also slows down the decision-making process. These time frames, however, can vary from state to state.

Changing Personal Circumstances

Let’s face it: you’re a different person than you were 5 years ago. Your background information should reflect that!

Big life events such as new employment, college graduation, or even legal battles will influence what comes up in a background check. These will all render previous checks obsolete, requiring you to update this data.

Employer and Institutional Policies

Your organization or employer might have their own policies regarding how up-to-date your background checks must be. The longevity, therefore, will vary depending on the position and the industry in which it is in.

Some institutions even require you to update your background check every year in order to keep their records as current as possible.

This is particularly apparent in areas such as finance or healthcare where professionalism and safety are primarily concerns.

On the other hand, it may not be as apparent in industries where the risk is low such as in retail or hospitality. This, of course, is left up to the discretion of the employer or industry norms.

State Regulations on Background Checks

timeframe of background check

Background checks are essential tools in the hiring process, but it’s crucial to understand that each state has its own set of rules. These state regulations can significantly impact how background check companies operate and what information is available to prospective employers.

Understanding State-Specific Laws

Each state in the U.S. has the authority to set its own laws regarding background screening. This means that the type of background check an employer can conduct, the depth of background checks, and the reporting restrictions can vary significantly.

For instance, some states may have 10-year lookback periods, while others may impose stricter limits. Employers, especially those operating in multiple states, must be aware of these differences to ensure compliance and avoid legal complications.

California’s Approach to Background Checks

In California, the focus is on protecting the job applicant’s privacy and rehabilitation. The state restricts the reporting of certain criminal offenses, especially those that are older or have been expunged.

California’s laws are designed to offer a second chance to individuals with minor or old felony convictions, ensuring that they aren’t unfairly excluded from the employment process.

Georgia’s Unique Background Check Laws

Georgia’s laws are particularly interesting when it comes to background check screening. The state allows certain criminal history checks but also has provisions to protect job seekers from discrimination based on past misdemeanor convictions. This balance aims to ensure fair hiring practices while still allowing employers to conduct thorough checks.

Hawaii’s Progressive Stance

Hawaii is known for its progressive stance on employee background checks. The state has stringent laws that limit the background check process to recent years, often excluding older criminal records. This approach is in line with Hawaii’s broader efforts to promote rehabilitation and reintegration into the workforce.

The Role of Consumer Reporting Agencies

In all states, consumer reporting agencies play a crucial role. They must navigate the complex web of state laws to provide accurate background check reports. These agencies are responsible for ensuring that the information they provide to employers is within the legal boundaries set by each state.

Importance for Employers

For employers, understanding these state-specific regulations is vital. It’s not just about conducting a standard background check; it’s about ensuring that the background check service aligns with state laws. Employers must also consider the application process and how questions about background checks are framed to avoid legal pitfalls.

Continuous Monitoring and Updates

Laws and regulations around background checks are constantly evolving. States may introduce new laws or amend existing ones, impacting how background checks are conducted. Employers and background check providers must engage in continuous monitoring of these changes to stay compliant.

Navigating state-specific laws on background checks can be challenging, but it’s a crucial aspect of responsible hiring. Employers must work closely with knowledgeable background check companies and possibly seek legal advice to ensure they are not only protecting their interests but also respecting the rights of their prospective employees. By staying informed and adaptable, businesses can maintain a fair and lawful hiring process across different states.


Awesome! You now know all there is to know about how long a background check will last.

Considering everything from the type of check, including understanding ‘How Long Does a Fingerprint Background Check Take,’ to factors such as regulatory constraints, you can now make an informed decision on whether you may need to update your background check.

FAQs on Background Checks

How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Background check turnaround time varies. Typically, a standard background check can take anywhere from a few business days to a couple of weeks. Factors like the type of background check, the depth of background checks, and the manual searches required can influence the duration.

What Information Does a Background Check Show?

A background check report generally includes a criminal history check, employment history, educational history, and motor vehicle record. Depending on the type of records requested and state regulations, it might also show credit history, civil judgments, and professional licenses.

Can I Get a Job with a Criminal Record?

Yes, having a criminal record does not automatically disqualify you from employment. Many states have laws that limit the use of criminal offenses in hiring decisions. Employers often consider the nature of the offense, its relevance to the job in question, and any evidence of rehabilitation.

Are Background Checks Mandatory for All Jobs?

Not all jobs require a background check. However, certain positions, especially those in law enforcement agencies, healthcare treatments, family child care, or involving financial stability, typically require comprehensive background screening. Employers may decide based on the responsibility for children or vulnerable populations and the job’s seniority levels.

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