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How Long Do Background Checks Take In 2023?

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How Long Do Background Checks Take In 2023? Do you need to have a background check done for a new job?

Are you curious about how long it takes to process a background screening?

In this article, we will break down the different types of background checks available, what they entail, and how long they usually take to complete.

We will also provide best practices for running and completing smooth pre-employment background checks.


How Long Does a Background Check Take?

The length of time to complete a screening depends on the type of background check you need.

Generally speaking, you can expect to wait from one day to a few weeks.

An FBI background check, for instance, sometimes takes several months.

Employment Background Checks

You’ll need to go through a standard employment verification background check when seeking new work.

What Are Employment Background Checks?

Employment background checks are a process by which an employer reviews the criminal and credit history of a potential employee.

They’re also used to determine whether or not the individual is on the sex offender registry.

The purpose of employment background checks is to assess the risk that an individual poses to the company.

What Are Turnaround Times for Employment Background Checks?

The turnaround time for a standard employment background check is usually about two weeks.

However, this may vary depending on the type of background check and the company conducting it.

There are three main types of employment background checks.

  • Criminal history check
  • Credit check
  • Sex offender registry check

The criminal background check is the most common type of background check.

It entails a search of national and state databases for information on convictions and arrests.

Its turnaround time usually ranges from one to three business days.

A credit history check looks at your credit score and credit report.

It assesses your financial stability and risk as a potential employee.

The turnaround time for a credit history check typically takes from three to five business days.

A sex offender registry check is a search of state and national sex offender registries.

It will usually take about five to seven business days to complete.

Criminal Background Checks

Although we briefly discussed criminal checks, let’s discuss them in more detail.

What Are Criminal Background Checks?

A criminal background check is a search of national and state databases for information on potential felony convictions.

A criminal background check includes a search of the following databases.

What Are Turnaround Times for Criminal Background Checks?

The turnaround time for a criminal background check is usually about one to three business days.

Federal Background Checks

Sometimes, you need to place your hands on a fingerprint card and go through a federal background check.

What Are Federal Background Checks?

A federal background check is a process that verifies your identity and criminal history.

It’s used by organizations such as the FBI, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Additionally, many private companies will also require a federal background check for certain positions.

What Are Turnaround Times for Federal Background Checks?

Most federal background checks take around two weeks to complete.

Other checks into the federal database can take up to six weeks.

Gun Background Checks

Do you want to buy some sort of firearm?

If so, you’ll need to go through a background check before purchasing one.

What Are Gun Background Checks?  

Gun background checks are a process by which the government determines whether or not an individual is eligible to own a gun.

A gun background check includes a search of the following databases.

  • National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)
  • State-level handgun permit checks
  • Firearm owner’s identification (FOID) card checks

The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is the most common type of gun background check.

The NICS is a national database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The NICS will determine whether or not you’re eligible to own a gun.

When you attempt to purchase a gun, the seller will initiate a background check through the NICS.

The NICS will then search the database for any information on the individual.

A state-level handgun permit check determines if an individual is specifically eligible to possess a handgun.

The seller performs this check inside the state in which the individual resides.

The Firearm owner’s identification (FOID) card check determines if an individual is eligible to possess any type of firearm.

Sellers use it in states that do not have a handgun permit check.

Turnaround Times for Gun Background Checks

The turnaround time for a gun background check is usually about three business days.

Fingerprint Background Checks

Fingerprint background checks come into play with immigration issues, employment screenings, and licensing requirements.

Most government-run organizations require a fingerprint check for employment.

These include airports and public schools.

Hospitals, fire departments, and law enforcement agencies also use fingerprint checks when hiring new employees.

You might also need this type of check when working in organizations that care for elderly people or children.

What Are Fingerprint Background Checks?

Fingerprint background checks are a process by which the government compares your fingerprints against their criminal databases.

A fingerprint background check can include a search of the following databases.

  • National Crime Information Center (NCIC)
  • Interstate Identification Index (III)  
  • FBI fingerprint database
  • Department of Homeland Security (DHS) fingerprint database

However, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) is the most common database used for fingerprint background checks.

IAFIS is a national database that contains over 30 million Americans’ fingerprints.

The FBI manages the system.

Turnaround Time for Fingerprint Background Checks

Most fingerprint background checks take from three days to two weeks to complete.

However, some may take up to six weeks.

Turnaround Times for Other Types of Background Checks

Other types of background checks you might need to go through include the following:

Driving Record Checks

You’ll need a driving record check when you’re applying for a job that requires you to drive a company vehicle.

You might also need this type of check when you’re applying for a chauffeur’s license or endorsement.

The turnaround time for a driving record check is usually about two days.

Civil Court Checks

A civil court check occurs when you’re applying for a job that involves working with the public.

The turnaround time is typically two weeks.

Identity Verification

You’ll need to verify your identity when you’re applying for a job that requires a high level of security clearance.

The turnaround time is two weeks.

Why Is My Background Check Taking So Long?

If you feel like it’s taking too long to get your background check results, there are actually some common reasons why it’s taking longer than you want.

Let’s go over them below.

Common Reasons for Delay

First, the type of background check you’re undergoing may be more extensive than normal.

Second, the government might be experiencing a high volume of requests.

Third, there may be a problem with your records.

If you’ve had a criminal conviction in the past, the government might need more time to conduct a thorough search of their databases.

Often, the culprit is incomplete or inaccurate data.

It’s possible that your potential employer entered one wrong digit when submitting your Social Security Number.

Or, they spelled your name incorrectly.

You’ll experience longer delays if these problems aren’t noticed until everyone is in the middle of the background check.

Another reason for delays exists in situations where the system requires human intervention to check state regulations against federal laws.

You might find this when you work in one state and live in another.

What Are the Causes of Delays at the Component Level?

At the component level, there are five main reasons for delays.

1. Candidate Authorization

The delay at this stage is usually due to human error.

The most common errors are incorrect Social Security Numbers or dates of birth.

2. Candidate Drug Test Scheduling

Drug test scheduling will become delayed when the lab requires an additional specimen collection.

3. Drug Test Clinic Delays

When the drug test clinic receives the specimens, they need to send them to a lab for analysis.

The turnaround time for lab analysis can last from one day to two weeks.

4. County Court Information

If the county court information is incomplete, the delay could take up to six weeks.

5. Verifications

The final stage in the process is verification.

The verification step can take from two days to two weeks.

Why Is It Important to Complete a Background Check Quickly?

Completing a background check quickly is important for both the candidate and the potential employer.

From the candidate’s perspective, it’s important to know as soon as possible whether they qualify for the job.

Delays can also cost money.

If you’re waiting on your results to come back, you might not be able to work.

Or, you might have to work at a job that’s below your skill level.

From the potential employer’s perspective, it’s important to get the background check results back quickly.

Doing so can speed up the decision about hiring a candidate or not.

3 Best Practices for Smooth Pre-employment Background Checks

Let’s explore three detailed practices to ensure faster and more accurate results when conducting pre-employment background checks.

Use a Single Point of Contact

A single point of contact can help you avoid delays by creating a streamlined process.

The single point of contact is responsible for gathering all the information needed from the candidate.

This person should also follow up with the candidate to ensure that they provide accurate information.

Use Technology

Technology can help you speed up the process by automating certain tasks.

For example, you can use technology to automate the collection of candidate data.

Doing so will help reduce human error.

You can also use technology to automate the verification process.

It will help you get your results back more quickly.

Use Standardized Forms

Standardizing the forms used in the background check process will help to ensure accuracy and speed up the work.

Using a standardized format makes the information easier to verify.

Additional Best Practices

Additional best practices to help with background check speed include the following:

  • Conduct regular quality assurance checks: Performing quality assurance checks will identify and correct any errors introduced into the system.
  • Use a reliable and accurate data source: A reliable and accurate data source will help you avoid time delays caused by inaccurate results.
  • Train your team: Train your team on how to use the technology and tools. They need to know how the tech helps keep everything moving at a quick pace.

I Failed a Background Check. How Long Until I Can Reapply?

It is important to understand that the results of an employment screening are not permanent.

If you fail a background check, you can reapply after a certain amount of time has passed.

The amount of time that you have to wait before reapplying will vary depending on the reason why you failed.

For example, did you fail because of a criminal record?

You’ll likely need to wait longer than if you failed because of a lack of information.

If you’re not sure how long you’ll have to wait, it’s best to contact the background check company for specific details.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) works on behalf of employees.

It helps to enforce employment discrimination laws.

Did you go through the background check process and think discrimination occurred?

If so, you can contact the EEOC with a complaint.

Always make sure you give proper consent, too.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act is a federal law that sets the rules for doing credit and criminal background checks.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) helps to make sure all parties involved in a pre-employment background check or employment background check follow the FCRA.

Wrapping Up

Background checks are a necessary part of the hiring process.

Both employees and employers need to follow best practices by using accurate information.

Take time now to understand the process so you can more effectively navigate delays.

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