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How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Background checks are the bane of many felons’ existence. To get a job, qualify for a loan, and for many other reasons that pesky background check can create a lot of anxiety and end with unfavorable results as felons struggle to regain a semblance of the life they had prior to their conviction.

Some may think a background check takes forever while others may feel that those negative findings come back all too quickly. It depends on your perspective.

Let’s take a look at how long it actually takes to run a background check in this blog post.

  • Use of Background Checks
  • Length of Time to Run a Background Check
  • Length of Time Depends on the Type of Background Check
  • Delays in Background Check Results
  • Getting Quicker Results
  • Length of Time for a Background Check From Different Sources
  • Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?
  • Recommended Action

Use of Background Checks

Background checks are used to ensure safety, legal compliance, potential liability issues, and company fit for employers. Those employers may have an in-house team that researches potential candidates or works with a third party to gather relevant information. 

Length of Time to Complete a Background Check

The length of time a background check takes depends on the type of information needed. Some can be obtained instantly while others can take up to five days or even longer. Typically, the more thorough the screen, the longer the process can take.

Looking at the statistics, most background checks are completed from three days to one week. For example, an FBI check typically takes approximately 30 days. While some instant background checks are possible, these are ones that often depend on incomplete or inaccurate databases.

A background check may take anywhere from three to five business days. The following are some guidelines for how long a specific type of check might take:

  • Identity check – Some identity checks are almost instantaneous, but some may take two days. That check may include checking the details of a driver’s license or other government ID card.
  • Credit check – A credit check may take 24 to 48 hours to complete. It includes a search of credit bureau records and provides information regarding an individual’s credit history.
  • Pre-employment verification – This may involve contacting a human resources department for past employers.  This can take two to three business days or even longer in some cases.
  • Academic/education verification – Confirming academic accomplishments from a school or university can take two to three business days for a report.
  • Professional qualifications verification – This may include trade work and position memberships in addition to certifications and licensure. It may take two business days to complete.
  • Global watch list check – This involves a search of watch lists including potential terrorists and individuals facing regulation sections. It can be done in one or two days.
  • Criminal check – In the U.S., a criminal search can be completed in one to two business days. Anyone with a history outside the U.S. could have a search that takes three to 30 days depending on which country’s authorities are involved.
  • Vehicle records – This depends on the particular state and can take a few days to two weeks.

Delays in Background Check Results

These estimates of the time it takes to get background check results assumes that all necessary information to complete the check is readily available. These are the ideal time lines. In reality, a background check can take even longer than projections indicate because of various delays.

The two most common reasons for a delay in a background check are:

  • Inaccurate or incomplete check request form
  • Not having the necessary authorization and release form signed

Release forms are required by federal law. All job applicants must receive notification in a separate letter that a background check will take place.

Most agencies use contact information that has been internally gathered. This will allow a legitimate source to be provided, which can also delay results. Another reason for delay is that some employers or schools may not have entirely computerized records that state and government departments typically have established for them.  

Background checks can also be delayed through confusion regarding names. If a person goes by a name other than the given legal name, some confusion can happen. This might be someone with the first name of Robert who is generally known as Bob, for example. 

The best way to speed up a background check is to provide all required information and documentation completely.

Getting Quicker Results

To obtain faster results from a background check, everything needs to be in place beforehand.

Generally, a candidate needs to address the following for a quicker background check:

  • Have all relevant information available – This may include former addresses, dates of employment, salary information, educational degrees, and other information.
  • Be honest – In the case of conflicting information, providers are bound by the terms of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to verify the accuracy of information. 
  • Cooperate with the provider – The candidate’s cooperation from verification of information, especially for phone was home alone the stones and speed up the process.  

Length of Time for a Background Check From Different Sources

It also makes a difference in how long a background check takes according to the source of the requested information. Some sources can provide information instantly while others may take longer to obtain. These include:

  • Online databases: Instantly
  • Direct court search: This can take two to four business days because county courts do not often use online databases. All records will come from hard copies which requires visiting the courthouse in person.  
  • State criminal database search: Instantly – This depends on the state. There are 48 states that use some type of online criminal databases. These results can be obtained in a few minutes.
  • Four states, including Delaware, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Wyoming utilize online databases for any records except for a sex offender registry. For these states, it can take up to four business days.
  • Federal U.S. courts: Instantly – The U.S. does not have a national criminal database available to the public. Federal records are electronic and available instantly to U.S. District courts.
  • National or state background check: Instantly – Most national background checks scan each state’s online database.  

Traditional background check services offered a variety of reports, but these can take several weeks to return results. A warning: A very quick turnaround for a background check can be costly in terms of unfair or inaccurate decisions. This is often because of the limited or incorrect data that instant checks may utilize.

Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?

Of course you can run a background check on yourself. Not only can you run a background check on yourself, it is highly recommended to do so. As a felon, you need to know what a background check will show. 

The different kinds of personal background checks that a felon can run include:

  • Court records  
  • Credit report
  • Driving records 
  • Educational report 

Felons can arm themselves with the information needed to be successful in applying to get a job. This can be accomplished instantly by using the right resource to run a background check on themselves. 

Don’t hesitate to consult an attorney as part of the process. Take action and don’t risk a chance on the results.  

Recommended Action

Remember that resources are available to get the instant results you need, and it does not have to take a long time. Remember to be smart about it and go into any situation prepared with the information that can make a critical difference in being successful. 

Regardless of a felony conviction, it is important for felons to be honest in disclosing any criminal history. Revealing felony convictions provides felons the opportunity to explain their situation and describe the circumstances of their crime. 

It is not about the mistakes you make but in how you recover from them that makes all the difference.

So what do you think about this blog post about how long a background check takes? Have you or someone you know had a background check run? What was that like and how long did it take? Please tell us in the comments below.

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This website was created by a few folks who have personally watched their loved ones struggle to get a job due to having a felony.

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