How long does a background check take? 24 hours to possibly weeks or months. But the truth is, it depends on the type of check and what is being requested. Backing up for a second, it’s important to reflect on why a background check might be needed in the first place.
A background check is necessary for many purposes, whether to confirm a person’s identity or to ensure a person will be safe around others. An employer may need a check to ensure they do not hire someone who could get into legal or criminal trouble and put the company at risk; a financial or medical firm may need to make certain that a new team member can be trusted to support and handle sensitive information; a check may need to be conducted on an individual before they can watch over children or seniors.
The uses for a background check are endless, but the first step to understanding how long a background check takes is determining the reason for the check in the first place. This is because what a background check consists of will differ for each type of check, and they all take varying lengths of time to complete.
But luckily, the times are predictable. And once you know what to expect, you can submit your check and ensure that it is completed to meet specific deadlines.
How Long Does a Background Check Take In Most Cases?
Waiting for a background check can be stressful, especially if a background report is needed right away, like in the case of hiring for an immediate position.
Luckily, name-based checks can produce results in as little as 24 hours or even minutes if the correct service is selected. Most of the time, this level 1 background check is sufficient.
But when more information is needed, like a deep-dive into federal criminal records or an FBI fingerprint background check needs to be submitted–the wait time can be weeks or even months.
Yes, how long an FBI background check takes can span up to months.
Simply put, the timeline will vary surrounding the level of the search. Before diving into the specifics, a refresher on each type is suggested.
Reviewing The Types of Background Checks
The intensity of each background check and the time it will take to get a final report will vary:
- Level 1 – A Level 1 check will include an address tracing service that identifies the prior residences a person holds. It may also include a local criminal search to review any criminal records listed under a person’s name. Other details include a person’s employment history and any aliases that person uses. A local police station may be ready to help with the process.
- Level 2 – A Level 2 search will include a review of the person on a national database that includes information on people throughout the country. It can uncover details on activities a person has engaged in outside of a local jurisdiction. A review to uncover if they are listed on any sex offender registries is commonly included. A fingerprint check may also be necessary here depending on the specifics of what information is required.
- Level 3 – A Level 3 review is the most intense form of check a typical person will come across. These checks are reserved for those who might engage in high-security positions, or those where great authority is given. It will include all features of the prior two levels, plus it will have a criminal record search that connects to the Federal District Courts. The information can identify possible white-collar criminal activities.
Additional checks may also be included. Some of the more common checks one may find entail :
- Terrorist watch list reviews
- Employment confirmation reports, including content on the person’s current employer or whoever else has hired that person in the past few years
- Education reports, including details on what degrees someone holds and the highest degree that person has attained
- Driving record; a person may only get this information for the state the person currently resides
- Credit report; this portion is best when hiring someone who will handle money
How Long Does a Level 1 Background Check Take?
The Level 1 check is the most frequent one used by employers. While results may sometimes be instant, it can sometimes take about one to three days to get the results of a background check at this point. The brief nature of this background check, and the low level of information verification required, keeps it from taking as long.
How Long Does a Level 2 Background Check Take?
Since the information in a Level 2 background check is more intensive, a person can expect to spend more time waiting for results. A Level 2 check typically takes anywhere from three to five days to finish, but may last as long as a few weeks if information is not submitted correctly. For example, attempting to submit fingerprints oneself instead of using a pre-approved agency.
The extra time, when compared to a level 1 background check, comes from the inclusion of a fingerprint review to check against federal and national databases. The extensive analysis process can take a while, but it can be critical when hiring someone to trust for any purpose.
How Long Does a Level 3 Background Check Take?
A Level 3 background check process entails checking all ninety-four Federal District Courts throughout the country for federal information on a person. The review process is critical when hiring someone who can handle financial documents. But the added analysis necessary in the review process will require a person to spend extra time to take the work.
A Level 3 background check can take up to two weeks or longer to complete. The federal search alone can add up to a week.
The federal records are also not open to the public. A party would have to file a request for information. The request would go through the Federal District Courts to find details on whoever is open in a space.
How Long Do Criminal Background Checks Take?
A criminal background check takes less time than these three levels, as the applicant is focusing on the potential hire’s criminal history. It can take about one to three days to wait for the results of a criminal check. The timing is based on what most providers will manage when helping with the check process.
A local police station can help with the review in many situations; groups with direct contact to the National Criminal Database may have an easier time getting the info one needs on someone in less time.
Some criminal background checks can include reviews on:
- A person’s Social Security Number, including if that person has been identified under multiple SSNs
- A search on a sex offender registry
- Details on arrests, convictions, and other records that might appear on that person’s name
The database information displayed will vary by state, although the National Criminal Database should provide enough info on whomever one wishes to find. But it will take time to ensure one can get all the results on someone in any situation.
Criminal checks are ideal when trying to check on whether someone is safe to be around. A person who might be dangerous or hostile to others might be tough to hire. The person also don’t want to bring in anyone who might not be trustworthy around certain people. Be certain when checking on someone to look at whatever positions one has an interest in and to avoid hiring someone who might be hard to manage.
Are All Criminal Background Records Online?
Today’s criminal background records are being made online to make it easier for people to find information. Anyone can trust these record reports when looking for details, as they are managed by many local and national databases.
But not all places will have online databases. The states of Delaware, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Wyoming do not have online databases for information on people in those states. The applicant may require two to four extra days waiting on results from any of these states.
As for the federal records, they aren’t open for the public to review. The need to consult someone to gather this data will require extra time to ensure the process works.
How Long Does It Take to do a Background Check for a Job? It Depends.
The timing points on how long it takes to get a background check will vary by situation. The job type one is requesting will influence the timing in most cases. Some jobs are more sensitive than others and will require a Level 2 or Level 3 check.
A Level 2 check will likely be necessary for job candidates who will be interacting with other people. The review should ensure the person is safe around others and isn’t going to be a threat. Meanwhile, a Level 3 check is for cases where someone will access significant amounts of money or sensitive bits of data.
Expect more time for the background check to work when one needs extra information on a person. The added time for the work can be extensive and can involve a closer review of the person in many situations. The person will likely reach multiple groups when finding information on someone, so it would require extra effort to get details and therefore take longer to manage.
Many companies explain that their background check process times vary. Some of the most common include:
How Long Does It Take for a Background Check to Come Back with a Channeler?
One option to consider when acquiring a background check is to contact a channeler for help. The applicant may get the results one will need in less time, although it will require some effort to work.
A channeler is an FBI-approved entity that will submit fingerprints on a person to the FBI. The channeler will forward the content to the bureau for a request made on one’s behalf.
The channeler forwards the fingerprint data without the applicant having the send the data. Select channelers have been approved by the FBI for services to help people. The process can be effective if the applicant ensures the fingerprint file is filled out all the way, and the content is accurate.
The channeler’s review will come back within twenty-four hours in most cases, although it could take up to three days in some situations. The practice gives quick results in moments.
But the channeler’s work is not going to be a definite result. The channeler’s effort will entail federal data from a fingerprint file. The person may still need to consult a local police station and other databases for details on the person one is trying to review.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Background Check and How Long Does Each Take?
The cost for a background check will vary. The costs of different checks can shift from $10 to $500 per review in most situations.
There’s no definite guideline for how much one will spend on specific checks. But anyone can expect to spend more on a check if it entails further information on someone. It also costs more to check someone through multiple databases. Expect the more intensive reviews to cost the most money to complete.
Some of the things that can impact how long it takes to complete a check include:
- How many searches one will complete, including the number of databases involved
- Whether a fingerprint file is necessary
- How far a person will go with the search; that party will spend more money when reaching federal entities
- Additional checks involving prior jobs, one’s motor vehicle record, and whatever else one wants to review
Expect to spend more when needing extra information on a person. The review process will be significant, so be aware of what to find during the work.
What Causes a Background Check to Go Longer Than Necessary?
Sometimes a background check will take significantly more time than one might have anticipated. Here are some reasons why a check might take too long :
- The applicant filled out inaccurate data.
- The applicant did not complete the application all the way. The person would have to complete those details.
- The person searching for data on someone may require more documentation than originally expected. The applicant would have to check with the group that person will submit the documents to beforehand to see what to should expect someone to file.
- Multiple courts might have to review the person’s data, especially when looking for a more intensive search on someone.
- Some courts may have limited operating hours.
- A person’s record could match a criminal report. Further analysis can determine if that person’s report is accurate, thus adding time.
- Not all places have digitized records ready for review.
Tips For Speeding Up Your Background Check Processing Time
It can be tough to wait for a background check to go through, especially when trying to fill a position as soon as possible. But anyone can keep the timeframe for a review down with the right approach. Here are a few tips to move the processing time forward:
- Review the requirements for all the checks to complete. All agencies one will need to reach will have different standards for what can work, including rules for acquiring fingerprint data.
- Be sure to get all the information on the applicant at the start. Make sure the person provides everything one will require, especially when looking at the specific checks that are necessary.
- Tell the applicant about the background check process. The person should be willing to go along with the practice. Anyone who might be suspicious about the effort and won’t provide everything may not be as easy to trust.
- Ensure honesty and trust throughout the application process. All people should feel comfortable with the effort, especially when handling sensitive info.
These efforts will make it easier to get results sooner, although not all processes will work as well. There may still be a sizeable backlog to go through before receiving the help one needs. Be prepared for any timeframe for getting the answers to whatever queries will work here.
Interestingly, bulk background checks won’t necessarily take longer if the information for each subject is submitted accurately at the same time.
What About International Checks? How Long Does a Check Take For These?
Another point to review when checking on someone entails whether that person has done work or study in another country. An international background check can work when trying to find information on someone who lived in another country. The data can involve a person who lived elsewhere for work or school purposes.
Be advised that an international check will likely take longer than a domestic one. Not all countries have digitized records, plus their processes for finding information on someone might be more complex or rudimentary. For example, a person could get a result in Canada from the Canadian Police Information Centre on the same day one asks for help. But the timeframe for a reply from another country could take longer if it doesn’t have a database as thorough or easy to reach as what Canada provides.
A person could spend up to a month waiting for the results of an international check. Each country has different data privacy laws and rules. The applicant may spend extra time waiting for results depending on whatever rules a country uses for protecting data.
Are There Cases Where a Background Check Isn’t Necessary?
Many job applications will require people to complete background checks, but there might be times when one doesn’t need to complete a check. Here are some points where a check may not be required:3
- A person has taken a period of up to three or four months away from a business and is being rehired. The person should have the information on that other target from a prior check. The original party can conduct a new check if the person has been gone for a little longer.
- A person has to be hired for an emergency appointment. The appointment could be made within a week, and it could also be for a brief time period.
- A person is being hired for a short time. A person could work for up to one or two months without having to go through a background check.
These are examples of when someone might not require a background check for someone, but that person could still complete such a check if necessary. The check would be ideal if the job entails sensitive information or working with other people. Be sure to use the right judgment when figuring out what should work in the review process.
The hiring effort will require the party to take a closer at whoever could be hired. Be certain when finding someone for a position to recognize the candidate and to complete a thorough look at the person in question. The hiring plans are essential to success, so anyone must ensure there are no problems with how the check will work.