How Does A Fingerprint Background Check Work?

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

Over the span of your lifetime, the local, state and federal governments will accumulate plenty of information detailing your family, education, housing and crime records. More organizations are performing a fingerprint background check for housing or employment. This is how a fingerprint background check works.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Stores Fingerprints

The federal government has many sources for collecting fingerprints, including processes from citizenship, employment, arrests and military service. Any data collected through written forms or spoken answers will be listed in your fingerprint background check. The most complete records linked to these fingerprints is stored with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Just like your social security number, your finger prints are used by the government to track information about you.

When an organization wants your fingerprint background check for adoption, overseas travel, employment, licensing or housing, it can make the request from a state identification bureau, FBI channeler or the FBI directly itself. It must have legal authority to access these personal records.

What is in your Fingerprint Background Check?

Your fingerprints identify all relevant information in your life: birth, name, addresses, employment and arrests. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) fingerprint database will include your “rap sheet” consisting of any criminal arrest dates, charges and the disposition of cases.

Many times, a simple police report can be linked to these fingerprint records also. This could include vehicle accidents, insurance information and statements you made.

When you request the fingerprint background check, it might take from a couple of weeks to a month to deliver results via mail. You can also choose the electronic application method for processing. You can have these fingerprint records authenticated (or a certificate of apostille) if you want from the FBI. If nothing was found, you will receive a written document attesting to that fact.

Each state has its own regulations concerning the fingerprint background check. Many require the fingerprint background check for employees who work around children in the education system. Some states require the applicant to have a state-issued identification number showing it has the legal right to request such confidential information.

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