Background Check for Visa Application: How the Process Works in 2023

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | January 9, 2023

Man standing beside a Visa application desk and looking at background check results on a computer wonders about the background check for visa application requirements, how the FBI background check for visa works, and penalty for lying on visa application.

Is there a background check for Visa applications in the U.S.? How does the process even work?

Many individuals who are considering moving to the United States wonder about the visa process and what types of information will be used to determine eligibility.

Fortunately, the U.S. has a fairly straightforward application process, and basically requires individuals to submit information so that the FBI and other agencies can perform background checks on the individual to determine their eligibility to both enter the United States as well as their eligibility to gain employment in the United States.

This complete guide to the background check for visa application into the U.S. answers all the questions and explains the process.

Background Check for Visa Application Overview

Regardless of the reason for entering the U.S., individuals who are considering coming to the United States will need to acquire a visa in order to enter which requires they pass a background check for visa application.

It’s important to note, however, that there is a Visa Waiver available to citizens of specific countries. These individuals are allowed to enter the U.S. and remain for up to 90 days without a visa.

Unlike many countries, which only require visas for individuals that are considering staying in the country for extended periods of time or for those that are planning on working in the country, the U.S. requires almost everyone who enters the country as a non-citizen to obtain a visa through the Department of States Bureau of Consular Affairs.1

Screenshot of U.S. Department of State website page travel with yellow arrow on link for registration of U.S. citizen international travelers.

To begin the application process, users are instructed to visit the Department of State website.

The visa process is fairly straightforward but does require several background checks in order to determine eligibility.

The main reason for the background check is to ensure that no one that is at a high risk of causing harm to the United States or its citizens is able to enter the country.

The first thing that individuals will need to determine is what kind of visa they need which will be determined by the reason and length of their visit.2 There are over a dozen different kinds of visas available for temporary travel alone.

Screenshot of U.S. Department of State website page for U.S. visa with yellow arrow on directory of visa categories.

There are different types of Visa categories, outlined by the U.S. State Department, and these categories are based on what the intended travel is designed to accomplish, such as a visit or a relocation.

Individuals who are seeking to stay in the United States permanently will need separate visas that are specific to immigrants, rather than tourists.

Once individuals have determined the kind of visa they need, they will likely need to schedule an appointment with the U.S. Embassy or consulate. This appointment will include the visa interview, in which individuals are asked about their criminal history and related questions, as well as a fingerprinting process so that an FBI fingerprint background check can be run on the individual.3

Screenshot of U.S. Department of State website page for immigrant visa process with yellow arrow on the 10th step which is preparing for the interview.

Immigrants must undergo an interview process as part of a series of steps to obtain a Visa.

In some situations, individuals might not be able to be fingerprinted and thus a proper FBI background check can not be completed. This is usually due to skin conditions or other similar issues that prevent sufficient fingerprints from being gathered.

Should this be the case and the embassy has determined that a fingerprint background check is not possible then the individual will need to obtain a police clearance certificate.

Generally, this will require the individual to obtain a clearance letter from the local police department of everywhere they have lived in the last 3-5 years, depending on the kind of visa they are applying for.

Keep in mind that individuals will need to prove that they can not be fingerprinted first, then the embassy will provide instructions on alternate information that can be used to determine eligibility such as the police clearance letter.

FBI Background Check for Visa

Individuals seeking entry to the United States will likely need to undergo an FBI background check for a visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy. The process itself is fairly simple.

Individuals will need to fill out the form that is required for the visa they are applying for and bring any other required documentation with them to their visa interview appointment.4

Screenshot of U.S. Department of State website page for U.S. visa with yellow arrow on visitor visa.

Visitor Visa’s are divided into categories as well, such as business or tourism.

Keep in mind that the exact documents that are needed will vary based on the country where the interview is taking place so individuals should contact their embassy beforehand to avoid being turned away for not having proper documentation.

Some individuals will be wondering how to get an FBI background check, however it is not necessary for individuals to obtain their own FBI background check as it will be done for them when they visit the U.S. embassy or consulate for their visa appointment.

Once at the appointment, individuals will be fingerprinted before their interview is conducted. It is with these fingerprints that are taken at the embassy or consulate that the FBI will conduct the criminal history background check using various national and international databases.5

Many individuals will be curious about the various disqualifiers when it comes to criminal history information and will have questions like, can a felon get a visa to the U.S.? Although it is possible to get a visa with a felony or serious criminal conviction on your record, any kind of criminal history being on your record will run the risk of the individual being denied a visa.

Although there is an exact list of disqualifiers available further down, individuals can review the details of the Immigration and Nationality Act to better understand the laws regarding immigration and visa applications to the United States.6

The main thing that individuals should be aware of is that criminal history is reviewed on a case-by-case basis before a determination is reached as to whether or not the individual poses a significant risk to the United States and its citizens.

Many individuals will be looking to have a free background check performed on themselves beforehand so that they can get an idea of what kind of information is likely to show up in the final check for their visa application

There are background check services available while some services would offer background checks for a fee, some may offer a 7-day free trial background check.

Although some individuals might be able to have an FBI background check for employment performed on themselves, better known as an FBI identity history summary check.7 This service is generally available for non- U.S. citizens.

However, individuals might have better luck performing a background check on themselves using a private background check service. These checks are commonly used as a USA background check for employment, which generally includes basic criminal history checks.

Individuals can use the search bar at the top of this page to perform a background check on themselves or others.

It is also good to know how to get a criminal background check on yourself and get an online background check service that offers an international background check, which is usually performed using international crimes databases, such as those maintained by INTERPOL.8

FBI Criminal Background Check for Visa

The FBI criminal background check for visa will likely cause many people to worry about the status of their visas. However, individuals that have a clean criminal record will not need to worry in most cases.

Screenshot of U.S. Department of State website page for international travel with yellow arrow on criminal record checks.

Criminal records checks are conducted through the FBI and can obtain a certificate of good conduct or a lack of criminal record statement that can be used for foreign Visa applications.

Individuals that have been convicted of a crime can use the list below to see if they meet the criteria to have their visa denied due to their criminal history information.9

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude.10
  • Committing crimes or conspiracy to commit crimes related to a controlled substance. (Does not apply to individuals who were convicted of such crimes before the age of 18 or to individuals who were convicted of a crime for which the punishment was 1 year in jail or less)
  • Individuals found to have multiple criminal convictions on their record, even if the crimes were related to each other. (Crimes that were committed solely for political purposes are excepted)
  • Individuals who have been convicted of trafficking controlled substances, or are known to have assisted someone in the trafficking of controlled substances in any way.
  • Individuals who are the spouse or immediate child of an individual who has been convicted of the crime of drug trafficking and knew of the crime being committed and/or benefited from the crime financially.
  • Any individual who is planning to enter the United States to commit the crime of prostitution or individuals who have committed the crime of prostitution in the last 10 years.
  • Individuals who have been engaged or plan to engage in prostitution such as procuring or importing persons for the purpose of prostitution or individuals who have or plan to receive the proceeds related to prostitution.
  • Individuals who are attempting to enter the U.S. with the intent to participate in an illegal commercialized vice.
  • Individuals who have committed serious offenses while they were in the United States at a previous date.
  • Individuals who were previously removed from the United States due to a criminal offense for any reason.
  • Foreign government officials who have committed serious infringements against the religious freedom of individuals in their home country.
  • Individuals who conspire to commit crimes relating to human trafficking.
  • Individuals believed to have been an aider or abettor to the crime of human trafficking.
  • The children and spouses of individuals involved in human trafficking if the individuals knew of the crime or reasonably should have known of the crime taking place, or benefited financially from the crime.
  • Individuals who are entering the United States for the purposes of money laundering.
  • Individuals who are known aides or abettors to individuals intending to commit money laundering.

Health Disqualifiers

Although most individuals are concerned about the criminal disqualifiers that may be revealed during the background check for visa application, there are also numerous health-related disqualifiers which are listed below.

  • Individuals with a contagious disease that is considered a significant risk to public health.
  • Individuals who are not able to prove they have received vaccinations against the diseases such as mumps, certain types of measles, polio, tetanus and diphtheria, whooping cough, certain types of influenza, and certain types of hepatitis. (Children under 10 excepted)
  • Individuals with a physical or mental disorder that poses a threat to the property and welfare of United States citizens.
  • Individuals determined to be a drug abuser or addict.

General Security Disqualifiers

There are also disqualifiers related to security that will not deal directly with the individual’s criminal record. Visa denial reasons related to general security are listed below.11

  • Individuals seeking entry into the United States with the intent to commit any form of espionage or sabotage.
  • Individuals seeking entry to the United States and attempting to evade any laws relating to the illegal export of goods, technology, or valuable information.
  • Individuals that have engaged in terrorist activity, are related to a terrorist organization, endorse terrorist activity, has received military training through a terrorist organization.
  • Individuals whose proposed activities would have serious foreign policy consequences
  • Individuals associated with totalitarian political parties
  • Individuals that were participants in Nazi persecution
  • Individuals who were participants in genocide.
  • Individuals who were participants or commission the act of any extrajudicial killings or torture.
  • Individuals who have engaged in the recruitment of child soldiers.

Police Background Check for Visa

Individuals hoping to get a local police background check for visa should know that the FBI background check is required to obtain a visa to the United States.

Only in special cases when the individual’s fingerprints can not be taken will they be allowed to submit clearance letters from local police departments as part of the visa background check process.

Penalty for Lying on Visa Application

Many individuals will be curious about the penalty for lying on a visa application in the United States and might be considering leaving out important information to increase their chances. The penalties for lying on a visa application are fairly severe.

Generally, individuals already in the country will be deported and will likely be banned from ever entering the United States. For many individuals, there is also the possibility that they will not be able to apply for U.S. citizenship.

In short, lying on your visa application is likely the most dependable way to get the application denied.

U.S. Visa Background Check: Background Check for Visa Application

The U.S. visa background check is likely less intensive than what many individuals might be expecting. Part of this is due to the reliability and thoroughness of the FBI background check which is able to find almost any relevant information through its own database.

Individuals looking to have U.S. criminal record check from abroad performed will likely need to rely on private background check agencies that specialize in international checks.

There are some misconceptions that background checks are only performed on certain visas but not others. This leads many individuals to ask, does U.S. embassy do background check for tourist visas, and the answer is yes.

Passing a background check is required to enter the U.S. no matter the kind of visa being applied for. Even students coming to the United States to study will need to pass the f1 visa background check.

U.S. Criminal Background Check Online

When it comes time to fill out the forms for a visa application, many individuals will be wondering if it is possible to run a U.S. criminal background check online.

Although this is possible, individuals should know that it can only serve to give individuals an idea of what will show up on the check and should not be considered an official check as the FBI check is far more thorough than any privately available background check.


Some individuals might be wondering if they need an Apostille FBI background check, in order for the results to be accepted for their visa. However, an FBI background check apostille is not necessary as the FBI will be performing the check themselves.

U.S. Embassy Background Check

There is often confusion about the U.S. embassy background check and the FBI background check that is required to obtain a visa. Both of these checks are essentially the same thing.

The U.S. embassy does not perform the checks themselves, instead, they are performed on behalf of the embassy by the FBI.

FBI Background Check for Student Visa

The FBI background check for student visa is the same check that is required for most other visas to enter the United States. The check is still a fingerprint-based criminal history check and uses largely the same disqualifiers as those listed above.

Background Check for Visa Application

Many people are surprised that they need a background check for visa application in order to enter the United States. Although the U.S. does have stricter entry requirements than most countries, the average individual should have little problem passing the background check and obtaining a visa.

Knowing how to get a federal background check on yourself can give individuals a better idea of their chances of passing.

Visiting the United States can be an extremely exciting prospect, However it is important that individuals start the visa process as soon as possible since it can take several weeks to complete.

When it comes to the background check for visa application, individuals should know that the check is not quite as intimidating as it seems and most people will have no problem passing the check.

Frequently Asked Questions About Background Check for Visa Application

Can a Convicted Felon Get a Passport To Go on a Cruise?

Convicted felons can get passports as long as the conviction does not involve drug trafficking.

What Happen After Interview on USCIS Background Check After Interview?

The USCIS background check is a fingerprint based check performed by the FBI and should take less than a week to complete.

Is There a Free Public Criminal Record Check?

Most private background check services require a fee but there are several that offer free trials.

Is There a Free Public Criminal Record Check?

Individuals will likely need to find a private background check service that offers a free trial to avoid paying a subscription fee.

How Do I Get a Free Copy of My Criminal Record?

Individuals should be able to obtain a copy of the result of their criminal record check. USA free background checks are available but to get complete and comprehensive background check results obtaining one through local law enforcement is advisable.

Can a Felon Get a Passport?

Felons are eligible to get passports unless they have been convicted of drug trafficking charges.

What Can I Do To Learn How To Get Background Check Criminal Record?

Individuals can obtain their criminal record through a private background check service or through local law enforcement.

What Can I Do To Learn How To Get a Background Check USA Free?

For individuals wondering, how to get a background check, there are very few background check services that are truly free, individuals will likely have to pay a fee to perform a criminal record search.

Can I Get an FBI Background Check From Abroad?

Individuals outside of the U.S. are sometimes able to obtain an FBI background check from abroad.


1U.S. Department of Stae. (2022, October 04). Travel. Travel State. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

2U.S. Department of State. (2022, October 04). Directory of Visa Categories. Travel State. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

3U.S. Department of State. (2022). Immigrant Visa Process. Travel State. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

4U.S Department of State. (2022). Visitor Visa. Travel State. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

5U.S. Department of State. (2022). Find by Country or Area Letter. US Embassy. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

6U.S. Department of Homeland Security. (2019, July 10). Immigration and Nationality Act. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

7FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION. (2022). Identity History Summary Checks. FBI. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

8Interpool. (2022). Interpool Highlights. Interpool. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

9U.S. Department of State. (2022). Ineligibilities and Waivers. Travel State. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

10Legal Information Institute. (2020, June). Moral Turpitude. Law Cornell. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

11U.S Department of State. (2022). Visa Denials. Travel State. Retrieved December 14, 2022, from <>

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