How Far Back Does USPS Background Check Go? Weird 5 Year Rule Explained

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Background Checks | January 2, 2023

Man with his hand on his chin and a question mark hovering over his head looks at a USPS building being screened and wonders how far back does USPS background check go?

Before considering applying for a job with the United States Postal Service (USPS), many people wonder how far back does USPS background check go?

They may have heard about the weird 5-year rule, and need clarification.

The 5-year rule refers to the fact that USPS background checks perform 5-year inquiries into the applicant’s criminal history and every place that person has lived, worked or attended school during the last 5 years.

But, understanding how a federal background check works, in relation to employment with the USPS, there are some other things applicants should know.

This complete guide answers the question how far back does USPS background check go, and outlines the screening process and other checks the government will conduct.

How Far Back Does USPS Background Check Go?

The first question that many individuals have when considering applying for a position with the postal service is, how far back does USPS background check go, unfortunately, this is a somewhat complicated issue.

The USPS background check is slightly different from many of the background checks that are performed for other positions in the federal government.1

While many government agencies rely on an FBI Identity History Summary Check to screen applicants, the USPS employs the use of a private background check service to perform the main background check on applicants.2

Screenshot of FBI website page for forms with yellow arrow on identity history summary request form.

The Identity History Summary Check Request Form is available online at the FBI website, and can be submitted online by following the detailed instruction list.

However, the FBI is still somewhat involved in the background screenings of USPS employees as the FBI is in charge of conducting NACI checks, another type of background check that employees need to undergo.

Technically, the initial private background check involves a 5-year inquiry into any of the locations where the applicant has lived, worked, or attended school. This would lead many individuals to think that only the previous 5 years of criminal history will be present on the background check report, however this is not entirely true.

Since the NACI background check involves the FBI it will include the individual’s entire criminal history.

Although the claim that the USPS makes that their background checks involve a 5-year inquiry is true, the FBI check which is also required will supersede this and examine an applicant’s entire criminal history.

In short, when it comes to how far back does USPS background check go, individuals should count on the check going back forever, especially when it comes to listing their previous criminal history information on the application when prompted.

No matter how far individuals expect the check to go, it is always a good idea to learn how to get a background check on yourself for employment and how to fix your background check should there be any mistakes in the results. Individuals can perform a background check on themselves using the search bar at the top of this page.

USPS Background Check Disqualifiers

When it comes to USPS background check disqualifiers, things are much clearer. When it comes to USPS positions that don’t involve driving, there are officially no automatic disqualifiers as far as the criminal history check is concerned.

USPS takes pride in hiring those with criminal histories and has a long history of rehabilitating former felons by offering them job opportunities. With that being said, a criminal history can still affect your chances of employment. Individuals who have a negative attitude toward their criminal history will likely not be considered.

It is important for individuals who have criminal histories to be prepared for questions about their criminal history and should have a response that demonstrates their desire to move past these crimes.

When it comes to positions with the USPS that require driving, such as a letter carrier, then the rules will be slightly different. Positions with the USPS that involve the individual driving a car will be subject to an additional driving record (MVR report) check during the background check process.

In this case, the following information will be considered a disqualifier.

  • Reckless driving offenses (more than 1 in the last 3 years OR more than 2 in the last 5 years)
  • Driving offense involving drugs or alcohol (Any conviction)
  • Other moving violations (more than 1 in the last year OR 3 or more in the last 3 years OR 5 or more in the last 5 years)
  • At-Fault accidents (2 or more in the last 5 years OR any accident resulting in a fatality)
  • Hit and Run (Any conviction)

USPS Failed Background Check

Individuals with a USPS failed background check will have a few options available. One of the most common reasons that individuals will fail a USPS background check is due to not disclosing their criminal history properly on the initial application.

This is a fairly common occurrence due to the fact that the USPS claims their background checks only go back 5 years, so many individuals will not include criminal history information that falls outside of this range. However, as discussed this is not entirely true and individuals should count on their entire criminal history to be present on the background check report.

When it comes to what options are available, this will depend on the reason for the failure. If the individual failed the check due to not disclosing certain information, then there is little that can be done.

However, individuals who were denied employment due to their driving record can often apply for a different role with the USPS that does not involve driving.

No matter the reason for failing the background check, the USPS is required by the FCRA to disclose the exact information that led to the disqualification.3

USPS Background Check Hiring Process

The USPS background check hiring process is somewhat different than what many individuals will be used to with other pre-employment background checks.

One of the biggest differences between the USPS hiring process and the typical process for a private industry position is that the background check takes place somewhat early in the process.

After applying for a position with the USPS, completing the required assessment, and meeting with the hiring manager, individuals will receive steps for how to complete the required background check before moving to the next phase of the hiring policy. In most cases, the hiring manager will contact the applicant to set up a time when the individual can go to the post office location they are applying at to submit their fingerprints.

The hiring manager will then send these fingerprints to the proper agency and shortly after, will send an email to the applicant with a link to the background check service.

The link that accompanies this email is usually sent shortly after the individual has submitted their fingerprints. The link will take individuals to the website of GIS, which is a private background check provider that performs background checks for the USPS.4

Screenshot of United State government website for CFPB with yellow arrow on General Information Services, Inc. (GIS).

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers free credit reports once a year to U.S. citizens as well as a basic background check screening upon request, once a year.

On the website, individuals will be asked to enter detailed information about themselves including addresses, employers, and other information from the last 5 years.

Keep in mind that there is a significant amount of information asked for and this stage of the process must be completed in 3 days to remain eligible for the position.

With all the information and fingerprints submitted, individuals can expect to receive their background check results from GIS within two weeks. However, many individuals have reported that this check can take up to and over a month.

Individuals should be prepared to wait up to several months for the entire hiring process to be completed, which is fairly typical for positions in the federal government.

GIS Background Check USPS

The GIS background check USPS is slightly different from what many individuals experienced with private background check services in the past. While most private background check services rely on a name-based check, GIS performs fingerprint-based criminal history checks for the USPS.

A typical GIS check will involve searches of national and federal criminal databases, as well as checks of the county court records for every place the applicant has lived in the last 5 years. Although this seems a little bit redundant, GIS does this because county records are generally considered the most reliable criminal records available.

GIS also provides background check services beyond the standard criminal history checks. GIS provides driving record checks on applicants that are applying for certain positions.

Verifications are also performed by GIS. The employment verification check and education verification check are generally performed manually by contacting the last 5 years of employers and any schools the applicant submits as part of the background check questionnaire.

USPS Background Check Takes How Long: USPS Background Check Time Frame

When asking how far back does USPS background check go, applicants should understand that the USPS background check time can be far longer than most individuals are used to. This is due to a variety of different reasons.

In most cases, the background checks performed on federal employees involve unique information from databases that take longer to search than the criminal databases that many individuals are familiar with. Fingerprint-based background checks also tend to take longer than name-based checks which can further add to the total amount of time.

With all that considered the GIS background check alone can take over a month to complete in some situations. Besides the GIS background check, there is also the NACI check, which is a fairly low-level check that is performed on government employees that will not have access to sensitive information.

The check is mainly used to determine eligibility to work for the federal government and checks various databases to ensure the individual meets basic public trust requirements.5 This check can take several months to complete.

Screenshot of US Office of Personnel Management website page for Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions form.

The NACI background check is the most basic government background check that is performed, and is generally used in conjunction with other screens when applicants are seeking security clearance.

However individuals should not worry too much about this check affecting how soon they can be hired, as many individuals will be offered interim contracts that allow them to begin working while their NACI check is still in progress.

USPS Background Check Before Interview

Some individuals will be confused about being asked to undergo a USPS background check before an interview.

Although this is somewhat unusual, this is standard procedure for the USPS. Most government agencies will want to determine eligibility for the role before they determine if the individual would be a good fit for the position.

NACI Background Check USPS Status

A NACI background USPS is performed by the FBI to determine if the individual meets the requirements of “public trust,” which is required for all government employees that will not have access to sensitive information.

The check includes checks of some unique databases such as the OPM Security and Suitability index and a check of the Defense Clearance and Investigation Index.6

Screenshot of US Office of Personnel Management website page for Questionnaire for Non-Sensitive Position form.

The screening involves searching through the OPM Security and Suitability Index database and a check of the Defense Clearance and Investigation Index.

Finally, the check will include a more thorough investigation of various areas relating to an individual’s background such as past employers, schools, and local law enforcement.

USPS Fingerprint Background Check

The USPS fingerprint background check is performed by GIS, which may come as a surprise to individuals who expected the check to be completed by the FBI. Although the FBI does not perform the check themselves, GIS does work with the FBI when performing criminal history checks on applicants.

USPS Fingerprinting Process

The USPS fingerprinting process is fairly simple. While most government background checks will require individuals to go through the FBI which requires going to one of their registered fingerprinting service providers, the USPS process is far easier.7

Screenshot of Department of Human Services website page for FBI fingerprinting with yellow arrow on Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Criminal History Clearance.

The Department of Human Services manages background screenings for working with children and other vulnerable individuals.

When the time comes for fingerprints to be taken, the hiring manager will contact the individual to set up an appointment to submit their fingerprints at the post office location they are applying at, using the fingerprinting service already provided at most USPS locations.

USPS Background Check Red Flag

Although the USPS does not have a specific list of disqualifiers when it comes to criminal history information, there are some things that are considered a USPS background check red flag. However, these red flags are fairly standard across all jobs that perform background checks on their employees.

Most often, the following checks will be considered red flags.

  • Convictions of violent crimes
  • Convictions of sex crimes
  • Convictions of crimes involving children

NACI Background Check Timeline

The NACI background check timeline is fairly simple. Once the initial GIS background check has been completed, individuals will receive instructions on how to submit their NACI check.

Once submitted, the check can take anywhere from 1 month to 6 months.

NACI Background Check Disqualifiers

There is not an exact list of NACI background check disqualifiers as opposed to the military as they have a list of military background check disqualifiers. This check is fairly unique and the information found will be mostly circumstantial and will be examined on a case-by-case basis.

Failed NACI Background Check

Individuals with a failed NACI background check will have very few options available to them. When the check is failed, the supervisor will likely discuss the reasons for the failure and discuss any options that are available.

How Far Back Does a NACI Background Check Go?

Many individuals will be wondering about how far back does a NACI background check go, unlike many other government background checks, there is actually a clear answer to this question. A NACI background check will perform investigations on the individual’s background check information going back a total of 5 years.

USPS Background Check Status

With the background checks taking so long, many individuals will be wondering about their USPS background check status. Unfortunately, there is no reliable way to check the status besides contacting GIS directly.

However, individuals will receive information about their checks if there are any issues, so that they can be fixed, and should receive an email when the check is completed.

What Happens After USPS Background Check?

When it comes to what happens after USPS background check, it will depend mostly on the status of the NACI check. Assuming the initial check was passed, individuals might be offered an interim contract, which will allow them to begin working while their NACI check processes.

If this is the case, the individual will likely be contacted by the hiring manager to determine an orientation date.

NACI Background Check Status

Those curious about their NACI background check status will simply have to wait for the results. Unfortunately, there is no way to check the status of a NACI background check, any pressing questions should be directed at the applicant’s supervisor or hiring manager.

GIS Background Check Status

Individuals wondering about their GIS background check status will likely have the best luck by contacting the company directly. This should only be necessary if significant time has passed since there were any updates on the check.

How Far Back Does USPS Background Check Go?

When it comes to how far back does USPS background check go, individuals should count on a USPS background check going back forever. Although there is some confusing information regarding the 5-year rule, many individuals have reported having criminal history information that is ten years or older appearing on their checks.

In short, it is best to be prepared for the check to go back as far as possible.

Being prepared for a background check will really increase an individual’s chance of passing the check and ultimately being hired. However, many government checks are so confusing which can be difficult.

Individuals should perform as much research as possible so they can at least answer basic questions like, how far back does USPS background check go?

Frequently Asked Questions About How Far Back Does USPS Background Check Go?

How Long Does USPS Background Check Takes?

The initial USPS background check will likely take at least two weeks and sometimes over a month.

What Is the USPS Background Check Time Frame?

The USPS initial background check should be completed in less than a month. However the NACI check can take several months to complete.

What Can I Do Learn How To Check NACI Background Check USPS Status?

There is currently no way to check the status of a NACI check. Pressing questions and issues should be directed toward the supervisor or hiring manager of the applicant.

How Long Does a NACI Background Check Take USPS?

The NACI background check time varies significantly. However, most individuals report the check taking at least several months and even up to a year in some cases.

What Are the USPS Disqualifications?

There are no criminal history related disqualifications for the USPS, unless the position requires driving in which case various moving violations and DUI’s will be considered disqualifiers.

What if My Cisive Background Check Failed?

No matter the type of background check being performed, applicants are required to be notified of the reason for the check and be given an opportunity to appeal or contest the results of the check.

How Long Does NACI Investigation Take for USPS?

The NACI investigation for the USPS can take several months and even up to a year in some cases.

What Is Included in a NACI Background Check?

A NACI background check includes investigations into the individual’s past employers as well as checks of OPM databases and an FBI criminal history check.

What Is an NACI Investigation?

A NACI investigation is a background check performed on all low-level government employees to determine if they meet public trust requirements.

How Far Back Does SF86 Go?

An SF86 or NACI check will go back 5 years.

What if I Failed USPS Background Check?

Individuals who failed USPS background check will be given the opportunity to contest the results in case there were any mistakes.

What Does GIS Background Check Look For?

GIS background checks examine criminal history information for the last 5 counties the individual has resided in as well as perform driving history checks, employment verification, education verification, and other similar checks when necessary.

How Long Does a USPS GIS Background Check Take?

A typical USPS GIS background check should take less than a month to complete in most cases.


References

1United States Postal Service. (2022). Nationwide Employee Background Screening. Office of Inspector General. Retrieved December 02, 2022, from <https://www.uspsoig.gov/document/nationwide-employee-background-screening.>

2Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2022). Identity History Summary Checks. FBI. Retrieved December 02, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/need-an-fbi-service-or-more-information/identity-history-summary-checks>

3Protecting Americas Consumer. (2022). Fair Credit Reporting Act. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved December 02, 2022, from <https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/statutes/fair-credit-reporting-act>

4United States Government. (2022). General Information Services, Inc. (GIS). Consumer Finance. Retrieved December 02, 2022, from <https://www.consumerfinance.gov/consumer-tools/credit-reports-and-scores/consumer-reporting-companies/companies-list/general-information-services-inc/>

5Federal Relay Service. (2022). Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions. U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved December 02, 2022, from <https://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf85p.pdf>

6Federal Relay Service. (2022). General Electronic Form Notes/Notices. U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Retrieved December 02, 2022, from <https://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf85.pdf>

7Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2022). List of FBI-Approved Channelers. FBI. Retrieved December 02, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/need-an-fbi-service-or-more-information/identity-history-summary-checks/list-of-fbi-approved-channelers-for-departmental-order-submissions>

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