Table of Contents
Instant Pre-Fingerprint Background CheckRun a pre-fingerprint background check to find records on anyone (or yourself) to know what will show up on the fingerprint search.
You may be wondering, how long does a fingerprint background check take? The short answer to this question is that it varies. There are many different types of background checks that require a fingerprint, and each one has a different processing time.
Most of these checks take time to process, which can vary between days to weeks. The following information examines what these searches are for, and why the length of time is required for each type of fingerprint background check.
What Is a Fingerprint Background Check?
A fingerprint background check uses your fingerprint to search through records and return information on national criminal history. Fingerprint background checks are typically used by law enforcement and the government.
When getting a fingerprint background check, you’ll need to supply a legible fingerprint card to the searching agent.1 Some companies allow you to take your own fingerprints, while others require you to visit a licensed location (such as a law enforcement office).
Why Would I Need a Fingerprint Background Check?
There are many reasons why you would need a fingerprint background check. If you are arrested by the police, they typically take your fingerprints to check for prior criminal history. You will also need a fingerprint background check if you have plans to adopt or get a job that requires work around sensitive populations or information.
What is the Difference Between a Fingerprint Background Check vs. Name-Based Background Check?
The difference between a fingerprint background check and a name-based background check is the type of information returned as well as the way the information is found. As you can probably guess, a name-based background check does not require a fingerprint. Name-based background checks are typically used by employers looking to confirm your identity and employment history, and are typically referred to as a level 1 background check.
How Long Does a Fingerprint Background Check Take?
The amount of time it takes for a fingerprint background check can vary. In most cases, you can expect to receive your fingerprint background check result in 2-6 weeks. Timelines will vary based on the method you choose to submit your information. If you provide your application electronically, it will likely be processed sooner than if you had submitted the same application via the postal service.
How and Where Do I Get Fingerprinted for a Background Check (All 50 States)?
Each of the 50 states offer solutions for figuring out how and where you can get fingerprinted for a background check. Use the links below to access your site specific information.
What Are the Steps To Get a Fingerprint Background Check?
The first step to getting a fingerprint background check is getting your fingerprints taken. Depending on where you have this done, you may be able to submit your application information at the same time.
You’ll need to provide your name, your social security number, your date and place of birth, where you live, and your country of citizenship. In addition, you will also need to provide identifying information such as your eye color, hair color, height, weight, and race.2 As mentioned earlier, most fingerprint locations will submit your application on your behalf. If you are submitting a fingerprint background check to the FBI, you can submit the application on your own. If this is the case, you will need to take copies of your fingerprints and mail them directly to the FBI, or send them in electronically. Visit the FBI’s website for more information on an FBI background check.
How Long Does It Take to Get Fingerprinted?
The process for getting fingerprinted is usually fairly quick. Once you make an appointment at an approved fingerprinting location, it will likely take about 5-10 minutes for your fingerprints to be taken. Make sure you bring two forms of ID so that your fingerprint technician can confirm that you are who you say you are. Without your ID, you won’t be able to have your fingerprints taken.
How Long Does it Take to Get Fingerprints Back from State Police?
The time it takes to get fingerprints back from state police can vary from state to state. However, many states say that you can expect your results to be sent back to you within 7-10 days.
If you choose to receive results via the postal service (rather than digitally), keep in mind that the time it takes may be longer depending upon any postal delays.
How Long Does It Take for Police to Process Fingerprints?
If you are having a fingerprint background check run by a police officer at the time of arrest, it can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to get your information back. Fingerprints are run through AFIS, Automated Fingerprint Identification System. They can be compared to solved crimes and unsolved crimes.
Background Check Timeframe: How Long Do Background Checks Take?
There are a variety of different background checks available, all of which have different processing times so it can be difficult to gauge how long does a fingerprint background check take. Some of the most popular background checks include Level 1 background checks for employment, federal background checks, gun background checks, and criminal history background checks.
Most timelines vary based on the information found. For example, background checks where the applicant does not have any records will come back much quicker than ones with many records.
How Long Do Federal Background Checks Take?
It’s relatively easy to learn how to get a federal background check on yourself. If all of the correct information is submitted, federal background check information can come back as soon as 1 business day.
Although the information can come back quickly, keep in mind that the actual documentation may take longer to get to you, depending upon the method used to send it back. Items sent via the postal service will always take longer than those being delivered electronically.
How Long Do Gun Background Checks Take?
If you are looking to purchase a gun, you will need a gun background check. These are name based searches that look through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Most gun background checks come back within 5 minutes, assuming that your record is clean.
If any issues come up, the results can take up to 3 days. If the 3 day period passes without a response, the seller has a right to sell you the gun. If your check is denied, you can appeal it with the FBI.
How Long Do Fingerprints Take to Come Back?
Results from fingerprints will typically come back within 3-5 business days. The time that it takes for the results to get back to you will vary, and is often not the same as when the results come back to the searching entity.
How Long Does Fingerprinting Take to Come Back? Are There Special Rules for FBI Checks?
When going in for fingerprinting, you should receive the fingerprints within a few minutes. These results are often sent digitally to the requesting law enforcement office. FBI checks will allow you to provide digital or paper fingerprints. The FBI also allows you to provide fingerprints that you have taken on your own.
Despite this rule, it is usually the best idea to use an approved fingerprint technician, or Channeler, to ensure the clarity of your fingerprints. How long does it take to get an FBI background check back? As with most others, the timing depends on a variety of factors.
There are also ways to get an expedited FBI background check performed, so that you can shorten the time involved.
How Long Does Fingerprinting Results Take and How Are Fingerprints Used to Check Backgrounds?
As we mentioned earlier, it only takes a few minutes to have your fingerprints taken. Once the technician has sent the fingerprints to the requesting agency, they are run through a system and compared to other fingerprints that have been catalogued. The system being checked is dependent upon the agency running the check.
The fingerprints will be compared both digitally and manually, depending on the type of records available. Many records have still not been digitized. If this is the case for your background check, it may take longer than if it were all digital.
How Long Does a Criminal Background Check Take?
A criminal background check could be required if you are trying to adopt, looking for government housing, or attempting to get a job that works around a vulnerable group of people or sensitive information. If you are in the custody of police, they will likely check your history to see if you have committed any crimes.
The time it takes for a criminal background check in these instances is dependent upon the type of criminal background check as well as who is requesting it. Many law enforcement officers can complete a background check quickly, whereas employers may take a bit longer due to the amount of paperwork needed and various state regulations.
How Long Does it Take for a Criminal Background Check To Come Back?
Once submitted, a criminal background check can take as little as 1-3 business days to yield results. Once the results are received, the reporting agency will then return them to the entity that ordered them.3 The amount of time it takes for the results to get back to you will depend on what service you used to request the background check. If requested by an employer, you may not hear back right away. If requested on your own through an approved service, the turnaround time will likely be quicker.
Why Would a Fingerprint Background Check Be Delayed?
A fingerprint check could be delayed for several different reasons. The first reason involves an illegible fingerprint. If the agency cannot read the fingerprint you provided, your background check will be delayed. If this happens, you will need to have a new fingerprint taken.
The second reason is the supply of missing or inaccurate information. If you supply an incorrect birth date or accidentally misspell something, it could cause a delay in your background check. You will likely need to resupply this information if this occurs. It is important that you double check the information before submitting it to ensure that it is correct.
Fingerprint background checks cannot be submitted or run without the permission of the applicant. If you forget to provide a signature with your application, this will also cause a delay.
Another reason for a delay in your fingerprint background check comes from the length of your record. If you have a long record, it is possible that your background check will take longer than if you did not have a record at all. Unfortunately, this issue is out of your control.
Many records are not fully digital, which is another reason your fingerprint background check could be delayed. If a particular county needs to complete a manual search, it will only add time to your check.
How Can I Expedite A Fingerprint Background Check?
While there is no way to ask for an expedited fingerprint background check, you can follow a few easy suggestions to make the process go as quickly as possible. To begin, you should provide clear, legible fingerprints. The easiest way to do this is to visit an experienced fingerprint technician. Not only will they understand the best way to collect your fingerprints, they will likely also understand how to provide a complete application quickly.
Getting your fingerprint background check to return quickly can also be done by ensuring that you provide all of the requested information accurately. Fill out the application in detail and double check for any misspellings. You will also want to ensure that you have signed the application. As mentioned above, your application cannot be processed without an accurate signature. Making sure the t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted will help speed up the answer to how long does a fingerprint background check take.
How Long Does a Criminal Background Check Take for a Job?
If you are waiting on a criminal background check for an employer, it is likely that they submitted the application on your behalf. How long a background check takes, as with other checks, will vary. The results from a criminal background check will go directly to your employer, and can return within 5-7 business days. You will need to factor in the time that it takes for the employer to review the results and get back to you when considering a time frame.3
What Are the Rules For Employers Regarding Fingerprint Background Checks?
Many states have specific guidelines over who can utilize a fingerprint background check. For this reason, many employers choose to run a name-based background check only. Only employers who have been authorized by the government have the ability to run federal background checks.
As you can tell, timelines for fingerprint background checks vary widely. If you have no record, it’s likely that you will receive your background check results fairly quickly. If you provide incorrect information, have a lengthy record, or run into records that aren’t digital, you could be waiting a few weeks for your results. So, if you’ve been wondering, ‘how long does a fingerprint background take’… now you know: it depends.
1The Law Dictionary. N.d. How Does a Fingerprint Background Check Work? 21 Oct 2021. Web. <https://thelawdictionary.org/article/how-does-a-fingerprint-background-check-work/>
2The National Background Check Program. N.d. Fingerprinting as Part of the Background Check Process. 21 Oct 2021. Web. <https://www.bgcheckinfo.org/resources/state-specific-technical-assistance/fingerprints>
3Good Hire. n.d. How Long Does a Background Check Take? 21 Oct 2021. Web. <https://www.goodhire.com/blog/how-long-do-background-checks-take/>