How Far Back Does USCIS Background Check Go?
Individuals should expect a USCIS background check to cover their entire criminal history.
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When being asked for their address history while filling out forms for a background check, many people wonder how many years of address history for background check are there?
Believe it or not, the answer to that question is based on the reason for the background check, who is performing the check, and where the check is being performed.
And although there is a lot to consider, there are really only 3 options for how far back an address history will be required for a background check:
But, the length of time for address history checks is determined by the reasons listed above.
This comprehensive guide explains the answer to how many years of address history for background check forms is required, and where someone can find their personal address history easily.
So, how many years of address history for a background check? There are quite a few factors that individuals will need to consider in order to understand how many years of addresses they are likely going to be asked for.
The most important thing to remember is that there are generally no laws regarding how many years of address history can be checked. Most of the laws regarding how far back background checks can go are centered around criminal history information, in order to avoid discrimination.
Also, background check companies that are checking address history are generally doing so using the information supplied by the applicant, so there isn’t any way they could check back further, aside from asking the applicant for more of their address history.
Perhaps the most important factor to consider is what the background check is for.
Although most people only think of pre-employment background checks, there are numerous different types of background checks that are trying to determine different kinds of information and have different laws regarding the way they are performed, the information they check, and how far back they can check certain records.
When it comes to pre-employment background checks, different kinds of employers will also have different standards for how many years of address history are checked. In most cases, an employer will check 7 years of address history. People who have undergone background checks for large companies like Home Depot or Walmart, will likely be familiar with this. The reason for this is fairly simple.
Most private employers rely on large background check companies to perform their applicant screenings for them. As most people know, the most important part of most background checks is the criminal history check. Although many people think criminal history checks are performed by simply entering the name of the individual into a massive crime database, this isn’t really how it works.
Rather, the background check investigator will use numerous local and state court databases to find the individual’s criminal records. This allows for a more accurate check as the more local the database is, the more likely the information is going to be correct and up to date. However, in order to do this they will need the individual’s address history.
As far as why 7 years of address history is so common, this has to do with the industry standards in the background check company. Seven years has become the industry standard due to more and more states adopting the 7-year rule.
With more states becoming 10-year background check states, it simply makes sense to adopt this process across the board as standard procedure, even in states that allow for criminal history checks to go back forever.
Understanding the different types of background checks is the best way to determine how many years of address history for background checks.
As mentioned, although most people are familiar with a pre-employment background check, not only are there other kinds of background checks, there are even different types of pre-employment background checks available.
When it comes to pre-employment background checks and other residential checks, they generally fall into 3 different categories: private employer background checks, government employer background checks, and security clearance background checks.
A private employer background check is the kind most people will be familiar with, and these are mostly regulated by the federal guidelines.
However, most people will not be quite as familiar with the background checks performed on state and federal employees as well as the checks performed on those whose job requires a security clearance. As with any background check, what the check is being used for will determine what kind of checks will be performed and how far back they will be looking for certain information.
Private employer background checks tend to be the least intensive of all checks. Although certain private employers will include some of the more intensive background check practices found in government checks, the average employer will only be looking at criminal history and a few basic verification of information on the applicant’s resume. This is also the background check where 7 years of address history is fairly standard.
Government background checks and certain state checks are where address history can become more intensive and examine at least 10 years of information.
For some people, the ten year look-back period for an address will be only one or two residences, but for others who have been more transient, the address history can be more difficult to recall.
Although jobs in state government offices might be similar to those performed by private employers, federal government jobs have fair strict background check requirements. As mentioned, only the regulations of the FCRA will need to be followed during federal background checks and there are plenty of exceptions that can be made.2
It’s important to note that the FCRA does not have any limits on how far back a criminal history check can go when conviction information is concerned. This means when it comes to how many years of address history for background check with a federal employer, the answer is often more than 7 years. In many cases, federal employers will ask for 7-10 years of address history or even more.
This is because federal background checks are not just assessing risk the same way private companies do. While private companies are more concerned with financial liabilities, federal background checks are more concerned with national security. This means they will want to check as much information as possible to ensure that the individual does not pose a risk to the country itself.
Even with only 10 years of address history, the criminal history check that is performed will examine the information from the individual’s entire life, often via an FBI Identity History Summary Check which uses the FBI’s criminal databases.3
With a firearm background check (for purchasing a firearm), many states have laws in place that forbid a gun purchase if the address on the buyer’s driver’s license is different from their current address.
Likewise, when applying for a concealed carry license, each state that allows concealed carry will ask for address history, and its up to each state to determine the requirements for concealed carry permits.
When it comes to using background checks to screen for issues of national security, positions involving security clearance will take this information to the next level.
For jobs requiring security clearance background check process can take months to complete and the background check investigator will likely want as much address history as the individual can come up with.
For some clearances, the data will be collected in person by the agency performing the check, such as those involving higher levels. (Check a security clearance levels chart to learn more.)
Even without the individual providing the address history, the investigator will likely still be able to figure out any addresses the person was not able to come up with.
Just like the background check performed for most federal positions, the background check will cover the individual’s entire life, including their criminal history all the way back to their childhood.
Knowing the standards for various kinds of background checks can help individuals get a better idea of how much address history they are going to be asked for when applying for a job that requires a background check as a condition of employment.
Remember, aside from checking for general integrity and seeing if the applicant has lied about where they lived, the main reason that an applicant’s previous addresses are checked is so that the background check service can provide more accurate and reliable criminal history checks.
Many jobs, such as those requiring FBI background checks, don’t rely as heavily on local background checks and instead use other criminal history databases to perform the check.
Use the table below to learn about how far back different kinds of background checks are likely to go when it comes to criminal history.
|Type of Check||How Many Years of Criminal History Information Is Checked?|
|How far back does a FBI background check go?||FBI background checks will always cover the individual’s entire criminal history. This will also include criminal history information that has been sealed or even expunged in many cases.|
|How far back does a background check go for employment?||Most typical employment background checks will cover the last 7 years of criminal history. Although in many states employers could request for the criminal history check to go back forever.|
|How far back does a federal background check go?||Most federal background checks will involve FBI background checks, which will go back forever.|
|How far back does a gun background check go?||Gun background checks are performed by the FBI through the NICS, so the check will cover the individual’s entire life.|
|Tenant background checks||Tenant background checks laws vary by state. Generally, the last 5-7 years of address history will be requested in order to perform criminal history and civil records checks. Credit history checks will usually go back 7-10 years.|
|Military background check||Military background checks generally examine the individual’s last 10 years of criminal history.|
Besides how far back the check will go, many individuals will also be concerned with what shows up on a criminal background check. Once again there are tons of state laws to consider, mainly those that will cause certain crimes to be automatically sealed after several years, such as certain marijuana convictions in California.4 State laws aside, individuals can expect the following information to be present on a criminal history report.
When it comes to criminal history, even the most comprehensive background check practices will not reveal much more than the above. Many individuals are concerned with things like speeding tickets, or civil court information. However, driving citations are only held by the DMV and most civil court records are sealed as soon as they are filed.
It’s fairly common for people to be a little bit concerned about their potential landlord asking for their address history as part of a tenant application. So, what is address history on a tenant background check used for?
The answer is fairly simple, just like an employer will ask for previous work experience to verify that the individual was an upstanding employee, landlords use address history to see if an applicant is an upstanding tenant.
This is usually done by examining civil court records in the county where the individual has lived during the last 7 or so years. The reason civil court records are checked is that when a tenant commits a more serious lease violation or becomes delinquent on their rent, there is a good chance that their landlord will sue them in civil court for the rent money or for compensation regarding the lease violations.
The settlement information as well as the records for the cases in general will be considered public information, so the new landlord will be able to see the individual was evicted from their last apartment for not paying rent, causing damage, or whatever led to the civil court case being filed.
There is also often a misunderstanding regarding, where previous address history data come from, however, it’s not as complicated as you might think. There are few databases that track individuals’ addresses so the address history must be supplied by the tenant themselves, otherwise, there is often no way for the landlord to determine where the individual has lived.
Some people might think to simply not mention where they have lived to avoid a landlord finding out about an eviction, however not filling in address history can raise some major red flags to the landlord.
So, how is address history used? Address history is used by verifying the individual’s addresses during the credit report. Credit reporting agencies will have some address information for any property that an individual rented in the last 7-10 years.
When performing a credit check, the landlord will check the addresses provided by the tenant against this information.
Those wondering how to obtain accurate rental history reports on themselves can do so for free once a year through a credit reporting agency.
Seven years of address history is by far the most common amount of address that a landlord will ask for.
Since most credit reports only go back 7 years, if the landlord asks for more than 7 years of address history, they will often have no way to verify this information, but it can be good to provide it.
The seven-year criminal record search scope is fairly wide. Background check agencies can see any charge or conviction that the individual has on their criminal record, regardless of where the charges were filed in the last 7 years at a minimum.
In most states, they will be able to see back at least seven years and often as far back as they want.
The seven-year reporting limit under the FCRA is somewhat misunderstood. Many people read this and believe that any crime that was charged more than 7 years ago can not show up on a background check.
However, this is not the case and the 7-year limit under the FCRA only applies to arrest information for crimes that did not result in a conviction.
Additionally, many states have laws governing the sort of records that can show up from those years. For example, some states do not allow arrests records without a conviction to appear on a background check.
It’s extremely important that landlords frequently review your background screening program to ensure there aren’t any gaps that could cause financial hardship down the line.
There are tons of online background check services that specialize in landlord checks. So getting address history reports & rent prep information is easier than ever.
When it comes to how many years of address history for background check, the kind of check is going to be the most likely factor that will determine how many years are requested.
Although 7 years is the most common, there are plenty of instances in which 10 years or more may be requested.
Going into a background check without knowing what to expect is never a good situation to be in. Individuals should research their local laws regarding criminal history records as well as those concerning the type of background check they will be undergoing.
The important thing to note in regards to how many years of address history for background check, is that 7 years of history is the standard and will be the most common amount of years requested.
Individuals should expect a USCIS background check to cover their entire criminal history.
1FTC. (2022, October 27). Fair Credit Reporting Act. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved January 03, 2023, from <https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/statutes/fair-credit-reporting-act>
2CFPB. (2018, September 20). A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. CFBP Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Retrieved January 03, 2023, from <https://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/bcfp_consumer-rights-summary_2018-09.pdf>
3Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2022, October 26). Rap Sheets (Identity History Summary Checks) — FBI. FBI. Retrieved January 03, 2023, from <https://www.fbi.gov/how-we-can-help-you/need-an-fbi-service-or-more-information/identity-history-summary-checks>
4Judicial Council of California. (2023). Marijuana Conviction Relief (Prop 64). California Courts. Retrieved January 03, 2023, from <https://www.courts.ca.gov/42535.htm>