How Much Does a Federal Background Check Cost? Free Method

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | June 24, 2024

Man watches as dollars flow into a federal building and a FBI background check is presented on the right side computer screen wondering how much does a federal background check cost to have done and how long does a federal background check take.

These days, many jobs require federal background checks as a condition for employment and many applicants wonder, how much does a federal background check cost?

Although the cost of many background checks will seem fairly high, there is a free method that can be used to obtain the information for the background check at no cost at all.

Free Method for Federal Background Check

When learning how to check for your own federal records, in order to do it for free, you simply need to manually search federal, state, and local databases, like the one above. This allows anyone to find criminal records that will show up on a federal background check so that when the official check is performed, those records can be explained.

Or, in the best case, potential applicants can take the time to have criminal records expunged beforehand as long as they know the disqualifiers on a background screening for a federal job. The key to having a clean record is to find out exactly what shows up first.

Use a free search tool, or manually search the databases explained below to learn how much does a federal background check cost.

How Much Is a Federal Background Check?

Although many private background check websites will charge upwards of $25 to perform a background check (if you’ve wondered how much a background investigation is), the federal background check is actually cheaper than most. When talking about federal background checks, most people will be referring to one of two things: The background check that is performed as a condition for employment for jobs within the federal government or a federal criminal history check.

Image screenshot of FBI website on Identity History Summary Checks

(Image: FBI2)

Luckily, both of these checks are performed by the same agency, the FBI. The FBI’s identity history summary check acts as one of the most thorough criminal history checks that are currently available.2 The check is a fingerprint-based criminal background check that searches databases at the local, state, national, and federal levels.

This is distinctly different from the typical pre-employment background checks that many people are used to, which tend to only check local and state level databases using a name-based search. This makes the FBI check far more reliable.

Generally, when a federal background check is required as a condition for employment, the employer will pay the cost of the background check. Still, there are other times when an individual must pay for their own background check such as when performing a check on themselves for non-employment reasons or when trying to obtain a certification that requires a background check to be completed.

How Much Does a Federal Background Check Cost for Processing?

The federal background check that is performed by the FBI currently costs $18.

This covers the entire cost of the check including the fingerprinting process which can be completed at one of the approved fingerprinting sights, usually a local or state police department.

How Much Does a Federal Background Check Cost When Buying a Gun?

Many individuals wondering how much does a federal background check cost may be curious since they are about to purchase a firearm and know that a NICS check is required.

There is currently no charge for the NICS background check that is required to purchase a firearm. The FBI provides the service for free to any and all licensed gun dealers in the U.S.

What Is the Cheapest Background Check? (How Much Does a Federal Background Check Cost for Less?)

For individuals who are performing a check on themselves as preparation for a job interview or for the sake of curiosity, finding the cheapest background check possible may be a priority and they may be put off by the answer to How much does a federal background check cost? ($18) Luckily, there are a few ways to get a background check on yourself for completely free.

The easiest is to use the public records database search at the top of this page to perform a free search using your first and last name. This search will turn up any public records that match the name entered including criminal history information.

Another option is to find an online background check service that offers a free trial period. Many background check companies operate on a monthly subscription basis however many of them also offer free one-week trials which can be used to perform a single search.

What Do They Look For in a Federal Background Check?

What is searched for as part of a federal background check will depend on the reason for the check. Remember there is a difference between a criminal history check and a background check. A criminal history check consists of searching official databases, whereas the term background check is more general and although it usually consists of a criminal history check, can also include reference checks, drug tests, education verification, etc.

At a minimum, a federal background check will consist of a local, state, national, and federal criminal history check. This portion of the check will uncover any and all criminal activity including charges, dropped charges, arrests, and convictions.

Beyond this, the other kinds of checks will depend on the reason for the background check. For example, federal employment background checks may also perform reference checks, credit checks, employment verification, educational background verification, and various cognitive and integrity tests.

How Far Back Does a Federal Background Check Go?

How far into your history can an FBI background investigation dig up? Unlike private background checks which are often limited by state laws when it comes to how far back they can check someone’s criminal history, federal checks do not have the same limits.

Image screenshot of the fair credit reporting act

(Image: Federal Trade Commission1)

Currently, federal background checks must abide by the laws and regulations outlined by the FCRA,1 which currently has no limits on how far back into an individual’s criminal history a background check can go. This means that an FBI background check will have access to an individual’s entire criminal history, regardless of how old the crimes are.

What Does a Federal Criminal Background Check for Employment Look For?

The federal criminal background check for employment will look for different things based on the job in question. Just like all companies, different positions in the federal government have different needs and different requirements. The background check that is required for a postal employee will be far different than that of someone with high-security clearance at the Department of Homeland Security.3

With that being said at a bare minimum the federal employment background check will be examining felony records for virtually every employee, regardless of the position or agency.

How Long Does a Federal Background Check Take?

How long will it take for an FBI records check to complete? It depends. Federal background checks tend to take longer than most pre-employment background checks/ While most name-based checks are completed in as little as 2-3 days, an FBI background check will usually take around 2 weeks at a minimum.

This is largely due to backlogging as well as the fingerprint process adding additional time.

For federal employment background checks, the check can take far longer than two weeks. Many positions can have background checks that take up to 9 months to complete, however, these extensive checks are usually reserved for positions with high-security clearance.

How Much Does a Background Check Cost?

Another option that many individuals may be interested in is state background checks. Aside from federal background check and private background checks, every state also offers background check services. This is usually done through the state police or similar departments and is available to anyone who requests one and has the necessary information.

Keep in mind that many of the state checks will still use the FBI background check as their national check and may include the fee into the cost of a check or offer an additional fee to add an FBI background check to their standard check.

Why Do I Have to Pay for a Background Check?

Many individuals will be surprised by the answer to questions like How much does a federal background check cost?

The reason for the high cost of background checks is the maintenance required of the databases. Not only are many of the documents in these databases scanned by hand before being uploaded but the electronic databases still need maintenance to work properly. This is especially true for state and national databases which can be filled with millions of documents.

What Is the Cost of Background Checks for Employment?

Most employment background checks will be free as far as the applicant is concerned. Most businesses use a third-party background check service for who they pay a monthly fee. In exchange, the business is able to perform as many background checks as necessary. This will generally drive down the cost of an individual check.

What Is a State Background Check?

Each state has its own background check procedures that are performed by the state police and can be used for a variety of purposes. Most state background checks are similar to the federal background check for employment but are used to check state-level employees instead. Checks generally include the same checks as the FBI’s background check but will usually use their own state databases instead of the databases used by the FBI.

Screenshot image of the homeland security website homepage

(Image: Homeland Security3)

However, since the state police will only have access to criminal history information for that state, they will often employ the FBI for national and federal criminal history checks. This will often result in overlapping criminal history information.

Most states use their background checks as a standard to screen state employees, especially those in education and social service or any agency that will have employees with access to children. Although the federal laws regarding daycare background screenings specify that the required background checks need to be performed by the FBI, most states have their own laws in addition to the federal requirements. Although this results in some redundancy as the same databases are checked multiple times by different agencies, it results in the most thorough check possible.

Just like federal checks, individuals can request a state background check for any reason and do not need to be applying for a state job in order to have one performed.

Use the table below to learn how much a state background check costs in each state. Note that an apostille FBI background screening may not be the same price.

StateCost of State Background Check (Official Background Check Cost)
Alabama (AL)$25.00
Alaska (AK)$20.00
Arizona (AZ)$39.95
Arkansas (AR)$25.00
California (CA)$32.00
Colorado (CO)$17.50
Connecticut (CT)$25.00
Delaware (DE)$52.00
Florida (FL)$24.00
Georgia (GA)$52.75
Hawaii (HI)$30.00
Idaho (ID)$20.00
Illinois (IL)$20.00
Indiana (IN)$7.00
Iowa (IA)$15.00
Kansas (KS)$20.00
Kentucky (KY)$20.00
Louisiana (LA)$39.25
Maine (ME)$31.00
Massachusetts (MA)$25.00
Maryland (MD)$18.00
Michigan (MI)$10.00
Minnesota (MN)$10.00
Mississippi (MS)$30.00
Missouri (MO)$41.75
Montana (MT)$10.00
Nebraska (NE)$15.50
Nevada (NV)$11.00
New Hampshire (NH)$48.25
New Jersey (NJ)$44.13
New Mexico (NM)$15.00
New York (NY)$95.00
North Carolina (NC)$14.00
North Dakota (ND)$41.25
Ohio (OH)$58.00
Oklahoma (OK)$15.00
Oregon (OR)$10.00
Pennsylvania (PA)$22.00
Rhode Island (RI)$15.00
South Carolina (SC)$25.00
South Dakota (SD)$26.75
Tennessee (TN)$29.00
Texas (TX)$15.00
Utah (UT)$15.00
Vermont (VT)$30.00
Virginia (VA)$27.00
Washington (WA)$18.55
West Virginia (WV)$37.50
Wisconsin (WI)$10.00
Wyoming (WY)$15.00

The different kinds of background checks available these days can be confusing and expensive. When trying to decide between the different kinds, be sure to choose a government agency to perform the check if official documents are required, as opposed to a private background check.

When it comes to how much does a federal background check cost, keep in mind that many private background checks will find the same information for far less, if an unofficial check is sufficient.

Frequently Asked Questions About How Much Does a Federal Background Check Cost

How Much Does a Background Check Cost a Company?

How much a background check costs a company depends on a ton of factors. Mainly, how many background checks will be performed (i.e. the size of the company) and what kind of checks they want to perform. Generally, the more background checks performed and the more databases that are searched, the higher the cost of each background check.

How Much Does a Hireright Background Check Cost?

Hireright currently offers three different packages based on the kind of checks that need to be performed and how fast the results of the tests are returned to the requester. Currently they are priced at $29.95 for a “basic” check, $49.95 for a “better” check and $64.95 for a “premium” check.

Best Background Check for Dating?

There are tons of background check services available that specialize in different kinds of checks. When trying to find a background check for dating, find a service that offers checks for personal reasons instead of business reasons as well as a check that offers a background check thru social media.

What Is the Federal Background Check Cost?

Currently an FBI identity history summary check costs $18 to perform but most employers that require this will pay for the check, making it free to the applicant.

How Much Does It Cost To Get a Federal Background Check?

A federal background check with the FBI costs $18 to perform. Whereas the cost of a state background check, which will include much of the same information, will vary from state to state but is as low as $7 in some states. When purchasing a state background check, be sure to double-check what kind of checks are performed to ensure it meets your needs.

How Much Does It Cost To Do a Federal Background Check?

An official federal background check costs $18 through the FBI. However, non-official checks range dramatically in price and can even be found for completely free.

How Much Does a Federal Background Check Cost To Buy a Gun?

An NICS background check that is required when purchasing a firearm is completely free.

How Much Does a Federal Background Check for Guns Cost?

Gun background checks performed by the FBI are known as NICS checks (National Instant Criminal Background check system) and are currently performed at no cost to the dealer or the customer.


1United States Government. (2022). Fair Credit Reporting Act. Federal Trade Commission. Retrieved August 27, 2022, from <>

2United States Government. (2022). Get Your Identity History Summary/Rap Sheet (or Proof One Does Not Exist). FBI. Retrieved August 27, 2022, from <>

3United States Government. (2022). Home. Homeland Security. Retrieved August 27, 2022, from <>

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