How To Get a Federal Background Check on Yourself (Full Guide)

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Background Checks | May 29, 2024

Magnifying glass and people looking at a computer to learn how to get a federal background check on yourself.

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Have you ever wondered how to get a federal background check on yourself? If you plan on searching for a new job, looking for government housing, renting your apartment out to a tenant, applying for a new license, adopting a child, or even volunteering at a soup kitchen, a federal background check might be required.

If you aren’t sure what the background check will return, it is very important to perform a self-background check as soon as possible. Using the full guide below, you can do it safely and quickly while getting the results you need.

How To Run a Federal Background Check on Yourself

There are a couple of different ways to run a federal background check on yourself. You can order a background check from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Or, you can order a background check through an FBI-approved Channeler. A Channeler is a business approved by the FBI to submit a background check request on your behalf.

Image screenshot of the list of FBI-approved channelers

(Image: FBI2)

To run a federal background check on yourself, the following steps must be completed:

Step 1: Navigate to the FBI’s Identity History Summary Check website.

Step 2: Follow the instructions outlined for “How to submit a Request” included on the page.

Step 3: Request and complete the application form.

Step 4: Download and complete (using a post office location or other approved fingerprinting location) the fingerprint form FD 1164 or FD 258.

Step 5: Submit payment and review the federal background check request to ensure that everything is correct. It’s also a good idea to review the checklist to ensure that no information is missing.

Step 6: Wait for the results.

Depending on whether the request was submitted electronically or by mail, the length of time for results will vary.

Keep in mind the above 6 steps will not work on others when trying to determine whether someone has a felony record because fingerprints are required–unless the person you are searching consents to their fingerprints being used.

Additionally, it should be noted that the results may not include search warrants, bench warrants, and arrest warrants which are typically found by looking up federal warrants.

Is an FBI Background Check the Same as a Federal Background Check?

Despite what you may think, an FBI Background Check is not the same as a Federal Background Check. A Federal Background Check provides information about crimes committed at the federal level, such as kidnappings or robberies. The applicant’s information is compared against the data found in PACER, which is an online system that details federal crime convictions to the public.1

Image screenshot of the public access to court electronic records

(Image: U.S. Courts1)

An FBI Background Check will return personal history as found within the FBI’s system, which covers all fifty states. An FBI Background check is more in-depth than a Federal Background Check.

How To Get an FBI Background Check on Yourself Before a Job

It can be helpful to get an FBI Background Check on yourself before applying for a job. Getting a copy of your FBI Background Check, or “rap sheet,” can help prepare you for anything that you or your potential employers may find.

In order to get an FBI Background Check on yourself before a job, you will need to complete an application and obtain fingerprints. Once you have these items, you can submit your application with payment to the FBI directly.

If you want to get an FBI Background Check on yourself before a job, make sure that you allow enough time for the application to be processed. You will need to allow at least 3-4 business days if filing electronically, and much longer if sending your application via mail. You can also order a fast-track FBI background investigation.

How To Obtain FBI Background Check Materials

In order to obtain an FBI Background Check, you’ll need to have the required materials. According to the FBI’s website, you need to obtain a background check application, a fingerprint card, and payment.

Completed Application

To download a copy of the application, you will need to request a download on the FBI’s website. Once downloaded, it is important that you fill the application out completely and ensure that you include a valid address and a signature. Each person who will require a background check needs to supply a signature.

Completed Fingerprint Card

You need to include a copy of a current, legible fingerprint card with your application. If you don’t already have one, you can visit a fingerprinting technician to obtain a copy of your fingerprints. It is acceptable to complete fingerprints using a scan or ink, but you need to ensure that a hard copy is sent with your application. The fingerprint card needs to be current because the FBI will not accept previously used cards or copies.

Credit Card Payment, Certified Check, or Money Order

The cost of an FBI background check at the time of this article is $18. In order to have your application processed, you will need to send in a credit card payment slip, check, or money order for the full amount. Keep in mind that the FBI does not accept personal or business checks or cash. Correct payment at the time of application will prevent any delays or potential application rejection.

Using the FBI Criminal Background Check (Form 1-783)

The FBI Criminal Background Check application (Form-1783) can be obtained directly from the FBI’s website. Once the form is downloaded to your computer, you can either fill out the information digitally or print the form and complete the information by hand. If you are completing the form by hand, it is important to make sure that your writing can be easily read to avoid any delay in processing. If you choose to complete the form digitally, you will still be required to print it out and provide your signature.

How To Do FBI Background Check on Someone Else

An FBI Background Check cannot be done on someone else without their permission. If someone else authorizes you to complete an FBI Background Check, you will need to get their signature on an application.

Image screenshot of the identity history summary checks

(Image: Electronic Departmental Order3)

The same materials will be required, and include a completed application, completed fingerprint card, and payment of $18. The background check application will not be run if their signature is not included.

How To Order a Background Check from the FBI

The FBI offers three easy methods to order a background check. The first option is available online. Alternatively, you can submit your request via the postal service. Keep in mind that if the request is for multiple people, each person will need to provide a signature.

How To Order a Criminal Background Check on Yourself (Local and Federal Level)

In some cases, you will need to know how to order (run) a criminal history check on yourself. There are two different levels of criminal background checks: a level 1 check and a level 2 check.

  1. A level 1 check uses your name (middle name required), date of birth, and social security number to check against statewide crimes.
  2. A level 2 check uses your name and fingerprint to check against national criminal records.

Learn more about how to get a level 1 criminal background check on yourself in the following states:

How Long Do Federal Background Checks Take?

The time it takes for a Federal Background check is dependent upon the method in which it is sent. According to the FBI’s website, applications sent electronically are currently being processed within 3-5 business days. Applications sent via mail are currently being processed in 2-4 weeks.

How Long Do Federal Background Checks Take for a Job?

In most cases, Federal Background Checks for a job take between 3-7 business days. This is dependent upon the receipt of accurate information and consent from the applicant.

How Long Do Federal Background Checks Take for Adoption?

Background checks for adoptions are a bit more in-depth than those required for other items. Based on search results, federal background checks for adoption run by Child Protective Services can take up to 30 business days.

How Long Do Federal Background Checks Take for a Gun?

The timeline for federal background checks to get a gun or firearm are dependent upon the results of the check. If your history is spotless, the check can be completed in a matter of minutes. If the background check pulls up information that needs to be verified, it can take up to three days. If after three days there is no response, the Federal Firearms Licensee can choose to push the application through to “approved.”

How Can I Speed Up a Federal Background Check?

There are a couple of ways to speed up the time you’ll wait for your federal background check.

1. Submit Your Application Electronically

When submitting an application via the mail, any delays with the postal service can cause a delay in your application’s processing time. If you want to make sure that your Federal Background Check is received as quickly as possible, it would make the most sense to submit your application electronically.

2. Ensure That You Provide All Requested Information

In order to ensure that your application is processed as quickly as possible, it is important to provide all requested information the first time. Any missing or illegible information will cause a delay in the processing time.

How To Fix Errors on a Federal Background Check on Yourself

In some cases, you may find that there are errors on your federal background check. Should you find yourself in this position, you will need to get in touch with the agency that the information belongs to. If you need to fix errors on a Federal Background Check on yourself, there are a few ways to handle the situation.

Contact the Original Agency Directly

If you notice errors on a report provided by a state agency, like a local police department, you can contact them directly to dispute the error. Once the error is changed on the state’s end, the record can be updated.

Graphic on the steps to run a federal background check on yourself.

If the errors in question are provided by a federal agency, you’ll need to get in touch with the original arresting agency. The original agency will be able to provide written directions to the FBI regarding the information in question.

Submit a Challenge to the FBI Online

While the FBI can’t remove the information on their own, they can initiate an investigation on your behalf. By visiting the FBI website, you will have the option to “Challenge Your Identity History Summary.”

After completing this request, you should receive correspondence via email. If you’d rather have a hard copy, you will have the option to request this directly from the email. The FBI usually provides a response to these requests within 30 days of receiving them.

Submit a Challenge to the FBI by Mail

If you would rather not utilize the online portal, you can submit a request in writing to the FBI. Keep in mind that you should include any documents that support your claim with this request.

The FBI will use these documents to get in touch with the correct agencies to determine their validity. Once validated, the FBI will be able to make any changes necessary. The FBI will let you know what changes were made, if any.

If you are planning on moving forward with a new job, adoption, or even applying for government housing, knowing how to get a Federal Background Check on yourself can be invaluable.

Frequently Asked Questions About How To Get a Federal Background Check on Yourself

Is the Process Different for How To Get a National Background Check?

A national background check can be performed using the process outline above, because the FBI ‘rap sheet’ includes state data as well. However, you may want to perform a local background check on yourself to get enhanced data from sources that might not have yet reported to the FBI.

Can I Run a Full Backgorund Check on Myself?

Absolutely. Anyone can run a full background check on themselves by performing both a state and federal background check. But, it will require contacting more than one law enforcement agency, as well as credit, driving, and educational history searches.


1US Courts, n.d. Frequently Asked Questions. PACER Public Access to Court Electronic Records. 13 Oct 2021. Web. <>

2List of FBI-Approved Channelers for Departmental Order Submissions, 16 Apr. 2024. Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from <>

3Identity History Summary Checks. Electronic Departmental Order. Retrieved May 29, 2024, from <>

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