What Do You Need for a Background Check? It Depends (See Full List)

Background check repair icon.Written by Background Check Repair

Background Checks | September 14, 2022

What do you need for a background check written across the top of a graphic with a man standing on the right side with a magnifying glass hovering over his head while he looks at a checklist that has boxes with green check marks in them on a clipboard, a background check document with money on it to represent cost, and a computer screen on the left with a giant search button about to be pushed.

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Whether it’s to get ready for a job interview or for more personal reasons, many people ask, “what do you need for a background check?”

Actually, what you need depends on a number of factors, including the type of background check being run and why it’s being conducted.

For example, many professions and specific industries (like health care or even real estate) have a detailed checklist and process that must be performed. In addition to consent, these companies and must comply with background check laws that vary from state to state.

The most common thing that is needed for a background check is a clear criminal history. This is easily checked by running a background check on yourself using a 7 day free trial background check membership.

Keep in mind that all background checks (other than a free membership) when conducted for personal use, will cost a small fee. The depth of the check generally determines how much does a background check cost, but generally, there are many options to pay for a background check.

Of course, what the background check is for will determine exactly what is needed. This full list examines what most professions and industries need from you to perform a background check, so that you can be prepared for any circumstance.

What Information Do You Need For A Background Check?

Depending on what the background check is for and what kind of background check is being performed, there are a few different pieces of information that will be necessary.

So what do you need for a background check? At the very least, many background checks can be performed with just the first and last name of an individual.

This is what would be needed for a name-based check (level 1 background check) that can be used for personal reasons. For example, many of the best background check for dating agencies can run background checks using public information on just about anyone, so long as their first and last name is known.

Keep in mind that running a background check on someone using just their name, whether the person is yourself or someone else, will only turn up part information.

Basically, there are various laws regarding background checks, mainly the FCRA.1 These laws limit the amount of information that can be found on background checks, especially background checks that don’t require the written permission of the individual that is being searched. These name-based personal background checks can still turn up an impressive amount of information. When using one of these services the individual’s name is run through dozens of databases simultaneously, allowing for any and all public information about the individual to be found. This can include addresses, phone numbers, family members, tax records, criminal records, and more.

Fair credit reporting act website screenshot outlining what do you need for a background check, with yellow arrows pointing to information that is accurate and investigating any disputes.

Although plenty of information can be found, it can’t actually be used for a whole lot. Since the written permission of the individual was not given to the person performing the check, the information can not be used for most professional uses.

Without the individual’s social security number and permission, there is also certain information that can’t be gathered such as financial records and credit information.

Checklist: What Information Do You Need For A Personal Background Check?

Information Needed for a Background CheckDetails
NameFirst and Last Name Required
AddressCurrent address helps but not essential
Previous AddressHelps narrow results, but not essential
Date of BirthHelps narrow results, but not essential

What Do You Need To Run A Background Check (What Documents Do You Need For A Background Check)?

When it comes to what you need for a background check, the exact documents needed will depend on the kind of check: personal or professional.

Documents For A Personal Background Check

Most individuals refer to a personal background check as the kind of background check that might be run on someone that an individual met on the internet, or a stranger of some kind. These checks are especially useful for two main reasons: They can be performed online very quickly and they can be performed without the individual knowing.

Personal background checks take advantage of the massive amounts of public information that is accessible via the internet to turn up every instance of a specific person, whether it’s government documents like tax records or social media profiles. Since these checks only turn up public information, the only thing that is needed is the name of the individual.

Related Reading: Find out who lives on my street public records search.

Many websites that perform these checks may request more information such as a city or zip code to ensure that they don’t turn up results of another individual with the same name, but a name should still be enough in most cases.

Documents For Professional Background Checks

There are numerous kinds of professional background checks but the two main categories that most people are familiar with are pre-employment background checks1 and landlord background checks.

Both of these checks will require a few additional pieces of information besides the name of the individual. First, the entity requesting the background check such as the landlord or employer will need the written permission of the individual that they need to check. The entity requesting the check will provide this document and the individual must sign it in order for the background check to proceed. This is done because the individual must give permission to allow the background check service to access confidential information, such as credit information.

Beyond the document giving permission, the minimum documentation that the individual will need to provide is their legal name and social security number. Social Security numbers are used to verify the individual’s identity as well as get access to the aforementioned credit records and other information that is not considered public information but is still relevant to the background check.

Beyond this basic information, individual jobs may ask for more documentation to verify certain aspects of the application. Jobs that require certain licenses or education levels will likely require proof of these, as well as the basic references and past employer information.

Checklist: What Information Do You Need For A Professional Background Check?

Information Needed for a Background CheckDetails
NameFirst and Last Name Required
AddressCurrent address usually required
Previous AddressIf possible
Social Security NumberFor Identity Verification
FingerprintsRequired for Level 2 Background Check
Credit HistoryUsed to ensure responsibility, trustworthiness

Other Types Of Background Checks

Although pre-employment and landlord background checks are the most common, there are tons of other background checks that exist as well that may require other documentation, such as mental health background checks, security clearance background checks, child abuse background checks, and more.

For example, law enforcement or government jobs with a security clearance will require lots of additional information such as contact information for neighbors, family members, and old employers.

Certain jobs may have physical requirements that require things like a vision test, or other medical information provided by a doctor. Many jobs will also require a drug test, in this case, the exact instructions to complete the drug test will be provided by the employer.

Type of Background checkNamePhoto IDSocial Security NumberFingerprints
PersonalYesNoNoNo
Pre-EmploymentYesYesUsuallySometimes
TenantYesYesYes – Required to see credit historyRarely

Do You Need A SSN For A Background Check?

Not all background checks will require a social security number, however, virtually all professional background checks will require an SSN, as it is the only way to verify someone’s identity. Although photo I.D.s can be used to verify an individual’s identity to a certain extent, a social security number is a far more reliable method as photo I.D.s can be faked.

Pre-employment background checks and landlord background checks will always require a social security number so that they can verify the identity of the individual, which is often the first and most basic check for any pre-employment related background check. Even if the business doesn’t perform criminal history checks, they will still likely run an identity verification to ensure they are not paying someone who is using an alias.

Landlords will use social security numbers for the same reason, as well as a way to gain access to credit history information to ensure they don’t have anything in their financial history that would make them a risk as a tenant.

What Do You Need To Run A Background Check For Rental In My Home?

Many individuals who are asking what do you need for a background check are planning to perform a background check on someone else, such as a potential tenant. For an official tenant background check, which will be necessary for a tenant, there are two main things you need.

In order to check the tenant’s background properly, especially their financial information, their social security number and their written permission for the check will be needed. Although there are plenty of online background check services that allow for background checks using only their name, these checks are not official and won’t return the proper financial information.

Related Reading: How Do I Run a Free Rental Background Check on Myself?

The best method to go about all this properly and ensure that no federal or local laws are being violated is to go through an FCRA-approved background check service. A reputable background check service, such as one that specializes in tenant background checks, will be able to guide the landlord through the entire process and ensure that all the proper documentation is acquired before performing the check.

When it comes to landlord and tenant background check laws, local laws can get extremely confusing. This makes it all the more important to go through a service that is already prepared for all the legal obstacles and does everything correctly to avoid any legal issues that can arise from performing a background check incorrectly.

Checklist: What Do You Need For A Tenant Background Check?

Information Needed for a Background CheckDetails
NameFirst and Last Name Required
AddressCurrent address usually required
Previous AddressIf possible
Social Security NumberFor Identity Verification and Credit Check

What Do You Need For A Background Check To Buy A Gun

For a gun background check or a background check for a concealed carry permit, the checks examine nationwide records. For buying a gun, only one form is needed, which will usually be provided by the firearms dealer. The form is known as a Firearms Transaction Record2 and is a short questionnaire that will ask for any and all of the necessary information for the background check to be performed.

Related Reading: How to get a background check for concealed carry permit

The form is fairly simple and asks questions about the individual’s basic information such as name, address, sex, ethnicity, and citizenship status, and questions about criminal history and if there are any outstanding warrants for the individual.

US Dept of Justice Firearms Transaction Record Form screenshot used for gun transfers for information entered into the NICS system.

Once all the information on the form has been filled out the firearms dealer will enter the information in the NICS3 and the FBI will complete the background check in just a few minutes.

Checklist: What Do You Need For A Gun Background Check?

Information Needed for a Background CheckDetails
NameFirst and Last Name Required
AddressCurrent address usually required
Previous AddressIf possible
Social Security NumberFor Identity Verification
FingerprintsFor Identity Verification and NICS Check

What Do You Need For A Background Check Check To Work For City

To work for the local government a basic pre-employment background check is usually required. For this check, only the name and social security number of the individual will be needed, as well as their permission for the check to take place.

Related Reading: How long does a background check take for a government job?

Depending on the city and the position, a fingerprint-based check may be used instead of a name-based check. In this case, the individual will need to get fingerprinted for the check to be completed. Fingerprints for city government jobs will usually be taken at the police station, however, the exact instructions will be provided by the employer in order to obtain official fingerprint records.

Checklist: What Information Do You Need For A City Background Check?

Information Needed for a Background CheckDetails
NameFirst and Last Name Required
AddressCurrent address usually required
Previous AddressIf possible
Social Security NumberFor Identity Verification
FingerprintsRequired for government jobs

What Do You Need For A Criminal Background Check?

When people ask: What do you need for a background check? They are often referring to a criminal history check. Criminal background checks can be completed using just the name of an individual as criminal records are generally public information. Most employers will still request a social security number to perform the check through a background check service.

For more advanced criminal background checks,  fingerprints will also be needed. Fingerprints for background checks are usually taken by the local police, or through the FBI as part of an identity history summary check.4

Checklist: What Information Do You Need For A Criminal Background Check?

Information Needed for a Background CheckDetails
NameFirst and Last Name Required
AddressCurrent address usually required
Previous AddressIf possible
Social Security NumberFor Identity Verification (Not needed for name based checks)
FingerprintsRequired for Level 2 Background Check

What Do You Need For A Real Estate Background Check?

Real estate background checks will vary by who is issuing the real estate license. However, the vast majority of real estate licenses require the individual to undergo a fingerprint-based criminal background check. This means individuals can expect to have to provide their name, social security number, and official fingerprints at the very least.

It’s important to check out the local laws for real estate licenses as they tend to vary from state to state. Even if a fingerprint-based check is required to obtain a real estate license, it is still important to look up the exact requirements as it is usually required that the fingerprints be gathered by a specific agency.

Industry guide screenshot with yellow arrow pointing to heading real estate and mortgages licenses and yellow arrow pointing to buisness requirements for legal standards.

Before applying for a real estate license, it is usually a good idea to run a background check on yourself. Performing a simple name-based background check is extremely easy and will identify any potential problems that may arise during the real estate license process.

Related Reading: Background check for real estate license requirements

Checklist: What Information Do You Need For A Professional Background Check?

Information Needed for a Background CheckDetails
NameFirst and Last Name Required
AddressCurrent address usually required
Previous AddressIf possible
Social Security NumberFor Identity Verification and Credit Check
FingerprintsUsually Required

What Credentials Do You Need For A Background Check?

The credentials needed for a background check vary. To perform a name-based check, no credentials are necessary and anyone is free to access public information or to work with a background check service. In order to access credit information and other information that is normally confidential, FCRA approval is necessary. This is why most individuals choose to go through a background check service, rather than try and perform the background check by themself.

What Kind Of Background Check Do You Need For A Visa?

A visa will generally require a fingerprint-based criminal history check that is performed by the FBI as part of an Identity History Summary Check.

Although it can be useful to obtain a name-based background check or even a fingerprint-based check in order to prepare for the visa process and find out about any information that may impact the visa process, only an official FBI fingerprint check will be accepted.

Related Reading: What’s an international background check?

There are lots of different kinds of background checks out there so things can get very confusing, very quickly. Luckily most background checks don’t require much of the individual being checked. So what do you need for a background check…A name and a social security number are usually enough, although fingerprints are required for certain industries and professions.

Frequently Asked Questions About What Information Do You Need For A Background Check

What Do I Need For A Background Check? (What Is Needed For A Background Check?)

At a minimum a background check will require the name of the individual. In most cases, the individual’s social security number and written permission will also be needed. A name, SSN, and written permission are required for most official background checks. More intensive background checks will also require fingerprints.

What Do You Need To Bring For A Background Check?

It is rare that any documents besides a photo id will be needed for a background check, assuming the individual knows their own SSN.

What Information Is Used For A Background Check?

Only the name, SSN and sometimes the fingerprints of the individual is used for a background check. Most background check databases are online and only require the name of the individual, the Social Security number is used to verify their identity and ensure the name they gave is their real legal name.

What's the Process for a Background Check On Someone In Canada?

A RCMP background check is the only official background check in Canada. Specific steps are outlined on the RCMP website.

How Do You Perform A Background Check on Someone?

Background checks can be performed in multiple ways. The DIY method is usually the cheapest but will also take the longest. Going through a reputable online background check service will be the quickest and most thorough option for non-professional background checks.

What Information Is Needed for Doing a Criminal Background Check?

A criminal background check only needs the name of the individual. Criminal history information is all public information and can be accessed without the individuals permission.

Do You Need to Bring an ID For A Background Check?

Most professional background checks will require a photo ID and a social security number to ensure the individual is who they say they are and so they can perform the background check on the correct person.

What Do You Need to Bring For A Background Check For Employment?

A typical employment background check will require a photo ID, permission of the individual getting checked, and a social security number. Sometimes fingerprints will also be required, however, the employer will provide steps if this is the case.

What Documents Do I Need to Bring For A Background Check?

In some cases the documents you need for a background check include your social security card, driver’s license or state issued Real ID, or a passport.


References

1Federal Trade Commission Protecting America’s Consumers. (2022). Fair Credit Reporting Act. USA.gov. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from <https://www.ftc.gov/legal-library/browse/statutes/fair-credit-reporting-act>

2U.S Department of Justice Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. (2020). Firearms Transaction Record. Firearms Transaction Record. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from <https://www.atf.gov/firearms/docs/4473-part-1-firearms-transaction-record-over-counter-atf-form-53009/download>

3FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2022). National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). FBI.gov. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/nics>

4FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2022). Identity History Summary Checks. FBI.gov. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from <https://www.fbi.gov/services/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks>

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