How Long Does a Background Check Take?

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  • How Long Does a Background Check Take?
18 Jun, 2024
Daniel Cohen
8 min
315
man looking at his watches waiting for background check

Consumer Attorneys explains the time it takes for background checks to complete and what you can expect along the way.

Applying for a new job or apartment is exciting, but sometimes that excitement is dampened by the looming prospect of a dreaded background check. Background check delays can be even more of a downer! Discover the typical duration of various background checks, why yours may be delayed, and how Consumer Attorneys can provide assistance.

Background checks are an integral part of the employment and housing process. If you’ve recently applied for a job or filled out a rental application, chances are, you will be required to complete a background check before being allowed to rent or offered a job. So, if you’re questioning how long background checks take, you’ve come to the right place! 

The time it usually takes for a background check can differ due to various factors such as the type of screening being conducted, the company used for the screening, whether the employer requires multiple screenings, and if you’ve changed your name recently or had multiple addresses. Keep reading to learn how much time is needed to perform different types of background checks. And what types of delays you may encounter before you receive background check results. 

Please keep in mind that normal delays are expected (holidays, etc.). However, if you discover unreasonable delays due to errors or any other FCRA violations, you should contact a background check attorney immediately! 

How Long Does a Background Check Take

How long it takes for a background check to come back will depend on several factors. Nevertheless, most standard background check results turn around within 24-72 hours. For more in-depth and complicated searches it can take several weeks or months to complete.

Type of screenings - Average turnaround time 

Type of Background CheckDescriptionAverage Turnaround Time
Background Check Level 2Extensive background check including fingerprinting and thorough criminal history, often for positions of trust.3 to 14 business days
Civil Litigation CheckSearches for any civil lawsuits or legal disputes involving the individual.2 to 5 business days
Credit CheckAssesses the individual's credit history and financial reliability.Instant to 1 business day
Criminal Background CheckGeneral term for a search of an individual's criminal history.1 to 3 business days
Criminal History CheckSearches for criminal records at local, state, and federal levels.1 to 3 business days
Driving Record CheckReviews the individual's driving history for violations and accidents.1 to 3 business days
Education VerificationConfirms educational qualifications and degrees.2 to 5 business days
Employment Background CheckChecks related to current or prospective employment, including criminal, employment, and education.2 to 5 business days
Employment History VerificationVerifies past employment details provided by the individual.2 to 5 business days
FBI Background CheckNational checks conducted by the FBI, often using fingerprints, includes a full criminal history.3 to 7 business days
Federal Background CheckIn-depth background check for federal positions, includes criminal, employment, and education checks.4 to 7 business days
Fingerprint Background Check- electronicUses fingerprints to search state and national databases for criminal records.1 to 3 business days (electronic)
Fingerprint Background Check-paper & inkUses fingerprints to search state and national databases for criminal records.

1 to 4 weeks

(Paper and ink)

FCRA Compliant Background CheckBackground check that complies with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulations, includes proper notifications and consent.3 to 5 business days
Government Background CheckDetailed background check often required for government positions, includes multiple checks like criminal, employment, and education.4 to 7 business days
Identity VerificationConfirms the person's identity using name, date of birth, and social security number.Instant to 1 business day
International Background CheckConducts similar checks in foreign countries if the individual has lived or worked abroad.5 to 10 business days
Job Background CheckGeneral term for background checks conducted by employers, includes criminal, employment, and education checks.2 to 5 business days
Pre-Employment Background CheckComprehensive check before hiring, including criminal, employment, education, and sometimes credit.3 to 5 business days
Professional License VerificationConfirms the validity of any professional licenses the individual claims to hold.1 to 3 business days
Reference CheckContacts personal or professional references to verify the individual’s character and past behavior.2 to 5 business days
Sex Offender Registry CheckChecks whether the individual is listed on sex offender registries.Instant to 1 business day
Social Media and Online Presence CheckReviews the individual's social media profiles and online activity.1 to 3 business days
Standard Background CheckChecks multiple records like identity, criminal history, employment verification, reference and education checks.1 to 7 business days
State Background CheckSearches state-level criminal records and other relevant state databases.1 to 3 business days
Tenant Background CheckChecks tenants’ credit, criminal history, rental history, eviction records, sex offender registries, and verifies identity1 to 7 business days

Please be mindful that the turnaround times listed in the chart are “average times” and often vary based on the background screening company conducting the search, the complexity of the search, and the responsiveness of third parties.

Irrespective of the type of screening or the turnaround time, the FCRA gives consumers background check rights. 

How Long Does a Criminal Background Check Take?

A criminal background check usually takes around 3 business days on average. Nevertheless, sometimes there are delays or applicants with lengthy criminal records and it may take a week or two to complete. Holidays and weekends do not count as business days.

How Long Does an Employment Background Check Take?

Generally, an employment background check, on average, takes 2-5 business days to complete. Every background check company is different. Some background check companies will promise “immediate” turnaround times and others may ask for at least a week to complete if the applicant has an extensive past employment and education history to review. 

How Long Does an Employment Verification Take?

It’s important to note that there is a difference between employment background checks and employment verifications. Employment background checks are usually comprehensive and check several things like an applicant’s references, education, and criminal records. In contrast, employment verification is most often used to check someone’s work history in comparison to the jobs listed on their resumes. Employment verifications generally take around the same amount of time as an employment background check, usually 2-5 business days.

How Long Does a Federal Background Check Take?

In order to understand the length of time it takes for a federal background screening; we should start by first answering “What is a federal background check?” A Federal background check is a detailed and comprehensive search required for most Federal jobs. There are some Federal background checks that are standard and the turnaround time is much quicker for these, usually 4 to 7 business days. Also, some Federal background checks like security clearance searches may take several weeks or months to complete due to the nature of the search. On average, it will take up to a week to complete a stand federal search.

How Long Does a Fingerprint Background Check Take?

Turnaround times for fingerprint background checks depend on whether electronic or paper submissions are made. Most electronic submissions turn around within 1-3 business days but can take paper and ink submissions anywhere from 1 to 4 weeks to complete. 

How Long Do Other Types of Background Checks Take?

Most background checks take around 2-7 business days to complete. These include employment background checks, reference checks, and sex offender registry checks. For more comprehensive searches like security clearance (those required for specialized federal positions) will take several weeks to months to complete. Security clearance checks and those requiring a deep dive into an applicant’s entire life (including every address they’ve ever lived at, and more) will take much longer than a standard employment background screening. Usually, security clearance background checks are required for jobs like those for the Department of Homeland Security, military positions, and others requiring commitment to protect sensitive information.

Additionally, international background checks can take a longer time to process because they check information about applicants in countries outside of the United States and require more intricate screening. For more information, be sure to review the background check screening chart and turnaround times mentioned above. 

Why Is My Background Check Taking So Long?

If your background check for employment or any other screening is taking a long time to come back, it could be due to delays caused by technical errors, hard-to-find information, holidays or other internal delays or errors.

Main Reasons for a Delay

The biggest reasons behind extended background check delays include:

1.    Incorrect and inaccurate information

2.    Court delays and holidays

3.    Complex files

4.    Technical issues

5.    Security clearance requirements

6.    Human errors

There can be a lot of moving parts during the background check process. Sometimes holidays and jurisdictional delays can slow down the screening process. Other times, applicants with complex histories and backgrounds require additional steps. A delayed background check is not always cause for concern. However, if you experience background check delays caused by errors or any illegal activity on the part of the screening company, you have a legal right to hold the background check company responsible. This applies to both background screenings for jobs and tenant screenings for rentals. 

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Daniel Cohen is the Founding Partner of Consumer Attorneys
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Daniel Cohen
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Daniel Cohen is the Founder of Consumer Attorneys. Daniel manages the firm’s branding, marketing, client intake and business development efforts. Since 2017, he is a member of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the National Consumer Law Center. Mr. Cohen is a nationally-recognized practitioner of consumer protection law. He has a wealth of proven legal experience in the US in: collective claims, representing visually impaired people who believe their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act have been violated in both the physical and digital environments, corporate governance and dispute resolution. Read more

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