How Long Does a Background Check Take in 2023 (Timeline)


How Long Does a Background Check Take

Employers use background checks to verify identity, review criminal records, and disclose employment history that may be missing from your resume.

Here’s a background check timeline to provide an idea around when you should hear back about those important results.

Questions Answered:

  • What is an employment background check
  • How long does a background check take
  • Potential delays in receiving the results
  • How far back do background checks go
  • How do I know if I passed my background check?

What is an employment background check?

Employment background checks typically review a person’s financial records, driving records, and criminal background prior to making a job offer. A common practice amongst most organizations. 

How Long Does a Background Check Take?

Dependent upon the information a company needs, a background check can process in minutes, or it can take weeks to see results (typical employment background checks send results within 1 to 5 business days).

There are different types of background checks. Each has its timeline and requires communication from a variety of sources. Criminal background check. Federal background check. Fingerprint background check

Criminal Background Check Timeline

Criminal background checks may take between one and three business days. However, dependent upon the database hosting the search, results may process within minutes.

Many employers utilize verified background check providers who have access to specialized databases that reveal basic information instantly. Basic searches provide input using a person’s Social Security Number to run through a national criminal database search.

Criminal background checks may include state and federal sex offender registries, county court records, terrorist watch lists.

Federal Background Check Timeline

Federal background checks can process slowly and take up to a few weeks.

Anyone applying for a job with the federal government will have to pass a federal employment background check that looks for federal criminal law violations like tax evasion and identity theft. 

Federal security clearances are given only after the successful completion of a federal background check. Federal security clearances are issued at three levels:

  1. Confidential
  2. Secret
  3. Top Secret

Background checks for Confidential and Secret clearance take between one and three months. Top Secret clearances take between four and eight months, and in certain cases, upwards of a year.

Fingerprint Background Check Timeline

A fingerprint background check scans and compares your fingerprints against the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) database.

The FBI manages the IAFIS, which contains copies of more than 35 million American citizens. 

Fingerprint background checks are typically run in addition to an employment background check—government institutions like airports, schools, law enforcement agencies, and emergency response services. 

If your fingerprints are successfully matched, a response is typically issued within three days. 


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Far Back do Background Checks Go?

Organizations requesting an employment background check will typically cover the previous seven years of the candidates criminal and court records.

These screenings do vary by location with some states having the ability to share information that’s up to ten years old.

How do I know if I passed my background check?

You will receive the results of your background test via phone call or email from the testing lab or employer you are looking to work for. If you passed, the hiring company will often forgo letting you know and instead go straight to a job offer.

What are some possible Delays and Setbacks?

Background checks can be delayed for several reasons. If you have been waiting longer than five days for a general background check, any one of the following could be the reason.

  • Inaccurate and incomplete request forms (written consent is necessary for employers to begin a background check).
  • County court records aren’t digitized and need to be searched manually by a county clerk.
  • Name changes or variances over time. 
  • The recruiting firm or employer has simply not had the time to got back to you yet
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Wrapping Up | background check timeline

To speed up the background check process for a new job, make sure you’ve filled out all of the necessary authorization paperwork accurately.

  • For standard criminal background checks (which is the primary focus on the potential employer), prepare to wait 1 – 3 Business Days
  • For federal background checks, prepare to wait 2+ Weeks
  • For fingerprint background checks, prepare to wait 3 – 5 Business Days

It’s important to know that you may not hear back from the employer right away after your background check results are finalized.

If others are being considered for the position, employers may wait until they are all complete before they move forward in the process.

Stay patient, but if you haven’t heard back or received an update after an extended period of time, feel free to reach out and ask for the status of your checkup.

We hope this helps and everything comes back great. Good luck with the job search!

Title: How Long Does a Background Check Take in 2023

Category: theFinish

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Author: Reid is a contributor to theJub. He’s an employment and marketing enthusiast who studied business before taking on various recruiting, management, and marketing roles. More from the author. | Author Profile

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