How Long Does a Background Check Take?

How long does a background check take to process? Any prudent recruiter will do a background check. This is vital to weed out any applicant who may be an incompatible match for the position or who may provide no value to the company. From the candidate's standpoint, this is a positive indication, as a background check is almost often the final stage before an offer letter is expected.

how long does a background check take

What is included in a background check?

A background check verifies the accuracy of the information contained in a candidate's résumé. Throughout the recruiting process, the recruiter gathers information on the candidate. These considerations may include but are not limited to, education, previous work history, criminal records, motor vehicle or license history checks, and credit history. These considerations include the following:

Verification of identity

As with many other criteria, turnaround time for identity verification varies significantly. While some companies may only want your passport or driver's license information, others may do a full inquiry using Social Security number tracking.

how long does a background check take

Verification of employment

This type of verification may take two to four days, or maybe longer, since the recruiter must contact all previous companies or their human resources people. Thus, the more occupations an applicant has changed, the more time-consuming the procedure gets. If the applicant has worked in other countries, the background check may take between one and two weeks. The candidate should anticipate signing a release document authorizing the firm to obtain the necessary information.

Verification of academic credentials

This verification entails comparing a candidate's educational background on their résumé against data from relevant institutions and colleges. It's a time-consuming process that also needs the candidate to sign a release document. A background check of this nature may take several days.

how long does a background check take

Criminal background checks

This check may take a large amount of time. If a candidate's criminal history is restricted to a single state or nation of origin, the background check may take between one and two working days. Verifying overseas records, on the other hand, takes significantly longer. This procedure can take up to or exceed 20 days if the individual has emigrated or worked in many countries.

how long does a background check take

Verification of professional certification

This form of check include verifying any trade group affiliations as well as any certification or licensing authorization checks. Verification of these professional records may take up to two business days on average.

how long does a background check take

Examinations of credit

This background check is designed to obtain an overview of the applicant's credit history. It typically takes between two and four days after validating information with credit bureaus.

Checks of the global watch list

This type of background check is particularly important for employees in any level of government. References for alleged terrorists and con artists are widely accessible. As a result, this search might be completed in a single day.

how long does a background check take

Vehicle inspections

Due to insurance implications, your company is accountable for you, even more so if you are on the road for business purposes. Employers will then do this sort of check to guarantee that they hire someone who is responsible behind the wheel and to help them save money on insurance.

how long does a background check take

Employers do background checks for a variety of reasons

The background check is a critical part of the pre-employment screening process since it reduces the possibility of employing hazardous or dishonest individuals. Hiring the incorrect individual as a result of a hurried or ineffective background check might result in lost productivity and perhaps an unwanted lawsuit. Hiring a candidate who lacks valid residence documents in the United States can result in fines of up to $10,000 per employee.

As a result, effective screening of applicants is critical once they have passed the initial round of interviews. Additionally, it ensures that companies avoid wasting time rehiring for the same position after discovering disqualifying facts during the hiring process.

how long does a background check take

How long does it take to conduct a background check?

Candidates, understandably, may be curious about the duration of job background checks. However, there is not always a straightforward solution. This is because, as previously said, each background check is unique. A background check should typically take between two and five business days to complete. Having stated that, each individual's past is unique, and some variables may extend this span.

how long does a background check take

Fortunately, there are two primary methods for avoiding process delays. To begin, if both the employer and candidate work hard to complete the necessary release paperwork and authorizations, the procedure will go more easily. Second, applicants may avoid delays by ensuring that all information supplied is true and accurate to the best of their knowledge.

Criminal background check turnaround time

The term "employment background check" is frequently used interchangeably with "criminal history check" in various job contexts. A criminal background check is the most prevalent sort of pre-employment background inquiry, which is why the two names are used interchangeably. As such, when individuals inquire about the length of time required for checks, they are frequently talking to criminal background checks.

The response varies according to the following factors:

  • The number of stages included in the criminal check.
  • The type of criminal records reports ordered.
  • Whether the procedure includes any foreign searches.

Normally reports return within 1-3 business days for information that is not kept in our computerized database. This timeline applies to criminal searches conducted at the county level, state level, and federal level. The largest variety occurs at the state level, with some jurisdictions processing criminal checks in one business day and others requiring several weeks.

If the criminal screening procedure is extended, the overall wait time will increase. For example, some companies do alias and address history checks prior to ordering more criminal records. Employers can use this information to choose which states or counties to target with their background checks. US AliasSEARCH and US OneTRACE are the most common ways to receive background checks. Following receipt of the results, it is up to the employer to analyze them and develop a strategy for conducting background checks.

International status is the biggest unknown when it comes to criminal check turnaround time. If the company requires foreign criminal background checks, you may normally add two or three weeks to the timeline.

Is it feasible for background checks to be delayed?

The reasons for background check delays are often predictable and hence controllable. In other instances, they are unpredictable and are a natural part of the process. Candidates can take the following precautions to avoid delays:

Provide correct data. As indicated previously, if the employer provides the third-party investigation agency with erroneous information, the check may take longer to complete. Correcting information requires more time.

Sign all authorizations and release documents. Signing all release forms is required by law, and it gives academic institutions and previous employers the authority to provide information swiftly.

Unfortunately, there are situations when candidates have no control over a situation. Among the most prevalent are the following:

  • Many residences: If a candidate has lived in multiple locations or changed employment often, reference checks may take longer due to the requirement to contact numerous sources.
  • Absence of a paper trail: Occasionally, educational institutions lack digitized records or, worse, cease to exist entirely.

If the candidate has worked or studied in various countries, the recommendation procedure may take longer than typical.

how long does a background check take

  • Verification of names: As easy as it sounds, name misunderstanding can result in delays. By providing all known identities and aliases for points of contact, this sort of delay may be minimized.
  • Multiple continuing background checks: Often, delays occur because another candidate's background check is simultaneously underway, and the company desires to have both checks completed prior to making an offer.

Turnaround times for other types of record checks

For job background checks that include searches beyond criminal records, the number of days required to conduct the checks might vary even more. Below, we'll discuss the other major sorts of checks used in the job screening process, along with their typical return times.

Checks on driving records

A motor vehicle report will take between 1-3 business days. However, the timing varies by state, since each state and its Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMVs) conduct checks and return information differently. Occasionally, the procedure may take many weeks.

Credit histories and credit checks

Credit checks should typically be instantaneous. To purchase this sort of check for employment purposes, a business must first submit an application to become an End User of "Consumer Credit Reports for Employment Purposes, Tenant Screening, or Franchise Screening." This application and approval procedure might extend the process by up to 14 days.

Due to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), companies are required to adhere to stringent requirements regarding the accuracy of these reports.

Civil court background check

The length of time required to conduct a civil court search varies according on whether the court is a county or federal court. Civil court checks process in 5-7 days. Federal courts process cases more quickly, typically within 1-2 days.

Federal criminal record checks

Employment background checks often take between a few days and a few weeks to complete. Federal background checks might take anything from a few weeks to a few months to complete.

Applicants must pass a federal employment background check before to commencing work with the federal government — or even a contractual position. The background check is intended to guarantee that each applicant is "reliable, trustworthy, morally upright, and devoted to the United States." Passing the check entitles the candidate to a government position and a federal security clearance in some situations. The duration of the background check is contingent upon the degree of permission necessary for the employment.

Not all federal government occupations require a security clearance. Typically, these do not contain a pretty normal employment background check, which includes criminal history checks and employment verifications. These checks will take the same amount of time as a standard background check. If the employment needs access to sensitive or classified information, a security clearance background check will be completed. This check will greatly lengthen the processing duration of the background check by adding multiple stages. Clearance checks usually include interviews with the job candidate's contacts, which may include spouses, family members, neighbors, and roommates.

Clearances granted by the federal government are categorized as Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret. For the first two categories, background checks normally take between one and three months. Top Secret background checks are more thorough than ordinary background checks and can take twice as long.

Typically, Top Secret background checks take four to eight months but have been known to take up to a year in other instances. If you possess:

  • If you have lived or worked overseas, traveled significantly outside the country, or have relatives who are foreign nationals or who have spent substantial time outside the country, your background check will almost certainly take longer.
  • Historically, the federal government has faced with substantial backlogs in background checks, which adds additional time to the clock.

Common FAQ's

Common questions from job seekers and employees.

How long does a pre-employment background check take?

Employers can either undertake the process in-house or contract with background checking firms to get pertinent information about a particular candidate. It typically takes two to three working days but depending on a variety of conditions, it might take months to finish.

What shows up in a background check for a job?

Pre-employment screening is a vital component of the recruiting process. The majority of background investigations include criminal history, schooling, verification of past employment, and reference checks. The results of drug tests may also be included in background check reports.

Why would a background check take longer than expected?

When crucial applicant information such as the applicant's name, date of birth, and social security number is absent, background screening businesses have difficulty tracing the applicant. As a result, they take longer to locate the subject. Occasionally, applicant information contains errors.

How common are pre-employment background checks?

The background check process is fairly common amongst employers. The background screening process typically looks for education history, employment history, and any criminal reports of a job applicant. Close to 95% of all employees in the United States have their background screened at some point in their career path.

How long does a background check take in California?

At least one county on the County Criminal Record Check needs tangible records to be searched by a clerk. County courts have delays as a result of court staffing and backlog issues, such as seasonal recruiting surges.

How long does a background check take in Texas?

In the state of Texas, employer-generated criminal background checks can delve seven years into an applicant's criminal and personal history.

How long does a background check take for Walmart?

A normal background check at Walmart can take between three and thirty days. This is contingent upon the position for which you are applying and the checks that Walmart wishes to do. It can take up to a week to complete a criminal and personal background check.

How long does a background check take for a government job?

It varies according to the position for which you are seeking. A background check can take between three and nine months. The level of the position for which you are applying and the level of security clearance required (if any) will determine the length of the process.

What are common reasons that a background check could take longer than expected?

The two most common causes of delay are both within the control of the employer. One is due to incorrect or incomplete check request forms, and the other is due to the job candidate failing to sign the required authorization and release paperwork.

Related resources

author: patrick algrim
About the author

Patrick Algrim is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW), NCDA Certified Career Counselor (CCC), and general career expert. Patrick has completed the NACE Coaching Certification Program (CCP). And has been published as a career expert on Forbes, Glassdoor, American Express, Reader's Digest, LiveCareer, Zety, Yahoo,, SparkHire,,, FairyGodBoss,, St. Edwards University, NC State University,, Thrive Global,, Work It Daily, Workology, Career Guide, MyPerfectResume, College Career Life, The HR Digest, WorkWise, Career Cast, Elite Staffing, Women in HR, All About Careers, Upstart HR, The Street, Monster, The Ladders, Introvert Whisperer, and many more. Find him on LinkedIn.

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