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What Information Does an FBI Background Check Show?

Posted on by Dawna M. Roberts in CrimeNovember 17, 2020

Many law-abiding citizens have FBI background checks done all the time for various reasons. But have you ever wondered what is included in an FBI background check?

fbi background check

Reasons for an FBI Background Checks

One of the most popular reasons any background check is performed is for the purpose of employment. Government agencies (state, federal, and county) need to protect themselves when hiring new employees.

Depending on the state, some industries must perform a full FBI background check on someone before hiring them. FBI stands for Federal Bureau of Investigation, and they are the federal law enforcement agency.

A few examples would be:

  • Nursing or other hospital staff.
  • Employees who work at a nursing home.
  • Mental health facilities.
  • Transportation companies such a state and local bus companies, especially those who transport school children.
  • The banking industry.
  • Law enforcement.
  • The military.
  • Work in a government agency.

There are also other reasons for a full FBI background check, and they are:

  • Before adopting a child.
  • When you apply to immigrate to the United States
  • Special licensing such as gun carry permits and security clearances.
  • Buying a firearm.

Name Verification vs. Fingerprint Background Check

Although different types of background checks can be performed via either name or fingerprints, the fingerprint method is much more reliable. Criminals may use aliases and incur charges against them under different names, but their fingerprints will tell the whole story.

The FBI requires fingerprints for their background check for an exact match. Sometimes they need paper copies, and in other instances, they may allow you to have your fingerprints scanned at a LiveScan location. The FBI fingerprint lab can process an FBI criminal background check within a few hours rather than business days. They have explicit instructions for getting your fingerprints taken with an approved fingerprinting services agency and only verified fingerprint submissions will be accepted. Although the agency requesting them may do this for you, sometimes they will require you to do the legwork. You may have to fill out a standard fingerprint form, or fingerprint card.

Who Handles FBI Background Checks?

In some cases, state law gives the attorney general the power to perform background checks. According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), the FBI along with other federal agencies (like the Department of Justice) was granted the power to perform background checks for various reasons. In some cases, requestors can contact the Criminal Justice Information Services (FBI CJIS Division) handles a lot of background check results. To learn more, you can visit the U.S. government website pursuant to background checks (

What Does an FBI Background Check Show?

The FBI is responsible for the results of a background check, and one false move could mean someone’s life. Therefore, they take these background checks very seriously and are extremely thorough. They compile a complete report, including the following items:

Criminal History

One of the most important aspects of any background check is a look at someone’s criminal history record. The FBI has access to criminal records from all over the country and can match fingerprints with any arrests, warrants, convictions, incarcerations, and even dismissed charges. Some of the items a criminal background check will show are:

  • DUIs.
  • Violent crimes.
  • Arrests.
  • Convictions.
  • Misdemeanors.
  • Felonies.
  • Domestic violence.
  • Sentencing.
  • Probation.
  • Parole.
  • RAP sheet.
  • Court-ordered service or programs.
  • Sex offenses.
  • Police records and complaints.
  • Identity history summary check.
  • Personal review.

Even if the person in question has had their criminal records sealed or expunged, the FBI can still access that data and see their entire history. Requestors can pay for an FBI background check (hard copy) using credit card or money order.

How far back does an FBI background check go?

Typically, they will go back seven years except for violent and serious crimes, then they would go back further.

Credit Report and History

Depending on the circumstances, your credit history and reports may also be pulled to determine your risk factor and how responsible you are with your money and paying off debts. It’s important to keep a clean credit history and check your reports regularly for any fraud or identity theft. If you are applying for a job in finance, your credit report may be valuable to your potential employer.

Arrests & Warrants that Did Not Result in a Conviction

Sometimes people are arrested, and then the charges may be dropped. In some cases, the person was arrested in error; in other cases, the arrest may be dropped for different reasons. Even if the arrest did not result in a conviction, those records remain in the system and would be of interest to an FBI agent checking your history.

They will also check to see if you have any outstanding warrants, even if it is just a bench warrant for not showing up in court.

Housing/Address History

Another aspect of an FBI record check takes a look at your address history. Agents can tell a lot of information about someone from how often they move and where.

The FBI may also interview friends, family, neighbors, and acquaintances to get a sense of your personality and how they view you. This information comes in handy when approving you for security clearance or licensure. 

fbi background check

Driving Records

Another important part of an FBI background check is your driving record . The report may include any DUIs, traffic tickets, parking tickets, other driving infractions, citations, warnings, license points, and all other driving-related issues that a potential employer needs to be aware of before offering you a position.

Personal Information

Along with the deep dive, the FBI will also collect the basic personal identification records on you like:

  • Name(s)
  • Date of birth.
  • Legal name changes.
  • Assets (property owned).
  • Divorces and marriages.
  • Driver’s license ID.
  • Taxes.
  • Etc.

A full FBI background report may include some or all of these sections. It may also have additional information pertinent to the purpose of the background check.

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