How to Obtain a Fingerprint Criminal Background Check

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A fingerprint criminal background check starts with a set of fingerprints that are compared to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's database of criminal history records. Getting a fingerprint background check requires you to have your fingerprints taken and to pay the required fees.

Certain jobs require more than just an application and interview. Some jobs also require that you obtain a fingerprint criminal background check. A fingerprint criminal background check lets a potential employer learn about anything in your past that could make you unsuitable for a job. If you get asked by an employer to get one, how to get a fingerprint background check is a straightforward process.

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Your fingerprint criminal background check is usually valid for two years once you complete it.

When Do You Need a Fingerprint Background Check?

Not all jobs require you to submit to a fingerprint background check. However, if you are trying to get a job that requires security clearances or involves working with children or with other people's finances, you will probably be asked to submit to a fingerprint criminal background check.

Also, certain state licenses, such as teacher's certifications, mortgage brokers and medical licenses, are not awarded until the candidate has passed a fingerprint criminal background check.

You may also be asked to complete a fingerprint criminal background check for other positions, such as:

  • Volunteering with an organization that works with children
  • Becoming a foster parent or adoptive parent
  • Contracting with a school district
  • Airport staff positions
  • Becoming a caretaker for a child or senior

How Does a Fingerprint Criminal Background Check Work?

Through a fingerprint criminal background check, a set of your fingerprints are compared to your state's records, as well as to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's database of criminal history records, also known as the FBI Identification Record database.

If your fingerprints match those of any prints on record, the report that your prospective employer or licensing agency receives will include the date of your arrest, the charges against you and the resulting sentence or fines. Usually, the results of a fingerprint criminal background check come back in around two weeks and are valid for about two years.

How to Get a Fingerprint Background Check

If you’re wondering how to get a fingerprint background check, you should first make sure that you are required to get one. Your potential employer will let you know. To get a fingerprint background check, you must:

  • Get the needed form from your potential employer or state licensing agency
  • Go to a designated location to get your fingerprints taken (this is usually done by live scan of each fingerprint, though older stamp methods may be used)
  • Pay the required fees, which vary by state 

When you get your fingerprints taken, be sure to have a valid ID with you. It may also be helpful to make an appointment to reduce your wait time. Many places that do fingerprinting allow you to preregister online.

Where Can I Get a Fingerprint Background Check?

Once you know you need a fingerprint background check, you may be wondering where you need to go to get this done. Your potential employer may send you to a specific place to get a fingerprint background check. Many places around the country provide fingerprint live scans, which you can often find by a quick Zip code search.

If you are unable to access one of the live scan locations, you can always go to your local law enforcement agency and request a fingerprint check. If you opt for this method, you typically will be required to do a stamp of each finger on a fingerprint card and then physically mail in the completed card.

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About the Author

Leslie Bloom earned a J.D. from U.C. Davis’ King Hall, with a focus on public interest law. She is a licensed attorney who has done advocacy work for children and women. She holds a B.S. in print journalism, and has more than 20 years of experience writing for a variety of print and online publications, including the Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy.