How Long Does It Take to Complete a Background Check

Background Check

By Ahad Waseem

For conducting a background investigation, how much time should you set aside? The duration can vary depending on factors such as the type of check being conducted, the availability of pertinent information, and the specific details requested. This means that the process could take anywhere from a few minutes to up to five business days.

It’s important to determine the average timeframe needed to complete a background check and what steps should be taken if it exceeds expectations. If you’re looking for a speedy and reliable background check service, consider giving BeenVerified a try.

How Long Does a Background Check Take?

There’s a wide range of background check types, each with its own turnaround time that depends on the specifics of the information being requested, the limitations of the data source, and the relevant legislation.

Depending on the needs, a background check can be finished in about a minute or take up to five business days.

It may take more time if professional license certifications, universities, and previous recruiters need to be contacted for help or if manual searches are required.

Read on for details on how long it usually takes for common background checks to be completed, why they’re conducted, how to get the information, and what could cause a delay.

TL;DR: Use our suggested background check services if you’re seeking quick background checks that only take a few minutes to deliver thorough results:

  • BeenVerified – Best Background Check Overall
  • TruthFinder – Best for Public Records Search
  • Intelius – Best for Ease of Use
  • Instant Checkmate – Extensive Database

Disclaimer: The background check services mentioned above are not FCRA-compliant. Hence, we don’t recommend using their service or the information they provide to make decisions about consumer credit, employment, insurance, tenant screening, or any other purpose that would require FCRA compliance.

What Is a Background Check, and How Long Should It Take?

A person or organization may do a background check if they want to verify information on a target. A person’s criminal record, career and educational history, credit report, and drug test results could all play a role.

The objective of a background check is to verify the subject’s credibility and qualifications.

Many factors, such as the nature of the check, the depth of the inquiry, the accuracy of the information provided, and the firm performing the check, might affect how long it takes to complete a background check.


Background checks can take anything from a few minutes to a few days to complete, depending on their scope and complexity. Nevertheless, international background checks and other more in-depth checks might take much longer.

The time it takes to do a background check can vary depending on the work type and the position being filled. Other industries, like the healthcare and education sectors, have stricter requirements and may require more time to complete a background check.

It’s important to remember that the time it takes to do a background check may vary depending on whether the company is required to comply with local, state, or federal regulations. 

Further delays may occur if more information is needed or if the person being checked has lived in multiple locations.

What Are Turnaround Times for Employment Background Checks?

Based on the depth and breadth of the information, a background check can be finished in as little as a minute or as long as five business days.

It could take longer if you need to look into things by hand or get help from other organizations like government agencies, educational institutions, or former employers.

A background check is commonly performed on job applicants. To maintain a risk-free work environment, many companies now routinely subject their staff to random drug testing and background checks.

A recruiter may look into your past jobs, schools attended, credit history, driving record, criminal history, medical history, and social media usage and even submit you to a drug test as part of a background check.

Disclaimer: The background check services mentioned above are not FCRA-compliant. Hence, we don’t recommend using their service or the information they provide to make decisions about consumer credit, employment, insurance, tenant screening, or any other purpose that would require FCRA compliance.

What Are Turnaround Times for Criminal Background Checks?

The typical turnaround time for a criminal background check is one to three business days; however, this can be significantly reduced depending on the searched database, such as the National Crime Database.

Instant background check services typically provide turnaround time frames. Basic information that can be found online through specialized databases that any credible background check company has access to is what the results boil down to.

Searches of the national criminal database, the sex offender registry, and other basic databases are typically included.

As a result of the ease with which a background check service may procure this data, turnaround times are typically very short.

What Are Turnaround Times for Federal Background Checks?

Criminal background checks can include searching sex offender databases, county criminal court records, watch lists for domestic and international terrorist organizations, and federal and state criminal records.

Further searches of these databases may take one to three days, depending on the requirements of a manual search. One day is the average turnaround time for a federal background check.

A federal background check will search the 94 federal courts in the United States for convictions for federal crimes such as tax evasion, mail fraud, embezzlement, identity theft, interstate trafficking, and offenses committed on government property.

To get a full picture of an applicant’s criminal history, many companies search federal and state databases. 

This is especially common when hiring for positions involving significant public trusts, such as chief executive officer or certified public accountant (CPA).

Or someone with access to private financial information without first undergoing a state-level background check because federal checks only look for federally prosecuted crimes.

Depending on state laws and individual circumstances, the check may contain records from as far back as seven years.

Turnaround Time for Fingerprint Background Checks

Criminal Record

To do a fingerprint background check, your fingerprints must be submitted to and compared against an IAFIS fingerprint database maintained by the FBI which contains the fingerprints of over 35 million Americans. 

If there’s a good match, you will hear back from us within three days. A fingerprint background check is widely used with other types of background checks.

A fingerprint check is required to enter any government-run building, including schools, airports, police stations, fire stations, and hospitals. Companies that deal with minors, the elderly, or the disabled may require a fingerprint background check.

Your prints may need to be processed more slowly, or you may need to start over if their quality is subpar. It may take longer if your fingerprints have a criminal history.

If you’ve never had your fingerprints taken before, the check will simply come back empty, and your prints will be forwarded to the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS).

Other Types of Background Checks, and How Long They Take

Identity Verification

The most basic form of due diligence is checking one’s identity. The candidate’s identity is verified to be who they claim to be.

The applicant’s submitted identifying information (name, Social Security number, etc.) is verified via these checks to ensure its completeness and validity (SSN). An often-utilized strategy for this purpose is SSN tracing.

Education Verification

The applicant’s academic credentials are checked by examining their transcripts and diplomas. In most cases, the degrees earned and schools attended will be checked in a background check of this type. The grade point average may also be listed.

Licensing Verification


Before recruiting a new employee, ensure they have all the necessary certificates and licenses for the job.

This usually entails contacting the relevant licensing body to verify the employee’s license status and expiration date.

Employment Verification

Some businesses opt to look into the employment records of applicants. Calling the candidate’s previous employers is a standard practice in order to verify employment dates.

Remember that the information gleaned from a typical background check on employment is limited. The vast majority of companies will merely verify an employee’s dates of employment and, on rare occasions, determine if they’re hireable.

If you want to ask further performance-based questions, you should ask the applicant for references you can call to learn more about their previous performance.

Driving Record Checks

If the employee uses their own automobile for business, you should obtain a motor vehicle record (MVR) report to verify their driving history.

The applicant’s driving history, including any violations or accidents, can be seen on their Motor Vehicle Record (MVR). In addition, it includes information regarding the driver’s license, such as its expiration date, suspension history, and CDL details.

Credit Background Checks

A credit check can reveal a lot about a candidate’s financial history and where they stand financially at the present. These reports, like financial and lending-related credit checks, are based on information purchased from credit bureaus.

This type of examination is extremely risky for small businesses.

Reviewing a candidate’s credit history can tell you a lot about their financial troubles and sense of responsibility with money if they will have access to a large sum of cash or secret corporate or customer financial information.

Yet, this is the background check that’s limited most by law.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act governs how businesses can use credit checks in the recruiting process (FCRA).

If you conduct a credit check on a potential employee and then decide not to hire them, there’s a certain process you must follow. Consent on a release form is required.

If you decide not to move further with a candidate based on the results of a credit check, you must give them notice and a copy of the credit report. They can then explain themselves or correct any mistakes that were made.

Why Is My Background Check Taking So Long?

Have a few weeks elapsed since you requested a background check but heard nothing back? Don’t be anxious. The following are some reasons for the holdup:

  • Certain information in your background check doesn’t match, so it takes time
  • There was a holdup in contacting the background check company
  • A copy of your background check has been provided to the recruiting manager, but no decisions have been made as of yet

The first could be that a record from a county court is still pending while conducting a background check.

When a company needs access to criminal records, for instance, the procedure can take longer if the county in question doesn’t have the digital resources or if the courthouse does not have enough staff. In this instance, all you can do is wait.

Waiting around also becomes a part of the process if the company is investigating multiple applicants at once. 

In spite of the fact that you passed the background check with flying colors, the company will consider other factors, such as your qualifications.

You may be contacted if there are problems authenticating your information or if a photograph of your identification documents (such as a driver’s license or Social Security card) isn’t included. 

Keep an eye on your inbox, particularly the spam folder, in case there are any inquiries pertaining to the background check.

Possible Reasons for a Delay

Following are a few potential causes for a background check delay if it’s taking over three to five days:

  • To provide the recruiter with the information they need, the background check service may need to consult several databases and other information sources, some of which may take longer to search or verify than others (for example, a candidate’s educational institutions).
  • Most often, delays occur because a recruiter didn’t get the authorization and release paperwork signed by an applicant, as needed by federal law, or because a check request form was inaccurate or incomplete.
  • Most county court records have not been digitized as of yet. Thus, those searches are usually done manually by a county clerk or a court runner. 

Depending on the county and the case specifics, the manual search process could take anywhere from three to thirty days.

  • If you’ve spent any time at all studying or working overseas within the past 10 years (or less for some companies), you may be subject to an international background check.
  • These inspections usually take four to five days, give or take, based on how cooperative the country is. The procedure could take up to 20 days to wrap up in countries with stringent data protection rules.
  • If you use an alias or a variant of your name, such as Steve, Steven, or Stephen, the background check agency may have to manually verify your identity, which may cause a delay in the procedure.

If your name appears in a record that belongs to someone else with the same or a similar name, or if you’ve used a different name in the past, your background check may take longer than expected.

Bottom Line on How Long Does a Background Check Take 

The time it takes to complete a background check might vary depending on the depth and breadth of the research, as well as the responsiveness of the sources used.

While more comprehensive background checks can take weeks or even months to complete, most routine checks can be completed in a week or less.

Three reputable businesses that offer quick turnaround times for background checks are BeenVerified, TruthFinder, and Intelius. BeenVerified, in particular, stands out for its simplicity and speed (results are typically delivered within minutes) in the verification process.

TruthFinder and Intelius both provide quick and comprehensive background checks, with findings typically available in seconds.

Although these services make it simple to research someone’s history, they shouldn’t be relied on exclusively. More investigation and caution should be exercised whenever a major decision like a new hire is involved.

DISCLAIMER: You may not use the non-FCRA approved services mentioned in this article or the information they provide to make decisions about consumer credit, employment, insurance, tenant screening, or any other purpose that would require FCRA compliance. These services don’t provide consumer reports and are not consumer reporting agencies. (These terms have special meanings under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 USC 1681 et seq., (“FCRA”), which are incorporated herein by reference.)

The information available on our website may not be 100% accurate, complete, or up to date, so do not use it as a substitute for your own due diligence, especially if you have concerns about a person’s criminal history. The services we mention do not make any representation or warranty about the accuracy of the information available through our website or about the character or integrity of the person about whom you inquire. For more information, please review each service’s Terms of Use.

All the photos in the article are provided by the company(s) mentioned in the article and are used with permission.

About the Author

Ahad Waseem is a business, blockchain, and cybersecurity writer who often takes on art, politics, and economics too. As a linguistic engineer who writes to solve problems, he’s written for various tech and business publications. When he’s not writing, he’s probably on horseback, caring for his houseplants, or training Bonsai trees.

Disclaimer: This article contains sponsored marketing content. It is intended for promotional purposes and should not be considered as an endorsement or recommendation by our website. Readers are encouraged to conduct their own research and exercise their own judgment before making any decisions based on the information provided in this article.


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