How Long Does A Background Check Take?

There are many different types of background checks. The turnaround time for each depends on the type of information requested as well as legal requirements. Depending on the scope of the information the potential employer has asked for, the average background check takes about two to four business days to be completed.


Average Time for Employment Background Checks

Employment background checks are often requested by human resource managers for potential hires. The parts of the background check may include a drug screening and criminal component in addition to the regular part of the check. It can include your education, work history, credit history, driving record, and use of social media. A background check for the basic information usually takes a few business days. If a credit check is part of the process, it only takes up to 5 days business days to complete. 


Average Time for Criminal Background Checks

Employers sometimes request a criminal background check as part of the pre-hiring process. A criminal background check usually takes between one to three business days; however, it can be performed faster depending on which database is being used. An instant background check can be performed through specialized databases that a verified background check provider can utilize. It is a basic search of the social security number, a national criminal database, and a sex offender registry. This information can come back quickly since it can be searched for online. 


Average Time for Federal Background Checks

Certain positions in finance or at the C-level require a more detailed background check This would include sex offender registries, criminal court records, terrorist watch lists, and state and federal criminal records. This type of background check will search all U.S. federal courts for violations of the law, such as tax evasion, embezzlement, identity theft, and other large crimes. The check usually goes back 7 years depending on state laws. A federal background check can take an additional one to three business days, although it is usually performed in a day. 


Reasons for Delay

Sometimes a comprehensive background check takes longer than expected. There are several reasons why this can occur: 

Contact with Former Employers:


  • If the potential employer has not been able to contact former employers, due to the company closing for example, you may be asked to submit a W-2, or other information that can validate the information you supplied in your application or on your resume. Being able to supply the potential employer with this information quickly will speed up the process. 



Inaccurate Request Forms:

  • Another common cause for delay is an inaccurate check request form. The employer might not have the required release forms signed by the job applicant, which is required by federal law. The background check cannot be started without written consent from the employee. 


  • Sometimes there is a backlog in the courts which means that a criminal records check can take longer. Some country court records are not digitized so the search must be conducted manually by a county clerk. This manual process can be delayed if there are many other current requests. 

Drug Test:

  • Many employers request a drug test for new hires. The results must be sent to the company from the lab and then reviewed before extending an offer. Sometimes there is an issue with the sample and the hire must go back for another drug test, which further delays the process. 

International Information:


  • If some of the information on an applicant’s file is from outside of the United States, other documentation might be needed in order to complete the background check. Non-US based employers and education facilities may need additional time to respond to a verification request. Certain countries have privacy protection laws that can take up to 20 days to complete. There can even be a delay if the applicant moved around a lot within or outside of the United States. 

Name Changes:

  • An identity check verifies the details on the driver’s license or passport. If the applicant had a name change, this could cause delays in a manual background check as the identity needs to be confirmed. The applicant’s record could get mixed up with someone who has the same name which can cause more time to research it. 


Letting the Candidate Know

While a background check can take up to five days, an employer may not immediately respond to the hire as it might take some time to review. There might be several background checks being run for other candidates and the manager might want to review them all first. 

If it has been more than a week, a follow-up phone call might be required to find out the reasons for the delay. If the employer finds something in the background check that prevents you from getting the job, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires the employer to inform the potential hire of why they were not hired. Doing so gives the employee time to counteract the findings in the background check. 

Most background checks are returned within a reasonable amount of time; however, delays can occur depending on the applicant’s history and information. The employee should provide the employer will all required information and documentation upfront to avoid possible roadblocks. The potential hire always has the right to know the reasons for the delays and if the background check results have prevented them from being hired. Contact DataCheck and the experts there can help with all your employment and background needs.