How Long Does It Take to Get Fingerprinted?

Search For Public & Criminal Records

While standard background checks typically take anywhere from 2 to 4 days to be processed, the processing time for fingerprint background checks tends to vary based on a number of factors.

Factors that influence the processing time of a fingerprint background check include the method of application submission and the type of background check requested.

So, on average, how long does it take to get fingerprinted? Also, how is a fingerprint check any different from a regular name-based check? Read on to find the answers you need.

How Long Do Fingerprint Background Checks Take?

On average, you can expect to receive the results of your fingerprint background check within 2 to 6 weeks. You can submit an application electronically or using a postal service, with the former having a shorter processing time than the latter.

How Does a Fingerprint Background Check Work?

As implied, a fingerprint background check makes use of a subject’s fingerprint to scan through records and provide information regarding the subject’s criminal, educational, or professional history.

There are quite a few reasons why you may need to get fingerprinted. For starters, fingerprint background checks are conducted right after a police arrest to check for priors.

Further, if you’re applying for a job that entails working with sensitive information, you’ll most likely need to get fingerprinted. Another scenario in which a fingerprint background check might be necessary is if you’re trying to adopt.

In order to get fingerprinted, you have to provide your designated searching agent with a legible fingerprint card. In most cases, you’ll be allowed to take your own fingerprints at a location of your choosing. However, there are entities that demand taking your fingerprints at a licensed location, like a police department.

Are Fingerprint Checks Different From Name-Based Checks?

Fingerprint-based and name-based background checks are different when it comes to the type of information they reveal, as well as the method through which the information is revealed, of course.

Name-based background checks, also known as “Level 1” background checks, serve as a way to confirm someone’s identity and employment history. This type of background is often used by employers.

Fingerprint-based background checks, on the other hand, are referred to as “Level 2” background checks. They help provide information about the subject’s criminal history by scanning national and county records.

How to Get a Fingerprint Background Check?

There are a few steps that go into getting fingerprinted. The first and most important step is to get your fingerprints taken. As we mentioned earlier, you can do this yourself or head to a licensed place.

The next step is to submit your application information. Some of the information you’ll need to provide include:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Social security number

You’ll also need to provide information about your physical features, such as your weight, height, hair color, eye color, and race.

In most cases, the fingerprint location at which you’re applying for a fingerprint background check will submit your application on your behalf. You can submit your application on your own only if you’re submitting it to the FBI.

If you’re trying to conduct an FBI background check, you’ll need to mail the bureau copies of your fingerprints. Don’t want to do mail? You can send the copies electronically. Click here for more information.

The whole process of getting fingerprinted shouldn’t take any more than 5-10 minutes. Please keep in mind that you need to have two forms of ID on you for identity verification. You cannot get fingerprinted without some form of ID.

What Do Fingerprint Background Checks Reveal?

Fingerprint background checks can reveal a lot, but the main purpose behind them is to reveal a subject’s criminal record, including arrests, charges, previous cases, and so forth.

In addition to the subject’s criminal history, a fingerprint background check will also reveal some basic information like the subject’s full name, date of birth, current employment, home address, insurance information, and vehicle accidents.

It’s worth noting that all instances in which you get your fingerprints taken will appear on a fingerprint background check. So, if you had your fingerprints taken before and you’re currently expecting the results of a fingerprint check, expect the results to highlight that your fingerprints were taken before.

Another thing worth noting is that fingerprint background checks require the subject’s participation, which isn’t the case with standard name-based background checks, in which a third party is behind the screening process.

How Does the Government Store Fingerprints?

There are many ways through which the government goes about storing fingerprints. The most notable methods are citizenship, arrests, military service, and employment processing.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has the most complete record of any given set of fingerprints. In fact, over 70 million criminal profiles are kept and maintained by the FBI using their Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS).

Note: The FBI’s current system is being replaced by the Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, which boasts additional biometrics like facial recognition, palm prints, and irises.

Why does the government store fingerprints? To keep tabs on citizen information. Your fingerprints aren’t the government’s only means of keeping tabs on your information. Your social security number is used similarly.

Whether you need to get fingerprinted for overseas travel, adoption, housing, employment, or licensing, the entity requesting the fingerprint background can submit the request to the FBI itself, an FBI channeler, or the state’s identification bureau.

Do Employers Use Fingerprint Background Checks?

While most employers will only ask for a standard “Level 1” background check, the National Employment Law Project indicates that millions of applicants are asked to submit their fingerprints each year for employment purposes.

Most companies that require fingerprinting are in the child care, health care, and educational sectors. Positions that require the handling of sensitive information tend to need fingerprinting as well.

Are Fingerprint Background Checks Foolproof?

The common misconception that fingerprint background checks are foolproof has no basis. Just like any type of background check, fingerprint background checks do have weaknesses.

The first weakness that comes to mind is that fingerprint background checks don’t reveal all arrests. This is due to the fact that not all arrests require fingerprinting.

Even if every single arrest is followed by fingerprinting, some of the information pertaining to an arrest might be incomplete. For instance, a fingerprint background check may not reveal the resolution of an arrest or case.

On that account, it’s not entirely wise to rely on fingerprint background checking if you’re an employer, as certain arrests and cases might slip through the cracks.

In Summary

So, how long does it take to get fingerprinted? The answer varies based on a few factors, but the average timeframe for most fingerprint background checks is 2-6 weeks.

You can submit a fingerprint background check application using a postal service, or you can do it electronically. If you’re in a hurry and you want the results fast, we recommend going with the electronic route.