How Long Does a Background Check Take?

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Updated · Aug 01, 2023

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With more than five years of experience in the background check industry, Ritesh Kumar founded Looku... | See full bio

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Dushko Talevski


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How long does a background check take?” is a common question whenever companies, landlords, or other interested parties have to conduct a screening procedure.

Well, the processing time for a background check varies a lot depending on the breadth and width of the actual screening. For instance, situations that require thorough and multiple checks that involve government agencies can take up to a week.

In the following sections, you can review the duration of individual checks and the potential delays that can prolong the process.

How Long Do Background Checks Take?

Usually, the turnaround time for a background screening ranges between 2 to 5 days. Still, depending on the number of specific checks and how thoroughly they are conducted, applicants may have to wait up to a week to receive their results.

That said, estimating the wait time for the specific checks conducted during a typical background screening procedure is much more straightforward:

  • Identity verification—the first step in any background screening procedure is verifying the applicant’s identity, which typically takes a few minutes as landlords and employers only need to look at and authenticate a photo ID document;
    • Social Security number traces may increase the wait time.
  • Criminal history—the turnaround time of criminal reports varies based on the requested information and the number and location of the databases used during the search; for instance, while criminal checks conducted in a single state take a couple of days, obtaining international data can take 2–3 weeks;
  • Driving record—white the average timeframe to obtain driving records ranges between 1–3 business days, some states employ modern systems that can deliver results within a day, whereas others may take a couple of weeks;
  • Credit report—obtaining a credit report should take minutes when record holders apply themselves; however, the processing times lengthen if employers, landlords, or other interested parties apply instead;
  • Civil court checks—the length of time these checks take depends on whether you are applying with a county or a federal court; federal courts have a turnaround time of up to two days, whereas county court checks may take up to a week;
  • Employment verification—in general, this check takes a couple of days, but verifying job applicants who have changed many jobs and/or worked internationally takes a while as HR managers have to contact each employer separately;
  • Academic and certification checks—confirming an individual’s educational history involves contacting all relevant schools, universities, and courses they have attended—a task that may take several days.

As you see, by knowing which investigations your background check includes, you can easily predict the turnaround time and prepare to apply the results wherever necessary.

What Affects the Wait Time for a Background Check?

Delays are a common occurrence during background screening procedures. While some of them can be avoided with due diligence, others are inevitable. Below, we review the most common delays that affect a screening’s processing times:

  • Inaccurate or incomplete forms—incorrect data blocks the investigation and/or produces false information; after that, applicants have to re-enter their personal details and start the procedure all over again;
  • Lack of authorizations—individuals and other entities conducting the background check for someone else need to obtain the necessary data release forms;
  • Missing court records—a significant number of courts keep physical records that may get damaged or lost over time; moreover, to obtain these records, you will have to fill out a written application and make an in-person visit;
  • International checks—some employers may require international checks if the person has lived or studied abroad within the last ten years or so. Depending on the country and its protection laws, these checks take several weeks to obtain;
  • Multiple residencies—another cause for a delay are numerous past addresses as the report’s recipient has to verify the applicant’s reasons for changing residences and contact their past landlords to inquire about the behavior;
  • Name verification—applicants who have used several names and aliases throughout their lives must provide all of them before initiating the screening procedure since some records might be connected to their past names;
  • Multiple ongoing screenings—sometimes, employers have to check many candidates, so the time needed to obtain the required information, apply for background screening, and receive the results increases;
  • Slow response times—national holidays, strikes, inclement weather, or other force majeure reasons may also cause delays when processing background checks;
  • Missing credit history—last but not least, there are candidates without established credit, which blocks some applications, as employers, landlords, and financial institutions want to know if the applicant is financially responsible.

To avoid potential delays, applicants must read the background check criteria carefully and promptly provide every last bit of information and paper document.

Bottom Line

The average turnaround time for background checks is 2–3 days, but certain thorough investigations may significantly prolong the process, especially if you need to submit a written request in person to access specific government records.

That said, screening procedures go much more smoothly if the candidate quickly submits the documentation, information, and approval needed to run the background check. Hiring the services of a reliable background screening company is also a must!


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