How Long Does a Background Check Take?
How long background checks take depends on the type of information you need. Some information can be delivered instantly, while other checks can take up to four days to process.
Below is a list of the different places you can gather background check information and how long each takes. If you're not sure which court or database you need information from, check out our background check guide to figure out which type of screening you need to run.
Online Databases: Instant
CriminalWatchDog and other online background check services return instant results for any background screening that uses an electronic database, which can include SSN verification, sex offender registries, and state court criminal records.
Direct Court Searches: 2-4 Business Days
County court background checks generally take 2-4 business days to complete, because county courts don't use online databases. Since all records are hard copy, county courts require that someone visit the courthouse in person to obtain records.
While visiting county courthouses is a longer process than online background checks, county records are still one of the most popular types of background checks, because most crimes are prosecuted at the county level.
Instant State Criminal Database Searches
How long it takes to collect statewide criminal records can vary depending on the state. There are 46 states that use some variation of online criminal databases, several providing only limited coverage. If you need a background check from any of those states you can get results in just a few minutes.
There are four states (Delaware, Massachusetts, South Dakota, and Wyoming) that do not use online databases for any records except sex offender registries; so getting records from those states can take 2-4 businesses days.
Federal District Courts: Instant
The US does not have a national criminal database available to the public. Instead, national background checks include Federal District Court records and records from multiple states (which we'll discuss below). Federal District Court records include only crimes enforced and prosecuted by the FBI, DEA, ATF and other government agencies as opposed to local or state law. Federal records are electronic and available instantly through US District Courts.
Multi-State Background Checks: Instant
Since a national criminal database isn't available to the public, most national background checks scan each state's online databases. The 46 states that use online databases will return records in a few minutes, but the four states without online databases can take 2-4 business days.
So, How Long Does a Background Check Take?
While most US background checks take at most four days to run, employers can take 1-2 weeks to review your background records. You can learn more about employer background checks here.
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