Introduction to International Criminal Background Checks

Employers in the United States that run criminal background checks typically use a mix of county, state, federal, and multijurisdictional database searches. At, we offer all these services, as well as other tools–such as address history searches–that can help employers plan the most effective criminal checks possible. What should an employer do if they need to vet a candidate from another country?

Just as an employer can conduct a criminal background check on someone in a different county or state from where they are based, a hiring manager can use international background checks to learn more about a job applicant. While most employers are used to structuring their background check process around domestic candidate pools, an increasingly global talent pool means that international background checks will become more important in the future.

The Importance of International Background Checks

Why are international background checks important? If a candidate has never lived outside of the U.S., there is likely no reason to conduct an international background check. However, if a candidate lives in another country or recently immigrated or emigrated to the U.S. from another part of the world, then an international background check is a necessity. That person likely has no criminal history in the U.S., but they may have a record of criminal activity in another part of the world.

International background checks are becoming more critical for more employers as hiring continues to shift. Labor shortages in many industries, for instance, have encouraged employers in agriculture, manufacturing, construction, hospitality, and other fields to utilize foreign labor, typically through temporary visa programs. 

The pandemic, which has sparked an unprecedented embrace of remote work and telecommuting around the world, has also opened a global talent pool to some businesses. Any company opening an international office will likely have to perform some hiring in a foreign country, demanding a different background screening protocol.

What You’ll Learn from International Background Checks

The information that you will uncover through an international criminal records check is not fundamentally different from a domestic criminal search—international searches should report crimes and offenses just as criminal record searches in the U.S. do. However, how much information each check includes will vary depending on the country.

In most cases, international background checks should report the most serious criminal offenses in a person’s background—those comparable to felony crimes in the U.S. Some international checks will include less severe crimes as well, what the federal government defines as misdemeanors, but not all countries will report those crimes.

How Long Does an International Background Check Take?

How long an international background check takes to process will depend on the country. Fortunately, the country where U.S. employers most frequently need to conduct foreign criminal record searches–Canada–offers a quick way to perform these checks. 

In Canada, the national criminal records database is the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC), which is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The CPIC is an online database of criminal records, which means that it can provide records digitally instead of manually. As a result, searches of the CPIC are rapid: the database will usually deliver findings within about 15 minutes. 

Not all countries have the same background check infrastructure as Canada, and in many cases, international background checks will take far longer than 15 minutes. Policies for sharing information across foreign borders, privacy protection laws, and the systems in place for governments or entities to search criminal databases for information are all factors that can impact how long a background check takes.

In the United Kingdom, for instance—which includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland—in-depth privacy protection laws can result in background checks taking 15-20 days to complete. Some countries, such as Australia, will typically post processing times comparable to running background checks domestically: around three to five days. Other countries land in between, such as Russia, where background checks usually take around one week to process.


How long does an international criminal background check take?

The answer varies dramatically depending on country. On average, an international background check will likely take seven to 10 days. Some nations, such as Canada, have online databases that can deliver background check results in minutes. Countries with extensive privacy protections can take up to a month to process background checks. UK background checks can take 15-20 days.

What is an international background check?

An international background check is a check of a person’s criminal background in a foreign country. This type of check is critical for employers to conduct on any candidate who lives or has lived in another part of the world recently or for an extended period. It is also possible for employers to conduct other background checks—such as work history checks or education verifications—in other countries.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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