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How long does a background check take?

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The turnaround time for background checks varies depending on the type of search, the scope (amount of information searched), and the access method used. On average, the standard turnaround time is between 1 and 5 business days. Some checks are available online and can provide results instantly. Other searches may take longer if special forms are required or if your background check provider needs to use a third-party resource (such as employers and government entities). 

This article reviews the turnaround time for four common background checks, the factors that impact turnaround time, and what you can do to get faster results. 

1. How long does a criminal background check take? 

The average turnaround time for a criminal background check is 1-5 business days. The turnaround time depends on the type of check (database or court records) and the method used to access the information. 

For example, online database checks, such as the national criminal records search and the national sex offender search, can be completed instantly. Other checks can take anywhere from 1-5 business days if there is no online option available. 

2. How long does a federal background check take? 

federal background check searches the U.S. district courts for federal crimes using the online, U.S. Federal Government PACER record system, which covers the 94 national jurisdictions. The standard turnaround time for a federal background check is one business day.  

3. How long does an employment verification or education verification take?

 A standard part of a comprehensive background check program includes verifying the information provided by your applicant regarding their past employment and education history. On average, employment and education verifications can take anywhere from 3 to 5 business days. 

4. How long does a driving record check take? 

A driving record check provides validation of your applicant's driver's license number and driving history in the state of issue. Depending on the state, conducting records checks can take anywhere from 1 to 3 business days. 

What factors impact turnaround time?

The industry average turnaround time for most background checks is between 3-5 business days. Still, it can take longer depending on the search's type and scope, availability/access of information, and your candidate's responsiveness. 

Scope and type of search

The amount of information requested can have a significant impact on the turnaround time of the background check. This includes the number of services in the background check and the scope (number of names and addresses).

  • For example, a background check that includes criminal history, verifications, driving, references, and credit would likely take longer than a simple criminal only check.

  • If you were to expand this background check to include additional names and addresses, multiple employers, and/ international checks, the turnaround time would likely increase.

Access/Availability of Information 

Background check providers can access county and statewide criminal records in a variety of different ways. Depending on the access method, some searches are returned the same day, while others may take several days or more.

Some courthouses provide public terminals, and some background providers have integrations with jurisdictions' online repositories leading to faster results. Other courts require a court assisted search or an in-person, on-site search, leading to delays.

To learn more about the difference between database and court record searches and public access vs. clerk assisted searches, see Your guide to understanding criminal background checks.  

Candidate Responsiveness

One of the most significant factors on turnaround time is how quickly candidates provide consent and the necessary personal information for the criminal check.

To initiate criminal checks, candidates must:

  1. Provide their name (or names), address (or addresses) they've lived, date of birth, and social security number.

  2. Acknowledge a receipt of compliance forms such as the Summary of Rights Under the FCRA.

  3. Sign the background check authorization and disclosure forms.

How to speed up turnaround time for background checks 

The best way to speed up the background check process is to ensure that your provider has all the information needed for the check and that it's complete and correct. 

Orange Tree's technology can reduce your turnaround time by a full day by making this process fast and easy for you and your candidates. 

We know that candidates read more than 90% of their texts in less than 3 seconds, so we provide our clients with the ability to begin the background screen with a text.

Our mobile-friendly portal, CandidateConnect™, creates an enhanced candidate experience and provides a modern and intuitive user interface. It enables candidates to sign consent forms digitally. It moves all data entry activities to your candidates, reducing turnaround time and the time spent calling candidates for missing information. Additionally, it enables candidates to access their screening information in real-time, provides notifications about their background check, and allows for the mobile upload of required documents.

Want to see how we can help reduce the turnaround for your background checks? Schedule a free consultation today.