National and International Criminal Records Check

Wherever your recruiting location, local criminal records check won’t reveal that much about your candidates. You’ll have to cast a wider net with nationwide or international Criminal records check. To avoid the risk of employing someone that could potentially cause problems in the workplace. Or moreover has a criminal record history elsewhere that won’t show up in a local search.

In this article we’ll go through important aspects of doing national and worldwide criminal record checks. And how to prioritize them depending on your recruiting requirements. We’ll also clarify the different types of global background checks. Checks you can do if you are an employer recruiting in or from the United States. Which is uniquely complex in comparison to most other countries.

If you are recruiting in the UK or the EU then doing nationwide screening checks is fairly straightforward. But if you are recruiting in the United States, you’ll need to do background checks across several states and jurisdictions. It is depending on where the candidate comes from and any other states they have lived or worked before.

Performing International Criminal Records Check in the US

Screening candidates thoroughly in the United States is challenging and time consuming. This is because background screening agencies have to search thousands of databases under specific jurisdictions. At federal, state and county levels. Your background screening provider can help you decide the appropriate level of database searches. Depending on the job requirements, your business location and the type of candidates you are processing.

National, Federal, State and County criminal records require different database searches and do not reveal the same kind of results. National criminal background checks delve into numerous nationwide databases whereas Federal searches are to find criminal records in Federal jurisdictions. Here’s how it works:

National Criminal Database Searches

Screening agencies use National Criminal database searches to perform perfunctory searches to scan through some 9 million records in about 1,800 databases across numerous states.

The database listings don’t reveal specific details of crimes. Also they are not always up to date so any recent cases may not be listed. Background screening agencies use National Criminal Database. In order to look for pointers or flags of crimes or offences that require further investigation at a Federal, State or County level to reveal more information.

Federal Criminal Searches

Federal crimes are investigated by federal officers. From agencies such as the FBI, DEA, or ICE and are recorded in Federal databases. They are serious crimes or felonies such as:

Drug dealing, illegal firearm possession, arson, kidnapping, embezzlement, tax evasion, counterfeiting and bank robbery.

However, searches of Federal databases won’t reveal information about State or County level criminal cases.

State Criminal Checks

State crimes are local crimes that are typically less serious than Federal crimes. They are investigated by county sheriffs, police officers and state agents and prosecuted by state district attorneys or city attorneys.

Screening agencies use State Criminal Database searches to check whether candidates have any criminal records in other states they may have lived or worked in. However, state checks by no means cover the entire country and often lack details of crimes at a County level.

That’s because not all counties are required to record crimes in state databases. For example, all counties in New York are required by law to record crimes in the state’s criminal database whereas counties in California are not required to do so in that state.

County Criminal Checks

When you want to find out whether a candidate has criminal record where they previously lived or worked you need to do criminal checks. However that could be across the country’s 3,200 counties. These checks are the best source for accurate information about any case at any level. (felony, misdemeanour criminal etc.). Because the county courthouse is directly updating the records. They reveal all the details of a crime or a candidate’s potential involvement in a crime as well as the court verdict (guilty, not guilty, dismissed).

Keep in mind that background screening agencies can’t perform searches in FBI or Department of Justice databases, which only authorized law enforcement agencies can access such as approved child care, healthcare and financial institutions.

So for a comprehensive nationwide background check in the US, searches at all levels are the best option (county, federal, state, and national). They can take up to two weeks to complete but your background screening service provider can advise you on which database searches are the most important for your hiring requirements to save time and money.

Performing International Criminal Records Check

Performing an international background check begins with knowing where the candidate has previously lived or worked to narrow down the search criteria. Each country has its own guidelines and privacy laws surrounding background screening procedures so knowing which country candidates have been living and working in is a priority.

You might be getting an influx of candidates from a particular country so that’s where your international screening process starts. Then your screening service provider can use the best process for background checks in that location.

Whichever country you are recruiting in, you’ll need to do international background checks on foreign candidates. Which means knowing the privacy laws relevant to particular countries. Which can be stricter than those in the US, making obtaining information more challenging.

On the other hand, international searches can be a lot easier than the numerous searches required in the US. A single search of a nationwide criminal database in the UK or EU might be sufficient to get all the information you need on a particular candidate.

Having a company policy in place to determine how you handle information about candidates’ criminal history records from other countries is important. Because charge levels of certain offences may not be the same as those considered misdemeanors or felonies in your hiring location. Researchers have to dig a little deeper to clarify and charge descriptions for each international search.


More than 80 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America each has its own unique privacy laws. Almost all of them, including many that may be appear as ‘developing nations’, provide basic protection of their citizens’ personal data; requiring their written consent to conduct any background checks.

Australia, Scandinavia and Australia have some of the strictest privacy laws in the world but they are all quite similar as they have almost identical frameworks to the legislation laid down in the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

A competent international criminal records check service provider should be abreast of the different privacy laws around the world. And help you strategically plan your screening process for local and foreign candidates. Ideally your screening agency has reliable representatives in those countries that can perform thorough local background checks while keeping in line with data protection laws locally and abroad.

Intelimasters is a background screening agency, not a law firm. This article is for informational purposes only. Nothing in it should be considered as legal advice. We encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific business and/or individual needs.


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