Performing Background Checks Abroad: Get it Right

When you’re a multinational corporation hiring people and subcontractors abroad, performing cross-border background screening checks is a bureaucratic minefield of local and regional labour and privacy laws.

Domestic Workforce

A broad mix of nationalities employed in the domestic workforce is commonplace in companies based in the US and Europe.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 15% per cent of America’s domestic workforce is foreign-born. That’s at least 24 million individuals that require cross-boarder vetting during the hiring process.

Multinational Workforce

Most multinationals based in the US ensure sustainable profit margins by outsourcing manufacturing and other services to countries where overheads are significantly less such as China, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Most US-based firms listed in the S&P 500 stock index report that almost half of their profits originate from overseas.

However there is a trade off. With dependency on overseas offices, call centres and manufacturers comes the need for increased due diligence in the background screening process to maintain the same high standards stipulated in US and EU markets.

While each country has its own labour laws regarding employment of domestic and foreign individuals and vendors, there is also a myriad of domestic and international privacy protection laws to navigate.

Know the Local Logistics of Background Checks

The how and who of performing background checks when screening individuals varies by country. Here are some points to consider with cross-border background screening checks:

  • Some countries do not allow or don’t require background checks before employment

  • Each jurisdiction within a given country may have unique rules and regulations concerning background screening checks on individuals and companies

  • Consent for a background check on a candidate is usually required from that individual

  • Local authorities usually have diverse and specific requirements regarding the format of consent for a background check; usually a hardcopy signature is required rather than a digital signature

  • Background check requests must usually be made and delivered in the applicant’s national language

  • Documents must usually be translated to the language of the place of hire

  • Third-party screening vendors may not be allowed to conduct background checks

  • Third-party screening vendors may not have direct access to candidates’ records

  • Candidates may have to provide their own criminal history reports

With such diversity, the safest way to successfully navigate uncharted territory in foreign employment markets is to use a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) as a consultancy service.

Doing so gives your corporation the strategic advantage of access to local knowledge and the assurance that proper screening procedures are in place for your own protection.

Checking Criminal Records Abroad

Most countries offer privacy protection for individuals when it comes to employers investigating a candidate’s criminal history.

A competent CRA with local know-how should be able to help with your human resources department’s due diligence, bearing in mind that foreign countries may not have a centralized database of criminal records.

As a foreign employer, your company may have to abide by local anti-discrimination and privacy laws regarding criminal background checks.

Know the Local Legalities of Hiring and Firing

Domestic and foreign labour laws change all the time, so employing a third-party CRA that’s in situ with its finger on the pulse is essential to ensure you get sound and up-to-date legal advice regarding local employment regulations.

Impromptu termination of employees without following the terms and conditions stipulated by their domestic laws could spell disaster for your company with costly disputes that could have been easily avoided with the right legal advice.