When Should Fingerprint-Based Background Checks Be Used?

For many reasons, fingerprint-based background checks may be required for employment, education, driver’s license, and security clearance. However, they have limitations that can make them unsuitable for employment screening.

In most cases, fingerprint-based background checks should only be used in industries and locations that require them by law. Otherwise, they should be supplemented by name-based searches.


A fingerprint-based background check can be used for employment if the employer must verify a candidate’s criminal record before hiring. They’re often required in regulated industries, like healthcare or financial services, to ensure candidates aren’t involved in illegal activities.

Fingerprints are collected by law enforcement agencies and submitted to the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), which contains over 70 million records. The FBI can search this database to find matches for a candidate’s fingerprints and return results within 24 hours.

Some states require fingerprints for certain employment positions, especially those that work with children, such as educators and childcare workers. Additionally, fingerprints can be used for licensing requirements and other governmental authorizations.

If an applicant’s fingerprints match criminal records, they can help employers make better hiring decisions. They can also help prevent fraud and theft.

Fingerprints can also be paired with other information to give employers a complete picture of an applicant’s past and history, such as credit reports. This type of background check can benefit positions that involve managing money, such as in accounting and financial services.


In a world where criminal arrests are so common, it’s no wonder that school districts across the country have turned to fingerprints as their go-to safety net when hiring teachers, coaches, or volunteers. But it’s essential to remember that more than fingerprinting must be a complete background check.

A more thorough background check that looks at education records, professional certifications, and references can mitigate risk and ensure the highest quality teacher in your classroom. Fingerprint-based checks are an excellent addition to a more comprehensive vetting process. Still, it’s also crucial that you verify the results of these fingerprint checks with a third-party company.

If you must conduct fingerprint-based background checks for education, here’s what you need to know.

Anyone who works at a school as a teaching staff member, substitute teacher, teacher aide, child study team member, school physician, school nurse, custodian, maintenance worker, cafeteria worker, or law enforcement officer must undergo a state and national fingerprint-based criminal history check. Additionally, any volunteer, subcontractor, or school-commissioned laborer who performs work on school grounds that may have direct and unmonitored contact with children must also undergo a state and national fingerprint-based check.

As part of the background check process, these employees must make appointments with an agency for fingerprints to be scanned. They will also need to sign an authorization and consent form to allow the scanning of their fingerprints.

Driver’s License

In the past, some applicants were required to submit fingerprints for licenses. These requirements often prevented fraudulent or criminal behavior during the licensing process. However, this practice is optional in most cases.

Most people who seek employment or professional credentials will not be required to undergo a fingerprint-based background check. For example, most applicants for medical professionals can experience something other than this type of check.

If you are a commercial driver seeking an endorsement to transport hazardous materials, federal and state law require that you undergo a criminal history background check before the endorsement can be issued, renewed, or transferred. Moreover, you must also undergo an identity verification and document authentication process that includes a fingerprint-based check.

This information is collected under the real ID act and aims to reduce fraud while issuing driver’s licenses. It is a security initiative that has proven particularly useful, which conducts criminal background checks on license applicants that uncover about 5,000 felons each year.

The Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) maintains the state’s official criminal records. It matches your fingerprints to those records and provides you with an illicit history record response, which may include a “no record” or other response if DCJS is required by law to keep such information.

Security Clearance

The process of obtaining a security clearance takes time and can be expensive. It is one of the reasons that employers often prefer to hire applicants who have already received a security clearance from their previous employer.

Federal agencies require a security clearance for employees who are in positions where they need to know classified information. It is also necessary for contractors and other individuals who work for the federal government in sensitive situations.

To obtain a security clearance, an applicant must go through a series of background investigations that can include fingerprint checks. The FBI or a similar agency generally conducts these investigations.

Once the investigation is complete, the applicant will be referred to an adjudicator who will decide whether or not to grant the applicant a security clearance. Adjudicators use a set of standards called National Security Adjudicative Guidelines (NSAG) to make their decisions.

NSAG guidelines are in place to prevent nepotism and promote a merit-based system for hiring and overseeing federal employees. Executive orders dating back to 1883 established this system.

In addition to a criminal records check, a background investigation may include a credit search, data on current and previous employers, educational qualifications, and references. Applicants can complete these background investigations online using the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing (e-QIP) system.

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