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    How to Get an FBI Background Check

    The FBI Background Check, also referred to as the “rap sheet,” FBI Identity History Summary, or FBI criminal background check, is an important part of most visa and residency applications for US citizens to foreign country immigration departments.

    The apostille process certifies that a public document, such as a federal background check birth certificates, court orders, or any other document issued by a federal agency or certified by a U.S. or foreign consultants. For most countries’ immigration departments and visa application processes, all official documents must be apostilled. In the US, the State Department is the only organization authorized to apostille your FBI Criminal Background Check.

    In this article we’ll review

    How to apply online for an FBI Background Check From outside of the US

    In this process you will fill out and submit the request for the background check and pay online, and then send (by mail) a physical fingerprint card.

    The benefit of this process is that the background check results can be recieved electronically, via email, and generally come very quickly


    1. Visit
    2. Enter your email address (at the bottom of the page) to receive a secure link via emailto the application form
    3. Pay within the secure electronic form
    4. Choose your delivery choice (mailed or electronically via email) for your completed background check
    5. Submit the electronic fornication
    6. Print the standard fingerprint form FD-1164 and take it to a local police station or authorized local government office to have print rolled fingerprints taken (Form link:

    Notes from the FBI:

    • Your name and date of birth must be provided on the fingerprint card.
    • You must include rolled impressions of all 10 fingerprints and impressions of all 10 fingerprints taken at the same time (these are sometimes referred to as plain or flat impressions).
    • If possible, have your fingerprints taken by a fingerprinting technician. This service may be available at a law enforcement agency.
    • The FBI recommends that red or purple ink not be used for fingerprinting.Fingerprints taken with ink or via live scan are acceptable. If your fingerprints are taken via a live scan device, a hard-copy must be generated so the fingerprint card can be mailed to the FBI.

    Mail the fingerprint card to:

    • FBI CJIS Division
    • 1000 Custer Hollow Road
    • Clarksburg, WV 26306

    For more information, visit:

    The FBI Background Check Process, from Outside the US (Paper Application and Fingerprints

    1. Attain the FBI Form FD-1164 fingerprinting card and application

    You have 2 options for getting the standard FBI fingerprinting card FD-1164: download and print, or pickup at your local embassy or consulate via notarial appointment

    Download and Print: You may download form FD-1164 from the FBI’s website and printed on standard white paper stock.


    Pickup at Embassy: Make a notarial appointment at the US Embassy to pickup the official fingerprint card, Standard Fingerprint Form (Form FD-1164) and ask any questions you may have. Note that the embassy may give Form FD-258. This is OK as other travelers have submitted this form and still recieved their FBI Background checks.

    2. Have your fingerprints taken at a local police station or government office

    Take the fingerprint card to your local police or authorized local government office to have ink rolled fingerprints taken (your state department rep in the embassy will be able to tell you the office and address).

    U.S. Embassies are unable to take the ink-rolled fingerprints that the FBI requires.

    Your name, date of birth, and signature must be on the fingerprint card.

    You must include rolled impressions of all 10 fingerprints and impressions of all 10 fingerprints taken at the same time.

    3. Choose how to pay the $18 fee for your FBI background check, and include the payment and form

    Choose your method to pay $18 via the mail in credit card form ( ), or send a money order or certified check payable to the Treasury of the United States

    4. Print Complete the additional FBI Identity History Request Form

    Print, fill in, and sign the Identity History Summary Request Form):

    5. Mail both forms and payment to the FBI

    Gather all of the completed documents:

    • Fingerprint card (FD-1164)
    • FBI Identity History Request Form
    • Payment form and the payment method (credit card form or money order)

    Mail these completed documents to the FBI at the following address:

    To this address:

    • FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
    • 1000 Custer Hollow Road
    • Clarksburg, WV 26306

    The FBI will mail your completed FBI background check via First Class Mail to the address submitted on form FD-1164 and the summary request form.

    You will receive your completed criminal background check within 13 weeks


    FBI Background Check Process from inside the US

    FBI Background checks done from inside the US are fairly quick and easy. The fingerprints are captured digitally at capture centers across the US. After the check is done, the report is either emailed to you or physically mailed to you, or both, depending on your preference.

    Option 2: Apply online and submit fingerprints at a participating post office

    1. Visit :
    2. On this page, complete your application and payment online before visiting a US Post office to submit fingerprints
    3. Visit to register with the USPS for identity capture
    4. Visit a participating US Post office to electronically submit fingerprints as part of the request (List of participating post offices)

    Option 3: Submit fingerprint digitally at a facility for an FBI Channeler


    1. Signup for an appointment to have your fingerprints take digitally at centers across the US via an FBI approved Channeler (List of FBI Channelers:
    2. During the signup process, select whether to receive a digital report emailed to you, or a physical copy mailed to an address
    3. Visit the testing center at the chosen time, present your drivers license, and have your fingerprints taken
    4. Wait to have the check run and your results sent to you. I received my results within 48 hours via email, and a printed copy mailed from the FBI within 1 week


    How long does the criminal background check take?

    If you apply online via an FBI channeler and submit electronic fingerprints, or apply online and submit fingerprints at the US Post office, you will likely receive your criminal background check back in 2 to 5 days via email.

    If you submit paper copies of fingerprints, plan on mailing time both ways plus 10 days processing at least.

    Personally, I received my background check in 2 days in my email and 10 days by mail.

    Now that you have your FBI Criminal Background Check, be sure to have your FBI background check apostilled so that it will be accepted by other governments…

    How to apostille your FBI background check on your own

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      About A Brother Abroad


      Carlos is a nomad, slow traveler, and writer dedicated to helping others live abroad and travel better by using his 7+ years of experience living abroad and background as a management consultant and financial advisor to help other nomad and expats plot better paths for an international lifestyle. Click here to learn more about Carlos's story.