International Background Screening – When You Need It, What’s Involved 14 Sep 2017


International employment background screening can be ordered for anyone working in the US who previously lived, worked, or attended school in another country. Several firms offer international employment background checks in up to 223 countries.

The three main types of screening used for domestic candidates are also available for those with non-U.S. work or educational backgrounds:

  • International Criminal Records Search
  • Education Verification
  • Employment Verification

What’s involved in international employment screening

Given what’s involved, though, you’ll probably want to restrict international employment background screening to candidates for senior roles that include substantial responsibility for finance, security or safety within your company.

This is because international background checks can often be complex and notoriously difficult to carry out. Even within the EU, each country has its own set of laws, and some countries prohibit any agencies from obtaining records.

Due to these constraints, international background checks can take anywhere from 10 days to several months to complete, and expenses can be double or triple over the cost of domestic-based records searches.

No centralized international criminal database for pre-employment screening

Since there isn’t a global database that allows employers to look at an applicant’s information all in one place, international background checks consist of checking records in each country where the applicant resided.

The European Criminal Records Information System (ECRIS) is a pan-European scheme for exchange of information on criminal convictions among the EU member states. Companies operating within the EU can access this common database for requesting records from other EU countries, but actual criminal records are still maintained exclusively by each of the member states — and your company must have a physical presence within the EU even to access the ECRIS database.

What you can find out in an international background check

What’s included in an international employment background check is entirely up to an employer, so there might be a lot of variation. That said, the following information is typically included in international checks.

Criminal records

Each country has varying laws about the type of criminal records that are available and who is allowed to access them. There is normally no national source for criminal records. In most nations, each city, state, or province must be searched to determine if a criminal history exists in that particular jurisdiction.

Each country also has its own discrimination laws that govern how an employer may use the information within a criminal record. Some countries, for example, only permit rejection of an applicant if their criminal history prohibits them from working with vulnerable populations, like children.

Each jurisdiction also has its own rules and regulations as to how records are kept and released. Most International Criminal Record Searches only cover a period of two to three years.

The UK government has compiled a helpful guide to EU countries describing the process and contact information for requesting a criminal history check on present or former residents.

Education verification

Again, verification requires directly contacting the schools from which the applicant claims to have a degree. This can be a lengthy process, as some schools have privacy policies that permit only a student or parent to look at educational records. There are also language barriers and time differences that can further lengthen the process.


There are no restrictions on calling a former employer to verify previous work experience, other than a possible language barrier. Various translation services or DIY tools like Google Translate can overcome the barrier.

Credit reports

Each country has its own system of reporting credit, debt, and fiscal reliability. European countries in particular have strict privacy laws about who can look at credit reports. The only way to find out if credit reports may be available is to contact the main credit reporting agency in the country in question.

The researcher also has a challenge determining if the applicant has been involved in a legal case. If an applicant’s name is a common one, the researcher may find many cases that need to be reviewed. International courts’ language and terminology can also be confusing.

The main thing to remember is – do the duties, salary and risk level of this job candidate justify the time, trouble and expense to order an international background screening, or attempt to do it yourself? If it does, it may be wise to enlist the help of a professional screening firm to help you navigate the process.