In its early days, fingerprint recognition was a skilled job and those who had this skill were known as fingerprint experts. These individuals knew minute details that need to be taken care of while analyzing and matching prints. Back then, fingerprinting was uncommon in civil space and limited to forensics and criminal identification.
But today, we perform fingerprint scans several times a day on phones and computers. From swirling eyes in the fingerprint ridges and valleys through a magnification glass, we have come to instant automatic fingerprinting, which is not limited to forensic labs or criminal booking.
Despite maintaining a stronghold in civil and consumer applications, fingerprinting is still the most popular biometric modality in law enforcement applications. One of its applications is a background screening, which is not a criminal application but is performed by law enforcement agencies since they hold the database of criminal identities.
FBI criminal background check
FBI background check is a service provided by the federal agency that screens an individual against any criminal record. These checks may screen an applicant against the agency’s database for any records of misdemeanor and felony convictions. Except for criminal convictions, criminal non-convictions for the last seven years are also screened to perform background checks for federal employment, service providers, contractors, etc.
It is also done before hiring individuals for positions in which they may come in contact with vulnerable individuals such as children, old age people, etc. So if your hire home help from an authorized agency, you can be sure that the individuals must have gone through a criminal background check.
FBI background check is of crucial importance at schools before hiring staff that will come in direct contact with children at school. It ensures that listed criminals or sex offenders can be blocked from entering the schools to ensure the safety of the students.
Children can be highly vulnerable to criminals and sex offenders. Depending on the jurisdiction, sex offender screening at schools can be a compliance requirement. Individuals are screened against the regional/national databases of criminals/sex offenders for up-to-date sex offender screening.
When the FBI criminal background check gets done?
There are many scenarios in which a criminal background check can be required. Regardless of the reason to go through an FBI criminal background check, they mostly have a common objective: to ensure suitability or eligibility of an individual.
Suitability or eligibility is relevant only in civil applications, such as federal employment, etc. When criminal background check is performed for criminals; it is about looking up involvement in past crimes.
- Law enforcement agencies in fingerprinting applicants in law enforcement positions.
- Officials of state and local governments for purpose of employment and licensing and permits, as authorized by state statues and approved by the attorney general of the United States.
- US government agencies and other entities required by the federal law.
- Officials of federally chartered or insured banking institutions to promote or maintain the security of those institutions.
An individual may apply for criminal background check for personal review of his/her FBI criminal history.
Criminal background checks for employment screening
It is a common process before hiring individuals to certain positions.
For licenses and permits
To gain certain types of licenses such as license to start day care or old age homes, where owners or staff may come in direct contact with children or old age people, applicants need to go through background screening to check any prior involvement in any crime.
The process of criminal booking requires newly booked criminals to provide their fingerprints and demographic details, which are looked up for any prior criminal behavior.
Clearance for secure facilities
Some high security facilities such as government buildings and military installations may require individuals to have clean background and to ensure that, background screening can be perform before issuing clearance.
Tenant background screening
In some jurisdictions, background screening of tenants can be a requirement before renting the accommodation.
Background screening of immigrants
Anyone crossing the United States’ international borders has to go through criminal background checks with their fingerprints.
Some countries may warrant an FBI criminal history before issuing travel visa.
Though this list covers the major reasons to get a criminal background screening done, it is not all inclusive. There can also be other reasons for an individual to go through criminal background checks.
What is live scan fingerprinting?
Live scan fingerprinting or simply live scan, as it is often referred to, is the process of capturing fingerprints with automated fingerprinting devices electronically and submitting them to the specific agencies.
Live scan fingerprinting is commonly used by law enforcement agencies for criminal as well civil applications such as criminal booking, identification, background verification, etc. These agencies maintain records of identified criminals, terrorists, sex offenders and other anti-social and anti-national elements.
There can be many reasons why a live scan may be warranted by a subject. There may be regulatory requirement to perform it for certain individuals. It may be required by an employer before hiring an individual to ensure clean background or by the government agencies before issuing license to start a business.
In most cases, it is basically done to ensure that an individual has a clean background before he/she can be given some sort of authority or access.
Live scanned fingerprints are run through multiple law enforcement agencies and criminal databases to find any potential criminal behavior. Prints are generally screened through their respective state identification bureau, and only those fingerprints for which no disqualifying record has been found locally are submitted for the FBI screening.
In the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) maintains the largest database of biometric identities and accepts criminal background check applications via live scan fingerprinting in electronic as well as in non-electronic mode.
To ensure that applicants are able to capture and send the best quality fingerprint images, FBI lays the image quality specification. The agency also recommends fingerprinting devices that can achieve the image quality required to perform a criminal background check.
The FBI has authorized third party service providers (aka FBI Channelers) to offer live scan fingerprinting services, where individuals can have their fingerprints scanned and submitted electronically.
However, electronic capture is not the only method that applicants can make use of. They can make electronic fingerprint submission to the FBI, print fingerprints on FBI cards or simply do an ink and roll capture on FBI cards to submit their prints.
Ink and roll fingerprinting
FBI allows applicants to submit fingerprints for criminal background check with traditional “ink and roll” fingerprint impressions. In this method, each finger is rolled in ink and then rolled against FBI applicant card (FD-258 fingerprint card).
An FBI applicant card is a paper based card in FBI prescribed format for capturing subject fingerprints for criminal background checks. For background check applications, FD-258 card is used while FD-249 card (aka Arrest and Institution Fingerprint Form) is used for criminal submissions to the FBI.
The process of capturing ink based fingerprints is more or less same as when people are booked by law enforcement agencies following an arrest.
In the United States, the standard FD-258 fingerprint card is accepted by most states. FD-258 fingerprint card has a space provided for each finger’s print as well as spaces for the left and right four fingers are provided to capture prints simultaneously.
The card also includes other identifiable biographic information including: name, social security number, address, sex, height, weight, hair color, eye color, citizenship, and the reason for submitting fingerprints.
The process of capturing ink and roll prints seems fairly straightforward as you do not need to have any live scan equipment or pay to any third party live scan service provider. Ink and roll method for capturing fingerprints may superficially look easy and less expensive, but there are a number of things that can go wrong and lead to the rejection of your criminal background check application.
If ink on the card gets smudged, it will spoil the quality of print, which can lead to rejection of your criminal background check application. The ink might also fail to get all the ridges on each finger. Either scenario will make the prints unusable.
To address this issue, most fingerprinting facilities also capture prints on an additional card, in case one copy renders unusable.
Print fingerprints on FBI cards
If you have ever gone through ink based FBI applicant fingerprint card submission for background check, you know how messy it can be. You have to always keep a backup card ready because there are high chances or error in ink and roll capture of fingerprints.
Even with your best shot, ink based fingerprints may not be able to attain the quality of prints captured using live scan fingerprinting. A slight slip of finger can waste your effort and your FD-258 FBI application card. This is where printing fingerprints on FBI card comes to the picture.
We have discussed above that FBI certified fingerprint readers can capture high quality fingerprints. Once your prints are captured, you have option to submit them electronically, i.e. via the internet to the FBI designated location; alternatively you can also print fingerprints on FBI cards.
Printing fingerprints on FBI cards saves you from messy ink and roll impressions. Bayometric offers Print to Card solution, which can capture and print fingerprints on FBI cards for criminal background check.
Rolling ink stained fingers on FBI applicant cards may seem as an easy process but it may take multiple attempts to do it right, and you may still not be sure if all your efforts will pay off and produce usable prints.
Unlike FBI certified fingerprint readers, which come equipped with stringent quality control measures to keep on the best prints, there is no quality control in ink and roll. You can never know if your ink based print was good or bad unless it reaches FBI or gets accepted or rejected.
It can particularly be a problem with elderly population and people with less than perfect fingerprints. In these circumstances, using an FBI certified fingerprint reader to capture prints and sending them electronically or printing them to the FBI cards can be the way to go.
By printing fingerprints on FBI cards, you can avoid all pitfalls that can lead to rejection of your criminal background check application.
Electronic fingerprint submission to the FBI
Electronic fingerprint submission to the FBI is the most efficient and straightforward method to send fingerprint to the FBI. Individuals who need their Identity History Summary aka Criminal History Record or “rap sheet, can submit their fingerprints electronically.
For individual users, availing live scan fingerprinting services can be the way to go. FBI authorizes third party service providers aka FBI approved channelers to live scan and submit fingerprints on your behalf.
These channelers also authorized to receive the FBI criminal history record information (CHRI), on behalf of an Authorized Recipient (AR), for authorized noncriminal justice purposes.
Organizations with high volumes of live scan fingerprinting requirements may choose to have live scan equipment at their disposal. However, it is important to know that FBI approves only high quality live scan devices that meet or exceed their stringent image quality specifications.
Acquiring FBI approved fingerprinting hardware and software can be an expensive endeavor for single or individual use. This is why mostly institutional or organizational users with large volumes of applications for FBI background check, purchase live scan hardware.
Advantages of live scan electronic submission
- Faster and more efficient than any other channel of submission. Results are returned faster than FBI card based submissions.
- Easier than collecting or printing fingerprints on card and sending them to the agency by mail.
- Less probability of rejection due to high quality image capture with FBI approved fingerprint readers. These equipment check image quality beforehand so the chances of rejection reduce greatly.
- Manual impression of fingerprint can suffer from inadequacies such as illegible prints due to ink smudge, slip of finger, etc. while rolling the finger on card.
Electronic fingerprint submission to the FBI is quick, efficient and returns the results in the shortest possible time. Electronic fingerprint submission generally costs less than hard card scanning as there is less handling involved. It also produced better quality results, which has lower rejection rate.
Rejection due to illegible prints (owing to overlapping prints, ink smudging, etc.) also an issue that can be easily avoided with electronic fingerprint submission to the FBI.
Regardless several benefits, there may be chances that some individuals want to send their prints to the FBI on fingerprint cards. Applicants, who do not want to make electronic submission, always have the option to print electronically captured fingerprint on the FBI card.
Hard card scanning is another option to send fingerprints to the FBI, in which fingerprints are “rolled” on the fingerprint card in a format prescribed by the agency.
Electronic fingerprint submission to FDLE
In the U.S. state of Florida, the department of law enforcement is responsible for accepting fingerprint submissions for background check.
Electronic fingerprint submissions are required by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for conducting criminal history record checks on a variety of professions, occupations, positions, and licenses, and must precede the release of national criminal history record information to the non-criminal justice licensing, employing or regulatory agency authorized to receive such information.
FDLE, as the central repository of criminal history record information within the state of Florida and the state point of contact for the FBI, receives and processes electronic fingerprint submissions through FDLE’s Civil Workflow Control System (CWCS).
FDLE authorizes private contractors as registered live scan submitter (RLS), who can live scan individuals on behalf of organizations authorized to request criminal history background checks for official purposes.
Live scan submitters can also live scan and submit fingerprints of employees, volunteers, contractors and associates for private entities within the permitted criminal history record checks.
FDLE sets forth several quality standards to ensure that live scan submitters can capture high quality prints for electronic fingerprint submission to FDLE.
FINRA’s electronic fingerprint submission (EFS)
FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc.) is a government-authorized private not-for-profit organization that oversees U.S. broker-dealers. Securities Exchange Act Rule 17f-2 requires FINRA members to be fingerprinted electronically or by sending ink and roll impressions.
FINRA’s Electronic Fingerprint submission (EFS) enables it to electronically exchange fingerprint information with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. When fingerprinting results are received from the FBI, FINRA uploads them Web CRD (Central Registration Depository).
How electronic fingerprint submission (EFS) can be made to FINRA?
FINRA authorizes its member broker-dealers and funding portals to make electronic fingerprints submissions. Fingerprints are shared with FINRA via encrypted email to ensure security of information.
Organizations looking for FINRA’s electronic fingerprint submissions (EFS) for its applicants, can direct them to certified EFS vendor’s office location. EFS vendors are the firms authorized to live scan individuals and make electronic fingerprint submissions to FINRA on your firm’s behalf.
FINRA only selects EFS vendors who have successfully completed FINRA’s Electronic Fingerprint Submission (EFS) certification testing.
Firms can also purchase and install live scan equipment and make electronic submissions of fingerprints to FINRA on their own. Live scan equipment can be purchased from certified EFS vendors.
Purchasing and installing live scan equipment gives organizations freedom to live scan and send fingerprints electronically without depending on the EFS vendors.
However, FINRA has to be notified about the on-site installation with the vendor information. There is no such requirement if you choose to go to EFS vendor’s office location for FINRA live scan.
Criminal background check has become a common process in many employments, occupations, licensing, permits, visas, immigration, etc. With live scan fingerprinting, fingerprint can be submitted electronically, however, FBI also gives other options to send them on card by printing or rolling inked fingers.
Ink based fingerprinting, however, may produce uncertain prints as quality of prints cannot be determined. Despite being very careful, a lot can go wrong while making ink-based fingerprint impressions on FBI fingerprint cards. Despite being seemingly perfect, they may still get rejected as there can be minute details not captured, which can lead to rejection.
Whether you are submitting fingerprints for FDLE or FINRA for the FBI background check, electronic submissions or print to card can dramatically reduce the chances of rejection.