If you are planning to start a small-scale business in the service sector or already have a storefront and provide services such as notary, shipping, internet, etc., live scan fingerprinting can be a viable addition to your existing service portfolio. Even if you are looking to start afresh, an authorized fingerprinting agency can be a good point to start a new business venture.
Even small-scale businesses require a significant amount of upfront investment and involve complexities, however, starting an authorized fingerprinting agency is one of the simplest and least capital intensive options. If you can plan, market your services right, and have a small investment to make, live scan fingerprinting can easily generate income for you.
Though starting a private fingerprinting agency is not rocket science, you, as a live scan service provider, should have a clear understanding of it, so planning ahead is a great idea. Though we have already covered live scan fingerprinting in great detail, here is a list of FAQs that will help you through the process of starting your live scan fingerprinting business.
What is an authorized fingerprinting agency?
An authorized fingerprinting agency is a location where people can have their fingerprints captured and submitted to the law enforcement or regulatory body. These live scan fingerprinting locations are authorized by the agencies such as the FBI, FINRA, FDLE, etc. to collect and submit applicant fingerprints.
An authorized private fingerprinting agency has all the equipment and supplies that you might require during a live scan. An authorized fingerprinting agency is also known as a third-party fingerprinting service provider as well as an FBI-approved channeler.
Why become a live scan service provider?
Starting a private fingerprinting agency and providing fingerprinting services can be a good starting point to set up your own business. It requires comparatively lower capital than many other service-oriented businesses. Prospects for the return on investment are also favorable and the money invested in the business can be reclaimed within a couple of months, even if your initial business performance is average.
Today, people are looking to use their time, energy, and skills in entrepreneurship. This is evident in The Great Resignation, a global phenomenon driving people to resign from their jobs and start something more fulfilling. Better work-life balance is also another reason people want to dedicate their time and energy to something that provides better prospects and growth. There could have been no better time to start your own venture.
What is the process for me to get started?
Starting a private fingerprinting agency is like starting any other service industry business – you need necessary equipment and approvals to start providing the services. In your case, it would the live scan fingerprint system to provide private fingerprinting services. You will also have to complete necessary formalities with the agencies you want to provide services for.
There are different agencies in the United States that take care of a particular sector or area. For example – FINRA takes care of financial sector background checks while FDLE takes care of background verification in the jurisdiction of Florida.
You will have to seek approval/registration with the agencies if you want to provide services for multiple agencies. Here, the interesting fact is that all the background check applications eventually go to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as the agency maintains the largest repository of biometric identities in the United States.
Along with the necessary hardware and software to provide fingerprinting services, you need a Fingerprint Rolling Certification, which is a must to legally operate as a fingerprinting agency. To obtain fingerprint rolling certification, you will need to complete a self-study certification. The U.S. Department of Justice offers a Fingerprint Certification Program Reference Handbook to enable individuals to obtain Fingerprint Rolling Certification through self-study.
Live scan fingerprinting is a highly regulated space and an event of non-compliance to the regulations can attract heavy penalties. These regulations are tightly enforced and even different states may have different regulations on top of the regulations enforced by the DoJ and the FBI, which increases the complexities further.
What equipment do I need to get started?
Unlike many other businesses that need you to make heavy investments or procure expensive equipment, a private fingerprinting agency can be started with live scan fingerprinting equipment.
Live scan fingerprinting device
A live scan fingerprinting device is basically a fingerprint scanner manufactured with the specifications prescribed by the agency concerned (e.g. the FBI). These live scan fingerprinting devices help an authorized fingerprinting agency to scan high-quality fingerprint images, which is not possible by ordinary scanners.
Live scan fingerprinting software
To make your live scan fingerprint scanner work, you will need to install the live scan fingerprinting software on a computer (PC or desktop). A live scan fingerprinting software not only works as a control center for your live scan device, but it also helps you capture biographic details (i.e. personal details) of the applicant.
A live scan fingerprinting software allows you to systematically scan fingerprints including Individualflat scans, 4-finger slaps as well as rolled prints of individual fingers. Live scan fingerprinting software also performs quality checks to ensure that the live scan fingerprinting device has been able to scan prints with adequate quality. Check out our Print to Card live scan solution.
Your live scan fingerprint system does not complete without a computer, as you will need it to install the live scan fingerprinting software and connect the live scan device to it. You can use an existing PC/laptop as long as it fulfills all the minimum specifications required (which most PCs/Laptops will).
Law enforcement agencies have a specific format for fingerprints cards for the individuals who want to submit their fingerprints manually. You should have an adequate number of fingerprint cards to ink or print fingerprints. These FD-258 cards can be obtained from the FBI or from online vendors.
FBI certified printers
There will be instances when you will need to print certain details on paper while providing private fingerprinting services. You may need to print fingerprints on fingerprint cards, etc. Fingerprint cards are used to them submit fingerprints to different agencies by post. Though it is slower than electronic submission, some customers will prefer it that way.
- Lexmark MS821 (Recommended)/MS521/MS420/MS421
- Hewlett-Packard M551/Dell B5460dn
- Lexmark T640/T642/T644/ T650/C534/C544/C746
- Lexmark CS510/CX510/MS810/C736 (color laser)
- Xerox Phaser 3610/4510/5550
Lexmark MS821 is one of the best printers for printing FBI Cards. Lexmark MS521/MS420/MS421 are also very good.
Do I need to register with the State Agency?
It is a common misconception that all you need is a live scan fingerprinting system to start an authorized fingerprinting agency. While a live scan fingerprinting system is necessary to provide private fingerprinting services, you also need to register with the agency you will be providing live scan services for.
Unless you register with the agencies involved, there is no way that the agency can ensure that you are an authorized fingerprinting agency trying to connect with their systems to submit background check requests on behalf of the applicants.
Registering with the state agencies allows them to provide you a secure channel for connecting and communicating with their systems in order to submit background check requests with biometric and biographic data of the applicants.
Who needs live scan anyway?
Each day, a large number of people go through live scan fingerprinting for different reasons such as employment, clearance, licensing, etc. Today, most employers conduct employment background checks, many of which mandatorily include criminal background screening as well. Conducting criminal background checks is a legal requirement, so there is no escape from it.
Live scan has been a backbone of criminal identification and background screening as criminal records are maintained on the basis of biometric information of the subjects. Fingerprints are used as a key to maintaining criminal records due to their immunity against manipulation. Storing and maintaining criminal records based on biographic information such as name, date of birth, etc. can lead to errors in fetching accurate records, which can fail the entire purpose of serving justice.
What is an ORI number and how do I get it?
Originating Agency Identifier or ORI Number is a nine-character long unique identifier, which is assigned to an authorized fingerprinting agency. It is generally an alphanumeric string allotted to a fingerprinting agency. An authorized fingerprinting agency uses this unique identifier to have themselves identified in different communications. For example, a fingerprinting agency can use the ORI number in requisition forms to receive fingerprint supplies, etc.
According to the FBI, Originating Agency Identification number is required to order fingerprint cards and training aids from the agency. A fingerprint agency can contact the FBI, CJIS Division, CCA File Unit, at (304) 625-4543 to obtain the ORI number if it does not have one. The fingerprint agency is required to complete the 1-178, CJIS Supply Requisition Form, to order fingerprint supplies, and/or the 1-178a, CJIS Fingerprint Training Aids Supply Form, to order training materials, once they have been assigned an ORI number.
Is fingerprinting business profitable?
If you plan and market it right, a fingerprint agency can be a profitable business without putting in much effort and investment. The good thing about providing private fingerprinting services is that it does not require heavy investments as most other businesses do. Starting a private fingerprint agency becomes easier if you have a storefront and already providing services such as notary, shipping, etc.
Private fingerprinting services are generally provided along with other services such as notary, shipping, internet, fax, etc. Since owing or renting a storefront may have significant overheads, it is always a good idea to provide multiple services if you can. On average, a 15-minute appointment for live scan fingerprinting services costs around $30, while initial investment for a live scan system ranges from $4,000 to $6,000.
Storefronts providing live scan services do not operate as a live scan private fingerprinting agency alone. They often provide multiple services as running a store brings additional overheads (such as cost of ownership/rent, maintenance, electricity, etc.). The good thing about providing private fingerprinting services is that you can also operate as a mobile fingerprinting service provider. In this mode of fingerprinting services, you do not need to own or rent a storefront, you just need to invest in a live scan fingerprinting system and get necessary approvals.
Mobile fingerprinting service providers carry their mobile live scan system to the client’s location and capture their prints. There are many people who would want live scan fingerprint at the time and location of their choice. For example, extremely busy individuals, old age persons, people suffering from disabilities, etc. would definitely prefer mobile fingerprinting over on-site fingerprinting.
Today, even the FBI-approved ten-print fingerprint scanners such as Integrated Biometrics Kojak offers are unbelievably compact and can be carried around in a bag. Other equipment such as laptops, fingerprint cards, etc. can also be easily accommodated in your mobile fingerprinting kit. There is absolutely no difference between the processes of live scan fingerprint done at an authorized fingerprinting agency or at the client’s location using the mobile live scan system. Mobile live scan service providers charge even higher for the convenience they offer.
What kind of services can be offered as an authorized fingerprinting agency?
There are different agencies across the United States that take care of background check requirements specific to an industry or jurisdiction.
- Live scan fingerprinting
- Ink fingerprinting or print to card fingerprinting
- FBI background checks
- FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) fingerprinting
- NFA fingerprinting
- FINRA EFS (Electronic Fingerprint Submissions)
If you are looking to start your own small-scale business, a live scan fingerprint agency can be a good option given the several benefits it offers. A private fingerprinting agency can be started even if you have absolutely no experience in the area. Most business types would require you to make moderate to heavy investment upfront, however, private fingerprinting services do not require heavy investment and can be started with small capital. A major part of your investment would be spent on procuring the live scan fingerprinting system (unless you choose to rent/buy a new storefront).
Though having a storefront gives you the advantage of providing additional services such as notary public, shipping, tax services, etc., it is not mandatory to have it. You can start with mobile live scan fingerprinting that does not require you to have a storefront. When you start a live scan fingerprinting business, the risk to return ratio is highly favorable, which makes all the difference and enhances your odds of winning.