Of all of the visa woes our clients most strongly detest, requesting (or perhaps more aptly put, waiting for) an FBI Background Check is almost always at the top of the list. Sending off for the check via snail mail often means wait times anywhere between 12 to 18 weeks. There’s also the option to apply for your check using an approved-channeler, which does expedite the process considerably, but can also cost and arm and a leg (and you’ll need those when in Spain).
The good news – there’s finally a better way! The FBI has joined the 21st Century and is now accepting applications online, cutting down wait times by months – literally – and allowing you to check your status online. We called the FBI to ask how to do an online background check via bureau’s website.
This post will explain how to get an FBI background check online for use in Spain or another country outside the USA.
So, what is a background check, and why do I need one?
A background check is a record of your previous criminal activity (or lack thereof), known colloquially as a rap sheet (cue the beatbox). The check can be used for a number of purposes, but since this is a blog about living in Spain, you’ll likely use it to obtain a visa to live and potentially work in Spain. A background check is also necessary for obtaining Spanish citizenship through residency.
How to apply for an FBI Background Check using the online service
Applying for your criminal background check mirrors the process of a mail-in or walk-in application, but allows you to submit a request in minutes and pay electronically ahead of sending in your fingerprint card.
A tip before you begin: get your fingerprints done professionally – doing so incorrectly can result in a voided application. Your local police force will know how to properly roll your digits onto the FBI approved card, so call ahead to ask and inquire for days, times and if there are any fees involved.
Don’t forget that you can also request a background check via snail mail or in person. We have a guide to obtaining an FBI background check that may be of interest.
In order to begin the process, you must direct your browser to the FBI’s online site and provide a valid email address: type this into the box (to the right of the instructions) and you will immediately receive an email with a personal pin code and link to log in. Note that this link can only be used ONE time and expires after 24 hours.
You will next be directed to a page where you can fill out your personal information, mailing address, the last four digits of your social security number and, in the case of a previous incarceration, your prisoner number. Eye and hair color, as well as height and weight, must also be filled in.
It’s also important to choose the reason for your request. If you need the FBI background check for a visa or Spanish citizenship application, be sure to choose “Live, work or travel in a foreign country”.
On this page, you must fill out your preferred mailing address. If you will be sending the document to someone other than yourself, you can make this known using the “In Care Of” and “Attention” boxes. Add the street address and postal code; the postal code should bring up the correct city and state, and don’t forget to add a phone number as well.
On this page, make sure to ask for your birthdate to be included on your background check. You can also select to receive updates and, the most important box of all, to get a hard copy of snail-mailed to you!
You will now be instructed on where to send your fingerprint card. The proper form is FD-258 and fingerprints should be rolled on a standard white card stock by a professional. Be sure to print your full name and date of birth on the fingerprint card.
The address for Criminal Justice Identity Summaries is:
FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
If you are already in Spain, you can make the fingerprint request at a local police station or at a Policia Científica.
Time to pay up! You’ll be requested to make an electronic payment to the FBI for $18. This can be done via credit card, PayPal or Amazon.
Background check requests made electronically typically take 3-5 days to complete; allow two more business days for the check to be sent to you via post. It is imperative that you get a hard copy for the authentication and translation stipulation for use in Spain.
If you’re using the FBI Background Check for a visa, don’t forget that you will need to send out for an Apostille of the Hague, which will render the document valid for use abroad, as well as a certified or “sworn” translation.
Not feeling newfangled and prefer to do things via snail mail? Read our updated post on how to request an FBI Background Check via mail or through an approved channeler.
Ready to move to Spain? Contact us about our email consultations to walk through your residency options, create a timeline for tackling your visa or for going over paperwork with people who know the ins and outs of visa applications to Spain!