How Far Back Can Background Checks Go Legally?


In most cases, the standard employer background check only goes back seven years from the date of application. However, in some instances, there are exceptions to the seven-year standard. For positions that work directly with large sums of money, positions of public trust or positions that work directly with children, the employer may require a more extensive background investigation.

Standard Employment Background

  • The typical employer background check includes a Social Security verification, a state and local criminal check for the past seven years, and an employment and education verification. Multiple states may be investigated if the applicant has recently moved. Federal records are not normally checked. This doesn't necessarily mean that all infractions will show up on a routine check. The information provided depends on the source checked. Many local agencies will only provide information on minor traffic infractions for a few years while information on major felonies are often kept for a longer period of time.

Possible Exceptions

  • The Fair Credit Reporting Act limits information that employers can obtain. For positions that require an extensive background investigation, a federal criminal search or extensive credit check may be conducted. Also under federal guidelines, bankruptcy information may show up on a credit report for up to 10 years from the date of discharge regardless of the period of time searched. Searches that reveal Social Security number discrepancies are subject to extensive searches.

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