How Far Back Does Fingerprinting Background Check Go?

There’s no set time frame upon which a fingerprinting background check can go. This is because numerous different factors come into play such as the laws in your state and what type of background check is being done. 

If a pre-employment check is being done then it will usually only go back seven years, however as we mentioned above this can vary from state to state. 

The type of job you’re applying for can also affect how far the background check will go back. Jobs that need a higher security clearance can use the FBI’s IAFIS database which can go back for as long as you’re on record. 

Is It True That The Fingerprint Check Go Only 7 Years Back?

It can be quite complicated as it is true, but in some scenarios, it isn’t true. Let’s look at the factors that can alter how far back a fingerprint check can go:

State laws: Some states such as New York, Texas, Montana, and New Hampshire all have laws that only allow employers to check the last seven years of your criminal record, also known as the Seven Year Lookback Rule. 

However, there are states like Pennsylvania and Maine that have a ten-year lookback meaning potential employers can see the last ten years of your criminal record. 

Type of job: Not all jobs are considered equal. A job working as a cashier compared to a job in the military has very different requirements. If you want to get a job in the military or work for a federal agency then they’ll do a much more thorough background check that spans further back than seven years.

What Is a Fingerprint Background Check?

A fingerprint background check is a screening used to pull up various different types of information about an individual including criminal history and personal information such as name, address, employment, height, and much more.

They are mainly used by employers to check a potential candidate’s history and make sure they’re suitable for the workplace. Law enforcement also uses fingerprint background checks when they want to check if someone has a criminal past.

What is the IAFIS database?

The IAFIS (Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System) is a national database developed in 1999 and is owned by the FBI that contains around 70 million fingerprints of known criminals and non-criminals that have had their fingerprints scanned by the federal government like military personnel.

The AIFIS has automated fingerprint searching capabilities along with other advanced features such as electronic image storage, latent searching capabilities, and electronic exchange of fingerprints and responses.

Who has access to the IAFIS database?

Not just anyone has access to the AIFIS database due to the vast amount of classified information contained within it.

The FBI is the main agency that has access as they were the ones who developed it, however different areas of law enforcement can request information from the database if they need help with an investigation.

Do all employers do a fingerprint background check?

Fingerprint background checks are becoming more popular and thus many employers are opting to choose them over a regular background check. The reason for this is that your fingerprint is unique to you meaning only your results are going to come back.

This adds an extra level of security because a regular background check may show conflicting results with someone that has the same name as you. Fingerprint background checks also require you to physically submit the check via a live scan. 

What information does a fingerprint check show?

A fingerprint check gives the person requesting a CHRI report (Criminal History Record Information. This report contains things like any criminal convictions, charges, or arrests, along with personal information about you like your SSN, date of birth, address, and employment.

Do Fingerprint Background Checks Reveal Expunged Records?

Fingerprint Background Checks Reveal Expunged Records

If you’ve ever had your criminal record expunged you might be anxious to know if anything is going to pop up during a fingerprint background check. An expungement means it ceases to exist so there should be no evidence of you on record with any charges against your name. 

However, a record won’t be expunged immediately as it can take some time for a judge to authorize its removal to the relevant agencies. The FBI is known to obey state requests to remove criminal records from the National Crime Information Center (NCIC).

Can you remove your fingerprints from IAFIS?

As the AIFIS is a federal database it’s likely not possible that you can request to have them removed. Having your fingerprints on the AIFIS isn’t necessarily a bad thing and doesn’t mean you’re a criminal.

If the FBI were to remove your fingerprints upon request and you later committed a crime there would be questions asked about their competence.

How long does a live fingerprint scan take to clear?

A live fingerprint scan will take anywhere from one day up to two weeks to clear. Your fingerprints are taken electronically, scanned, and then sent for processing.

There can be delays in the event that there was a bad fingerprint quality taken, in these cases your agency will be contacted again for a resubmission.


It’s not true that fingerprint checks only go back seven years. Regular background checks can only go back seven years, in some states it’s longer and in some it’s shorter but seven years is generally the time period.

Fingerprint checks go back indefinitely as they’re stored on the FBI’s IAFIS database which consists of over 70 million prints. Access to this database is restricted as only the FBI and law enforcement are the ones with authorization to view it. This means any employers doing a background check on you won’t be able to see it.

bryan rucker
Written by Brian Williams

Brian is an expert in security, privacy, and information. He has studied background checks, criminal, people search, and such topics over the last 5 years. He is also an avid writer and enjoys sharing his knowledge through this blog. Read more of Brian's articles.