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Immigration Background Checks: How To Prepare

The United States is one of the most popular places for people to immigrate to. In fact, every year, more than one million immigrants attempt to enter the United States. While many people are accepted, a lengthy background check process occurs before someone is granted a visa or citizenship.

The good news is that you can pass an immigration background check when you know what to expect. We’ll take you through everything you need to know about immigration background checks and how to pass them.

What Is an Immigration Background Check?

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Immigration background checks are not like normal background checks. These background checks are run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to verify someone’s identity and criminal record. Immigration background checks will also look at someone’s past in detail.

During the immigration process, the background check phase is known as the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) Name Check. The IBIS is a centralized system that uses data from dozens of agencies and public records to create a report about someone. The IBIS name check aims to determine if someone has a criminal history or is a threat to the United States.

There might be additional background checks and verification methods when immigrating to the United States or other countries. So, expect some variations within the process.

Does Every Immigrant Go Through a Background Check?

Yes, before immigrating to the United States, immigrants must undergo a background check. Immigrants go through these checks to verify their identity and ensure they’re not a danger to the United States. Failing to go through a background check results in the termination of the application.

What Information Does an Immigration Background Check Show?

Immigration background checks show a lot of information about someone. They’re more in-depth than employer-type background checks, so expect more details to surface.

The main things that immigration background checks look for include the following:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Native-born country
  • Spouses
  • Marriage documents
  • Birth records
  • Known suspects of crimes
  • Affiliations with a crime in other countries
  • Work and education history
  • Social media accounts
  • Sex offender status

These are only some of the things that immigration background checks look for, and results vary based on the person. Additionally, border protection agencies and the FBI may request more details or in-depth background checks.

How Do Immigration Background Checks Work?

Immigration background checks are more in-depth than your average background check. Therefore, knowing how they work and all of the steps in the process will prepare you for one. Immigration background checks have a few steps that start with the IBIS background check, then move on to fingerprints, and end with Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) name checks.

IBIS Background Check

At the border, the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) does a name check. The name check at this stage is less in-depth than the FBI name check, but it helps to build an image of someone. During this phase, information about someone’s name, background, and criminal history will surface.

To pass this stage of the immigration background check you must be open and honest with border protection agents. Doing so will prevent conflicts that spawn from lies. The IBIS background check is one of the easiest parts of the immigration background check to pass.

Biometrics Service Appointment

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Immigration background checks also require biometrics service appointments, which is the fingerprint part of the process. There are many local centers, so it depends on where you are in the immigration process, but you might have to travel to complete this task.

The fingerprint results are processed by the FBI in West Virginia, where your criminal record is verified. Fingerprints show border protection agencies if you have criminal affiliations or if your fingerprints are not useful for a background check.

Fingerprints take time to process, so you might have to wait for up to 48 hours to see the results. Taking the biometrics appointment seriously is important because fingerprint records only last for 15 months. Waiting longer may result in the abandonment of your immigration application.

That said, fingerprints will also show other things about your history, like verifying employment and education. Plus, crimes committed in other countries may be available if they’re public records.

FBI Name Checks

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The United States has a National Name Check Program that’s located in Washington. The program checks people’s names against a database of billions of names. Some of these databases include criminal databases, civil court databases, tax records, and more. The FBI will also use the Universal Index tool to identify if there is a match between the immigrant and potential crime suspects.

FBI name checks are a simple part of the process. In most cases, immigrants move on from this part of the background check within one or two weeks. Unfortunately, there is sometimes a backlog that takes months or even years to resolve.

Also, producing a match during the FBI name check isn’t the end of the world. It’s possible to pass the background check as long as any lingering issues are resolved within six months.

How to Check Your Background

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The best way to prepare for an immigration background check is to check your background before going through one. Performing a background check on yourself before going through an official government check gives you the ability to prepare for questions immigration services might ask you. Plus, it’s easy to check your background when you know where to start.

The full report will provide you with an in-depth look at your background. Having access to this information will help you prepare for questions about your past that people will ask you during the immigration process.

What Information Will You Find With a People Search Engine?

People search engines give you a lot of information. You’ll get the full scope of your life and past. Some examples of things that will show up include phone numbers, addresses, dating profiles, social media accounts, spouses, criminal records, sex offender status, and more. Overall, using a people search engine will show you everything about yourself or someone else as long as it’s a public record.

Prepare for an Immigration Background Check Today

Immigration background checks are intimidating. For many people, it’s the last thing that needs to happen before the immigration process is complete. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to pass these background checks, especially if you don’t answer all of the questions properly.

Thankfully, background check tools will help you prepare for an immigration background check, so you don’t have to panic. Running your name through a people search tool will prepare you for anything that will come up on the background check.


Ricardo is a freelance writer specialized in politics. He is with foreignpolicyi.org from the beginning and helps it grow. Email: richardorland4[at]gmai.com

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