Obtaining FBI Reports for US Citizens Outside the US Can Be Challenging — Here’s How to Make it Easier

FBI reports, or Identity History Summary (IHS) checks, are official documents that contain the record of a person’s criminal history, or lack thereof. They are often required for employment, visa applications, and other purposes for both US citizens and people who have lived in the US for over a few months.


Not only can they take time to acquire, but additional challenges can arise due to factors such as language barriers, distance from US embassies and consulates, and different government regulations. For example, to obtain an FBI report from Spain — where we serve a lot of clients — the individual must first complete a fingerprint form and submit it to a local police station or other authorized agency. 


Those fingerprints will then be sent to the FBI for processing. This alone can be a complicated process and on top of that, many countries that require background checks will also need them to be apostilled or legalized. All of this takes time and there is a very wide margin for error, especially when you factor in the challenges mentioned above.


So what exactly are the requirements for an FBI report and how can US citizens who need one make their lives easier? We’re going to discuss this in the article below.



How can US citizens obtain an FBI report for US citizens from abroad?

The FBI receives a large number of requests for background checks each year, from both US and non-US citizens based within the country and globally, so processing times can vary greatly depending on the volume of requests received. Wait times have also been greatly exacerbated since the COVID-19 pandemic, which means background checks should always be carried out as early as possible. It’s also even more important to make sure all the required information is submitted accurately, to avoid even further delays.


So how does it work? 


An FBI background check can be obtained both by mail and online, with online requests typically being much faster. Within the US, the process is relatively simple because once registered, the individual can visit a US Post Office location to submit their fingerprints electronically, as opposed to completing a fingerprint card yourself or at your local police station.


For US citizens outside of the country, the application process will be longer due to physical forms needing to be mailed and the fingerprinting process which will have to be carried out at a local police station or a fingerprinting service provider. Not all police stations abroad are able to do this, and fingerprints will be rejected if they aren’t carried out to the standard that the FBI requires, so making sure to find out beforehand will save time and confusion.


For employment and visa purposes, you will almost always need to legalize or apostille your FBI background check. Within the US, this involves sending the document to the US government to have a stamp and seal placed to verify its authenticity in other countries. When abroad, you will need to visit your nearest US embassy or consulate with your documents and ID who can provide this service. 



Working with an immigration document provider can help get your FBI background check while abroad

Many people opt to partner with a provider who can simplify the many steps involved in this process and ensure there won’t be delays. This can be particularly important for digital nomad visas and other work permits that require your criminal background check to be no more than six months old at the time of application. 


Working with a provider who speaks the local language and can liaise with the police station and embassy on your behalf can streamline the whole process. They can ensure that you get an appointment, that you’re getting the correct service, and that all of the forms are used and filled out as required by the FBI. They will then be able to correctly manage the legalization process for you and keep you in the loop at every stage.


If you are able to work with a service provider who also has an office in the US, this can further expedite the process as they are able to coordinate with the FBI in the US and essentially act as a middleman. 



Lex Documents can help you with your FBI background check from anywhere in the world

At Lex Documents, we help speed up and solve visa and international document procedures by FBI background check support, providing visa application processing, document procurement and legalization, global document translation, consular visit support, and more. 


We streamline the background check process by helping you procure your FBI report, from registration to organizing the biometric fingerprinting collection process and managing the apostille process for you. We keep you updated every step of the way until you have your police check in hand. Lex Documents has offices based around the world, including in Miami, so our staff will always know the best way to navigate local embassies and police stations wherever you are based.


Reach out to us to find out how Lex Documents can help.

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