How Far Back Does A Background Check Go?


If you are involved in the background check, the timeline will depend on the type of check that is being conducted. If the background check is for verifying your education, the background check may a number of years. For example, if you are 45 years old and a prospective employer runs and education background check on you, it could go back as far as 20 years to verify the validity of your college education.

Credit History Background Checks For Bankruptcy

Another type of background check involves your credit history. Fortunately, the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was put in place to limit the time period that could be checked by a credit bureau or background check company. According to the FCRA, information regarding bankruptcies that is older than 10 years cannot be used when a background check is run on your credit history.

7 Year Background Checks For Credit History

Besides bankruptcies, other adverse information is listed on your credit history if you have ever had any problems with your credit. These will include items such as civil suits, judgments, tax liens or unpaid accounts that have been placed into collection.

Since most adverse information on your credit history can only be reported for the past seven years, “seven years” would be the best answer to the question, “How far back does a background check go?”

Background Check For Criminal Records

Background checks can also be run to see if you have a criminal record. If you have ever committed a felony, it will be on your record permanently. Due to the seriousness of this type of crime, felonies cannot be removed from your record unless they have been expunged. However, some states are now banning the ability to ask about criminal records on a job application. Employers have the ability to run a background check, but they are not allowed to ask about any convictions during the first stages of the hiring process. Later in the process, they are allowed to inquire about your criminal record.

Misdemeanors were also stay on your record permanently unless you are able to have been expunged. Unfortunately, there is no universal precedent that for removing them from your criminal record. However, this will fluctuate depending on the state where the crime was committed. Some states have now instituted laws that limit the reporting of minor convictions. In the states that have instituted these laws, the timeline varies based on different factors — some states begin the timeline when disposition occurs, and other states start the clock when a person finishes their incarceration.

As you can see, the timeframe for a background check will depend on which type of check is being conducted. Here’s a rough guideline to go by based on credit, criminal and educational background checks:

Bankruptcy – 10 years
Most Credit History – Seven years
Felonies/Criminal – Lifetime unless expunged
Misdemeanors and Minor Infractions/Criminal – Lifetime or seven years based on the state were committed
Education – Lifetime