How to Background Check Someone From Another Country

By Ernest Hamilton , Updated Nov 10, 2020 04:04 PM EST
How to Background Check Someone From Another Country
(Photo: How to Background Check Someone From Another Country )

The chances are high that your pool of job applicants may include one or more foreign persons. Obviously, you need to run an international screening along with making sure they have the documents they need to work and live in the US. You also need to run a credit check and a criminal background check, especially if your shortlisted applicant just moved to the US. You must be informed about the risk of a criminal past and to verify they gave you accurate information.

The Good and the Bad 

It's quite easy to verify references and education internationally. All you would need to do is call the schools the applicant says he graduated from and the person they cited as a reference. The language barrier will be the only challenge to reckon with. On the downside, performing employment verification, a credit check, and a criminal history check can result in a swamp of red tape and bureaucracy. We explain why below. 

No International Database Exists 

Because each country has its own data privacy laws (or none at all), there is no global database to check whether someone has a criminal history. You would need to contact the institutions in the applicant's country. It doesn't have to be their country of origin. 

Typically, international screenings are used in the pre-employment stage. If the company has foreign branches or a candidate has lived abroad, an international background check is mandatory. These screenings enable companies to make better hiring decisions as international job applicants are becoming more and more common. 

Check Records in Each Country 

To perform an international background check, you'll need to have the registers in each country where the person lived checked separately. It's at your discretion what to include in the check, so quite a bit of variation exists. The following data is normally included.

Criminal Records

Countries have different laws governing use of criminal history information by employers and the type of information that's available, as well as to whom it's available. Some countries don't allow employers to reject candidates based on criminal history unless the job involves working with children or other vulnerable groups. 

Check References

As mentioned, checking a foreign candidate's references is simpler. A prospective employer can call each of the candidates listed and ask questions about their remuneration, competence, character, and performance. We recommend hiring a translator if the person given as a reference does not speak English. 

Education Verification

An employer cannot establish whether a candidate is truly qualified for the position without an international education verification. Academic institutions typically use education verifications. Senior-level positions always require them. To carry this out, you need to contact the schools listed on the candidate's resume directly. The process can be cumbersome and prolonged because some schools have privacy rules, according to which only a parent of a student or the student themselves may review educational records. Time differences and language barriers can complicate the process. 

Credit History 

It's not easy to obtain an international credit report because each country reports debt, credit, and responsibility differently. What's more, quite a few countries have privacy rules about access to such information. After all, financial data is sensitive. We can't blame them. You would need to contact the credit reporting agency or agencies in the respective country to find out if you can get this information at all. 

Determining the Institutions Responsible

We may be aware of US law for storing and releasing information about the population, but foreign law is something completely different. For one, the places releasing data can vary. You can contact the country's embassy in some cases. In others, the embassy won't have this information or be willing to release it. You would then need to request it directly from the country. 

Endless Variation 

In some countries, US companies (and foreign companies in general) aren't allowed access to any records whatsoever. Others come with a mountain of red tape and a seemingly infinite number of hoops to jump through. The variations can be endless: birth certificates, photographs, parents' names, and fingerprints. You might be asked for evidence the person applied for a job at your organization at all. It will take some time to get information, up to three weeks in some cases. That's if you get information at all. 

In sum, the country in question determines whether running an international check is worth the effort. This is also at the employer's discretion. 

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