What Are The Different Levels Of Background Checks

A background check will usually review someone’s criminal and civil records. There are different levels of background checks, depending on the purpose. A basic background check is a search of public records, while a more comprehensive check includes searches of private records and interviews with references. There are also varying levels of security clearance, which correspond to the amount of information that is shared about the person being checked. Background checks are used for many functions, including employment screening, tenancy verification, and licensure approval. 

Level 1 Background Check:

This is the most basic and least comprehensive type of background check. A Level 1 check will only return any prior criminal convictions or pending charges, as well as certain other public records such as bankruptcies and tax liens. The criminal record search usually comes back within 24 hours, but the full results may take up to a week to be delivered. To complete a check that yields this level of information, the person checked needs only to give their full name and date of birth. If they have had a Social Security Number in the past, it must also be provided for a report to be returned.

Level 2 Background Check:

A level 2 background check involves a more thorough search than a Level 1 review but does not include a comprehensive criminal record check or interviews with references. A Level 2 review will include any prior criminal convictions or pending charges that are on file in a person’s state of residence, as well as the results of a more thorough national-level criminal search. The Civil and Administrative search packages included in this level will provide some information about public records such as bankruptcies and tax liens but do not detail their nature or extent. To complete a Level 2 background check, the individual being checked must supply their full name, date of birth, Social Security Number, and state of residence.

Level 3 Background Check:

A Level 3 background check is more detailed than a Level 1 or 2 review. This level involves a thorough criminal, employment, and civil search. A Level 3 check will yield a complete criminal record, including all prior convictions or pending charges regardless of the state in which they occurred, as well as any Type I offenses that have been entered into the national databases. The report also includes information on any employment-related actions, such as terminations and previous employer contact information. Finally, it will include a comprehensive Civil and Administrative review that includes bankruptcies, liens, and judgments from all 50 states. In order to complete this level of background check, the individual being checked must supply their full name, birthday, Social Security Number (or proof of applicant status), state of residence (or current mailing address), and consent to release of their complete criminal record (including sealed and expunged records). If the individual has had a Social Security Number in the past, it must also be provided.

Level 4 Background Check:

A Level 4 background check is the most comprehensive type of search available. This level of review will provide some information that is not available with lower levels of security clearance. This could include local arrests even if they did not lead to convictions or pending charges, federal civil suits, and traffic violations (other than minor speeding tickets). It will also include any additional offenses that are entered into national databases. For example, the report will show misdemeanor and felony convictions from all 50 states regardless of when they occurred, but sealed or expunged records may not be included unless the individual provides written consent. Finally, the report includes a Civil and Administrative review that is similar to Level 3 background checks minus bankruptcies and civil judgments from outside the United States. To complete this background check level, the individual being checked must supply their full name, birthday, Social Security Number, state, and consent to release their complete criminal record.

Final Words

Since this is such a comprehensive type of search, applicants are typically subject to an interview by their prospective employer before final acceptance or denial. This type of in-depth research may also require consultation with local law enforcement or other government entities to learn more about an applicant’s criminal history. Suppose the final determination is that the individual does not meet the necessary criteria. In that case, they will be flagged as “Denied” and reported as such to the company which initiated the search and any other companies that may have been involved with a similar check. A Level 4 background check can also be used for security clearances that require higher clearance levels than those obtained through normal employment reviews.

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