Cities and Towns in the United States > Procedures > Obtaining a Criminal Record Check in the U.S.


How to obtain a criminal record check in the US

Although it doesn’t happen frequently, US citizens may be faced with situations in which they need to provide a “certificate of good conduct.” This document serves to prove that you have a clean criminal record. It may be requested, for example, when you are about to start a new job, move abroad, rent a place, or adopt a child.

This valuable document can be obtained in two ways: either from your local police station or from the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

In this article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the US criminal record check. Learn where to request it, the cost, processing time, and the procedure to obtain your certificate here.

The local police department

The local police department

One possibility is to attend your local police department in person and request they run a criminal records search. As part of the check, the police will take your fingerprints and issue a document that shows your criminal history. Notice that due to COVID 19 restrictions, most police departments will request you to book an appointment online on their webpage before attending in person.

Depending on which authorities requested the criminal record check, you may have to authenticate the certificate or even have it apostilled, especially if you need to use the certificate abroad. The fee to authenticate your certificate is $20. For more information on the authentication service, click here.

The documentation needed, processing times, and fees vary depending on the police department you use. However, as a guideline, you can expect:

We suggest you check the exact documentation needed, fee, and processing times with your local police department for reassurance.

Request an Identity History Summary Check from the FBI


Another option is to contact the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division of the FBI in writing and request that they submit a copy of your criminal history record to you, which is also known as “Identity History Summary Check” or “rap sheet”.

This can be done online or by mail. If you decide to do it by mail you must submit the required documentation to:

  • FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
  • 1000 Custer Hollow Road
  • Clarksburg, WV 26306
Please note: only the interested person can request a check, so you can’t ask for a copy of someone else’s record on their behalf (unless you’re legally allowed due to their incapacity to do so).

What documentation do I need to submit?

To request a copy of your record you need to send:

  • A completed Applicant Information Form
  • A current and completed Identity Finger Card, which can be obtained by visiting:
  • - a law enforcement agency,
  • - an approved channeler service (a private business that has a contract with the FBI to send fingerprint submissions and relevant data),
  • - or a participating U.S. Post Office. They will take your fingerprints electronically and place them on a standard fingerprint form (FD-258). Note that the card must include your name and date and place of birth for it to be complete.
  • A certified check or money order for the processing fee payable to the Treasury of the United States. You can also pay by credit card, in which case you need to complete and submit the Credit Card Payment Form.
Please note: if you decide to use a post office to provide your fingertips you must complete the Applicant Information Form and pay the fee before you pay them a visit.

Processing times and fees

The fee to obtain a copy of your Identity History Summary Check is $18. Your results can be obtained online or by post (either by First-Class Mail via the U.S. Postal Service).

It can take between 3 and 5 business days for the certificate to reach you electronically and between 2-4 weeks if you requested it by mail.

Now you know

If you need to provide proof that you have a clean criminal record, you may do this by requesting a copy from the local police department where you reside or last resided; or by contacting the FBI and asking for an “Identity History Summary Check.” Don’t forget to check you have all the necessary documentation and you have paid the processing fee before making the application.

How to obtain a criminal record check in the US

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