An FBI Identification Record—often referred to as a criminal history record or a “rap sheet”—is a listing of certain information taken from fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, federal employment, naturalization, or military service. The process of responding to an Identification Record request is generally known as a criminal background check.
If the fingerprints are related to an arrest, the Identification Record includes name of the agency that submitted the fingerprints to the FBI, the date of the arrest, the arrest charge, and the disposition of the arrest, if known to the FBI. All arrest data included in an Identification Record is obtained from fingerprint submissions, disposition reports, and other information submitted by agencies having criminal justice responsibilities.
The U.S. Department of Justice Order 556-73 establishes rules and regulations for the subject of an FBI Identification Record to obtain a copy of his or her own record for review. The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division processes these requests.
Who May Request a Copy of a and FBI Record (or Proof That a Record Does Not Exist)
Only you can request a copy of your own FBI Identification Record.
Individuals typically make this request for personal review, to challenge the information on record, to satisfy a requirement for adopting a child in the U.S. or internationally, or to satisfy a requirement to live, work, or travel in a foreign country (i.e., police certificate, letter of good conduct, criminal history background, etc.).
FBI Background Checks for Employment or Licensing
If you are requesting a background check for employment or licensing within the U.S., you may be required by state statute or federal law to submit your request through your state identification bureau, the requesting federal agency, or another authorized channeling agency. You should contact the agency requiring the background check or the appropriate state identification bureau (or state police) for the correct procedures to follow for obtaining an FBI fingerprint background check for employment or licensing purposes.
How to Request a Copy of Your FBI Background Check
Step 1: Complete the Applicant Information Form (pdf).
- If the request is for a couple, family, etc., all persons must sign the form.
- Include your complete mailing address. Provide your telephone number and/or e-mail address, if available.
Step 2: Obtain a set of your fingerprints.
- Provide the original fingerprint card. Previously processed cards or copies will not be accepted.
- Your name and date of birth must be provided on the card. Fingerprints should be placed on a standard fingerprint form (FD-258) commonly used for applicant or law enforcement purposes.
- Include rolled impressions of all 10 fingerprints and impressions of all 10 fingerprints taken simultaneously (these are sometime referred to as plain or flat impressions).
- If possible, have your fingerprints taken by a fingerprinting technician. This service may be available at a law enforcement agency.
- To ensure the most legible prints possible, refer to the Recording Legible Fingerprints brochure.
Step 3: Submit payment for FBI Background Check
- Option 1: Obtain a money order or cashiers check for $18 U.S. dollars made payable to the Treasury of the United States. Please be sure to sign where required.
- Option 2: Pay by credit card using the Credit Card Payment Form (pdf). Don’t forget to include the expiration date of the credit card that you are using.
- Important note: Cash, personal checks, or business checks WILL NOT be accepted.
- Payment must be for the exact amount.
- If the request is for a couple, family, etc., include $18 for each person.
- If you are making multiple requests per person, include $18 for each request.
Step 4: Review the FBI Identification Record Request Checklist (pdf) to ensure that you have included all the information we require to process your request.
Step 5: Mail the required items listed above—applicant information form, fingerprint card, and payment—to the following address:
FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
What Happens Next
If we find no record, you will receive a “no record” response. If you do have a criminal history record on file, you will receive your Identification Record, or “rap sheet.”
Note: Although the FBI employs the most efficient methods for processing these requests, processing times may take up to six weeks depending on the volume of requests received.
Frequently Asked Question about Requesting FBI Background Checks
1. Does the FBI accept personal or business checks for conducting FBI Background Checks?
No. Personal or business checks are not an acceptable form of payment for departmental order (DO) requests. Personal or business checks submitted with a DO request will not be returned. The CJIS Division will destroy the monetary instrument and will provide the customer a letter explaining why the monetary instrument could not be used.
2. Do you have procedures for expeditious handling of FBI Background Checks?
No. The CJIS Division does not expedite requests.
3. Can the FBI send the results of FBI Background Check to someone (or agency) other than myself?
Under Departmental Order 556-73, the results must go back to the requester, unless otherwise specified on the signed application. Note: The FBI will not send results to a government agency.
4. Where can I get my fingerprints taken?
Your local, county, or state law enforcement agencies may take your fingerprints for a fee. Also, some printing companies offer this service—check the yellow pages in your telephone book or search online.
5. What if my fingerprints are continuously rejected?
Have multiple sets of fingerprints taken, preferably by a fingerprinting technician. (This service may be available at a law enforcement agency). Mail all fingerprint forms to the CJIS Division with your request.
6. Can I use the fingerprint card I download from this site?
Yes. We will accept the downloaded paper fingerprint card only for the purpose of requesting an FBI Identification Record. If you go to a law enforcement agency or private fingerprinting agency to be fingerprinted, they may prefer to use a fingerprint card on standard card stock. You may use the fingerprint card provided by the printing agency.
7. Will my fingerprint card be returned?
No. Due to concerns related to the protection of personally identifiable information, fingerprint cards are no longer being returned either for a “no record” response or with an FBI Identification Record.
Any questions regarding this matter should be directed to the CJIS Customer Service Group at (304) 625-5590.
8. How do I notify the FBI if my address has changed since I submitted my request for my FBI Identification Record or if I want to verify my correct address was submitted?
Please complete the Address Change Request Form (pdf) and mail the signed form to the following address:
FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
The form can also be faxed to (304) 625-9792 or scanned and sent via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Changes will not be made unless a signature is present on the form.
9. Does the FBI provide apostilles*?
(*An apostille is a certification that a document that has been “legalized” or “authenticated” by the issuing agency through a process in which various seals are placed on the document.)
The CJIS Division will authenticate U.S. Department of Justice Order 556-73 fingerprint search results for international requests by placing the FBI seal and the signature of a division official on the results if requested at the time of submission. Documents prepared in this way may then be sent to the U.S. Department of State by the requester to obtain an apostille if necessary. This procedure became effective on January 25, 2010 and will apply only to documents finalized after that date. Requests to authenticate previously processed results will not be accepted. This procedure replaces the letter formerly provided by the CJIS Division that indicated the service was not provided. The apostille service is not provided to individuals requesting search results for Canadian immigration, as it is not required for this purpose.
10. How do I challenge my FBI Background Check Record?
The CJIS Division is not the source of the data appearing on identification records. All data is obtained from fingerprint submissions or related identification forms submitted to the FBI by local, state, and federal agencies. As a result, the responsibility for authentication and correction of such data rests upon the contributing agency (i.e., police department, county court, etc.). Please contact this agency or the central repository in the state where the arrest occurred to request a change, correction, or update. The FBI is not authorized to modify the record without written notification from the appropriate criminal justice agency.