Criminal Record Checks

U.S. citizens may need a "certificate of good conduct" or proof that they lack a criminal record. These may be needed for many reasons abroad. These reasons may include adoption, school, and work. U.S. police may not know about this process because it is rare in the United States. U.S. citizens have many options to prove they have no criminal record.


Local Police Check

Go to your local police department where you live or last lived in the United States. Ask that the police conduct a local or state criminal records search. Ask that they provide a document showing you have no history of a criminal record. Police departments may need you to be there in person to request the background check.

Check if the country where you will use the records requires authentication. For information on that, please see our page on authentications.


FBI Records Check

The Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is in charge of an FBI records check. They are responsible for criminal justice information. They work with law enforcement and governments around the world. They also work with private organizations and citizens like you.

The FBI offers two ways to request your FBI Identification Record or to prove that no record exists:

  1. You may get a copy of your record by submitting a written request to the CJIS Division. The request must include proof of identity. This proof must include your name, date and place of birth, and a set of rolled-inked fingerprints (which can usually be obtained at your local police department). If there is no criminal record, they provide a report reflecting this fact. The FBI will not provide copies of other people's arrest records to you.  See for current processing fees and more information. See also Identification Record Request and Guide for Obtaining Your FBI Identification Record. Lastly, see Submitting an Identification Record Request to the FBI.
  2. You may also submit a request through an FBI-approved channeler. A channeler is a private business that has contracted with the FBI. They receive your fingerprint submissions and data. They also collect any fees. Then they send the submissions and information to the FBI. The FBI will give them the background check results, and they will give them to you. See for the list of FBI-approved channelers.

Note: You must submit a request directly to the FBI CJIS Division if you need:

  • An apostille or authenticated copy of your FBI Identification Record
  • An FBI Identification Record as a non-U.S. national or permanent resident

The U.S. Department of State Authentications Office can attach an apostille to a document for countries in the Hague Apostille Convention. For countries not in the convention, they will add a certification over the FBI seal.


Getting Your Fingerprints Taken

You should be able to get fingerprint cards from your local police or at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad do not provide these services. See Fingerprint Identification: An Overview.


Authentication of Police or FBI Certificates of Lack of a Criminal Record

CJIS will authenticate U.S. Department of Justice Order 556-73 fingerprint search results for international requests. They do this if requested at the time of submission. They do so by placing the FBI seal and signature of a Division official on the results.

If needed, you can then send this document to our U.S. Department of State Authentications Office. They can authenticate it for you. Be sure to tell them what country you will use the document in.

Documents from your local police will need more than their seal. You will need more authentication. Contact your state Secretary of State’s office or other designated officials in your state. They can help you authenticate state-issued documents. See our general guidance on authentication of documents for use abroad.

Last Updated: March 6, 2024