Travel.State.Gov > International Travel > While Abroad > Criminal Record Checks
U.S. citizens may be asked to present a “certificate of good conduct” or “lack of a criminal record” for a variety of reasons for use abroad, including adoption, school attendance, employment, etc. U.S. law enforcement authorities may not be familiar with such a procedure since it is not commonly requested in the United States. There are a variety of options available to U.S. citizens seeking to obtain proof of their lack of a criminal record.
Go to your local police department where you reside or last resided in the United States, request that the police conduct a local or state criminal records search and provide you with a document reflecting that there is no history of a criminal record. Local police departments may require your personal appearance in order to conduct the search. You should determine whether the country where you intend to use the records check requires that it be authenticated. For information on that process please see our authentications page.
The Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) centralizes criminal justice information and provides accurate and timely information and services to local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies, the private sector, academia, and other government agencies.
The FBI offers two methods for requesting your FBI Identification Record or proof that a record does not exist:
An individual requiring an apostille or authenticated copy of his/her FBI Identification Record, or any non-U.S. national or permanent resident who wishes to request his/her FBI Identification Record must submit a request directly to the FBI CJIS Division. The U.S. Department of State Authentications Office may then place an apostille document for use in a country that is party to the Hague Apostille Convention. For countries not party to the Hague Apostille Convention, the U.S. Department of State Authentication Office will place a certification over the FBI seal.
U.S. citizens should be able to obtain fingerprint cards from their local police departments or at www.FBI.gov. U.S. embassies and consulates abroad generally do not provide this service. See Fingerprint Identification: An Overview.
The FBI’s CJIS Division will authenticate U.S. Department of Justice Order 556-73 fingerprint search results for international requests by placing the FBI seal and signature of a Division official on the results, if requested at the time of submission. Documents prepared in this manner may then be sent to the U.S. Department of State Authentications Office by the requestor to be authenticated, if necessary. Please be sure to indicate the country in which the document is to be used. The FBI procedure became effective January 25, 2010, and applies only to documents finalized after that date. Requests to authenticate previously processed results will not be accepted.
Documents obtained from your local police will require additional authentication after you obtain the local police seal. Contact your state Secretary of State’s office or other official designated in your state to authenticate state-issued documents. See our general guidance on authentication of documents for use abroad.