Confusingly, the FBI Criminal Record check for a visa application from the USA isn’t actually called that – you need to get an “Identity History Summary” and here’s how to do it.
There are three ways to get your Summary:
- Apply online via the FBI web portal
- Download the forms from the FBI and submit the application by mail
- Via an FBI approved channeler
Online direct to the FBI
Click on this link to access the page on the FBI website, and you’ll need an active email address. The process is as follows:
- Complete the Applicant Information Form online
- Select Your Preferences for how the FBI contacts you with updates and results
- Submit Your Fingerprints – either via one of the authorised US Post Offices or you can submit them yourself by post (there’s a set format, and you’ll need to send them separately to the FBI after you’ve completed and paid for your application).
- Pay $18 by credit card or PayPal
- Review and Confirm Your Request – keep the confirmation email
- Check Request Status – track progress using the confirmation email
- Receive Your Results – these can either be emailed to you with secure access to download the report or as hard copies in the mail.
Submit Your Request Directly to the FBI via the Mail
- Download the Applicant Information form here (you’ll need one for each person over 18 applying)
- Obtain a set of fingerprints – see the note below. The name on your response letter will match the name indicated on the fingerprint card when your application, payment, and fingerprint card are submitted via the mail.
- Payment – download and complete the payment form to pay by card, or you can pay by money order or certified check for $18 per application
Print out your completed application form(s) and payment form(s), check all the information matches on the fingerprint card(s), then put all items into a secure envelope and mail them to:
FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
A Channeler is a private business that has contracted with the FBI to submit these requests on your behalf – they help expedite the delivery of Identity History Summary information on behalf of the FBI. The Channeler will:
- Receive the fingerprint submission and relevant data
- Collect the associated fee(s)
- Electronically forward the fingerprint submission with the necessary information to the FBI for a national Identity History Summary check
- Receive the electronic summary check result for dissemination to the individual.
A Channeler may have different methods or processes for submissions, and additional fees may apply. You can contact each Channeler for costs, processing times, and availability in your area and this is the List of FBI-approved Channelers
All about fingerprints
- You must provide a current fingerprint card – old cards or copies are not accepted.
- Your name, date of birth and all 9 digits of your Social Security number must be provided on the fingerprint card.
- Use a standard fingerprint form (FD-1164)
- Include rolled impressions of all 10 fingerprints AND impressions of all 10 fingerprints taken at the same time (these are sometimes referred to as plain or flat impressions).
- Fingerprints taken with ink (not red or purple ink) or via live scan are acceptable – but if scanned, then you’ll also need a hard copy to mail out.
- If fingerprints are not legible, the fingerprint card will be rejected, which could cause delays in processing and possibly result in additional fees.
Upsticks Top Tip:
While you can try and do the fingerprints yourself by downloading the standard fingerprint form (FD-1164) or buying them off Amazon, it’s actually not as easy as it looks. We recommend seeking professional help with something so important, even if it means paying a small fee. If possible, have your fingerprints taken by a fingerprinting technician or at a law enforcement agency.
What will I get back from the FBI?
If they find no Identity History Summary on file, you’ll receive a response by either email or First-Class Mail (or both if that’s what you requested when you submitted your online application), indicating that you have no prior arrest data on file at the FBI.
If you do have an Identity History Summary on file, you will receive your Identity History Summary or “rap sheet” either online or by First-Class Mail via the U.S. Postal Service, depending on how you applied for the Summary.
How long does it take for the Summary to be processed?
Application submitted online – 3-5 business days from receipt of fingerprint card, plus postage (if selected)
Application submitted by post – 2-4 weeks plus additional time for mail delivery.
I’ve got my Identity History Summary, what happens next?
You will need to get the Summary apostille stamped and then translated into Spanish by a sworn translator, recognised by the Spanish government.
FBI checks have to be apostilled by the State Department in Washington DC, or you can use an apostille service, like this one or this one.
The information in this article was current on the date published.
Article last reviewed/updated 05.08.2022