International Background Checks

America continues to be the land of opportunity, beckoning those willing to reach for the many opportunities which this great country provides. People from locations across the globe find their way to a better life, living and working in America. The International Labor Pool is rich with highly trained professionals, skilled craftsmen, talented artisans and industrious laborers, all looking to reap the rewards of American Employment. Employers too gain from this availability of talent and skills, satisfying their demands for qualified people to fill a variety of positions and jobs.

Not unlike their American Counter-parts, prospective employees from around the world will be greeted with the same questions and concerns that all employers must now consider before granting employment. The resume of qualifications and the all important interview, no matter how skillfully conducted, are now nothing more than an applicant’s declaration of information that must be subsequently subjected to a far more stringent examination.

But how does one go about conducting research on someone from a foreign country? What types of investigation can be done? How is the language barrier overcome? What types of information are available and how are they accessed? How do the laws of the foreign country effect the availability of information? These are but a few of the questions that today’s HR Executives must face when considering an applicant from a foreign country for employment, and the answers to these questions can be just as complex.

The only truly accurate answer to all of the above is “It varies”. It can vary from country to country. It can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within a given country. Information availability can range from substantial to non-existent. Outside of the U.S., the standards change dramatically as do your abilities to conduct substantive background investigations. The rule of “due diligence” truly changes from “What you could have done, you should have done” to “Do what you can do”. Often what you can do is far less than what you would have liked to do.

Criminal record searches in foreign countries are a good example of the type of variations you can find in doing International background investigations. Canada, most Western European Countries, Australia, Japan and some South American Countries are surprisingly similar to the U.S. in access and reliability. Jurisdictional Court Records, Court Databases, Provincial Databases and even some National Database information are available. Time service, not withstanding time zone ordering delays, are generally good, between 3 and 10 business days. Information availability can vary, but generally speaking covering the seven year reporting period is not an area of concern. Foreign researchers are skilled, multi-lingual and capable of translating information into comprehensive English.

Eastern Europe, former Communist Block Countries, most of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, most of Central and South America are another story. Access can be a question of “who you know” as much as what is actually available. Time and cost considerations, availability of qualified investigative personnel, reliability of reporting, methods of data storage, search methods, identification issues, are just a few of the problems to be encountered. Painting the situation with the proverbial broad brush, one could say that the larger, the more progressive the jurisdiction, the better the potential for a substantive search, but there are still no guarantees. U.S. Search firms offering International Criminal Searches are similar in their reliance upon established networks of reporters. American Companies attempting to establish reliable relationships are confronted with the lack of competition in many areas as well as a serious problem when it comes to audit capabilities. Small cities, towns and villages, rural and remote communities pose even greater challenges, both in availability and reliability.

Reliability of information goes far beyond criminal records. Educational records, degree verifications and certifications are plagued with forgeries. Even when validated through reliable resources, time considerations often make decision making a prolonged process, forcing employers to take a wait and see approach. Employment verifications suffer a similar fate. Again, the broad brush approach points towards the larger, International Companies, as being far more responsive and reliable, if not necessarily any more timely.

The prospect of major improvements in the near term is progressing as the need for information continues to increase along with the opportunity for those in a position to provide the information. Information availability over the past five years alone has grown significantly as the American Employer has continued to pursue applicants with roots far removed from U.S. soil. As with any decision, understanding the realities of the situation and acting accordingly is the best course of action to follow.