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How to run an international background check

HR & Compliance

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Updated on:
March 15, 2024
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Updated on :

March 15, 2024
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How to run an international background check


Over the last several years, more employers are opting to hire remote candidates to fill various positions within their companies. Hiring remote candidates ensures employers have access to the most qualified talent on the market, and many are growing international teams.

Hiring employees in foreign countries ensures that you don't rule any prospective employees out simply based on their location. Still, it can pose significant challenges for companies that have only worked with local talent.

Whether you're hiring domestic or international employees, running a background check is the best practice to ensure you're hiring suitable candidates. However, running background checks for international employees requires additional considerations for employers.

Continue reading to learn the steps involved in conducting an international background check. Also, learn what types of background checks there are, how local laws affect the kind of background check you can run, and how Skuad can help you build and manage your international team.

Steps to conduct an international background check

Conducting an international background check on an employee residing in another country requires more considerations than those for domestic employees. Consider the following steps involved in processing international background checks.

Decide what type of background check you need

The first step in conducting an international background check when hiring remote workers from other countries is determining the type of background check you need. There are numerous background checks, and your company's hiring guidelines will dictate which background checks should be conducted.

Consider some types of background checks that you may need to conduct on international employees:

Identity Verification

According to a 2020 study by Sterling, roughly 20% of businesses have encountered identity fraud among prospective or current employees. Protecting your company's intellectual property, private customer information, and other data is essential to the health of your business, which is why employee identification verification is so important.

Employment verification

One of the benefits of hiring remote candidates is that companies have access to talent from all over the world. However, this can pose challenges for employers hoping to find candidates through industry connections.

Employment verification is an essential component of employee background checks. It can help verify that candidates were truthful about their experience, meaning they possess the skills necessary to perform the job functions you're hiring them for.

Criminal Background Checks

Running criminal background checks is a common practice when hiring new employees. While many crimes are inconsequential in hiring, criminal background checks can alert employers to a prospective employee's criminal history with work-related transgressions, such as embezzlement or fraud.

However, every country has rules regarding what information employers are granted access to. In some countries, refusing employment based on what a criminal background check uncovers can be discriminatory.

Credit Checks

Although not all companies run credit checks before hiring employees, this can be an essential tool when hiring for specific roles, such as those managing company funds or those requiring a certain level of security clearance.

However, additional complications may arise when conducting international credit checks as a result of language barriers, country-specific government regulations, and more.

Media searches

Employers can run international background checks to search for any appearances of prospective employees in the media. This can determine whether individuals have had controversial or negative appearances in the media that indicate their personal beliefs or background may not align with your company's values.

Education verification

While not all employers opt to verify an employee's education, this can be a helpful tool in determining whether a prospective employee has the formal education necessary to qualify for the position for which they're applying.

Education verification is especially important for senior, management, and executive roles with specific education and degree requirements.

Professional Licenses

Determining whether or not a candidate is eligible to perform the work you're hiring them for is essential. Including this in your international background check will be necessary when an individual must possess specific licenses to complete their job duties.

Be informed about the laws in the applicable countries

Every country has its tax and labor laws, and employees in foreign countries may be subject to different privacy entitlements than you're used to. Furthermore, how you obtain information about citizens varies (e.g., from private background-checking companies vs. local governments) by country.

Be prepared to encounter additional complications when running background checks on international employees compared to domestic ones. You may only be granted access to some of the information you're looking for, as each country has different rules regarding what information companies can obtain about their employees.

Even if you can successfully process a pre-employment screening on a prospective international employee, you should allot additional time for hiring foreign candidates, as international background checks can often take more than 20 days to complete.  

Remaining compliant with all local regulations is essential when hiring employees from other countries. You must ensure that your internal human resources and legal teams have researched labor laws where you're hiring or partnering with a global employment solution like Skuad.

By utilizing an employer of record (EOR), companies can protect themselves from the risks associated with international hiring, including running international background checks and focusing on growing their global teams.

Get authorization

Running a background check includes requesting access to an individual's private employment, personal, and financial information. A person's background check details are extremely sensitive and may even leave them open to personal risk if the information is compromised.

Consider the types of documents that are often included when running international background checks to understand better why authorization is needed:

  • Passports
  • Local forms of identification, such as driver's licenses
  • Previous employment documents
  • Drug screening results
  • Personal property documents (e.g., bank loans, mortgages)
  • Social security numbers
  • Personal credit reports
  • Lists of registered sex offenders
  • Medical records

For this reason, it's common for background checks to include disclosure agreements and authorization forms so that government and financial agencies are given express written consent from individuals for this information to be shared. Typically, if you partner with a third-party company to conduct an international background check, they will provide you and your prospective employees with the necessary documentation.

However, it's vital to ensure that any third-party company you partner with understands the legal requirements in the country your prospective employee resides, as additional steps may be required.

In the United States, for example, the Fair Credit Reporting Act dictates that you not only need to obtain written consent from an individual before processing a background check but also alert them of your intention to run a background check in writing before beginning the process.  

Run your search

Now that you understand how to do a background check on someone from another country compliantly, it's time to run your search.

Running international background checks may have unique challenges based on your prospective employee's country of residence. Therefore, it's essential to anticipate any challenges associated with running international background checks and manage them as they arise.

Although background checks are commonplace in the United States, they are less common in other countries, so you should prepare for the potential that foreign candidates are wary of them. Provide candidates with information on why you're conducting an international background check. Let them know that the process may take a while but that you're still interested in pursuing a working relationship with them.

Processing international background checks can take up to several months, depending on which country you're looking, so be sure to allow extra time to fill roles when hiring internationally.

If you plan to conduct your background check personally, be sure to remain compliant with all local laws and research which government and private agencies you will need to contact. Companies often hire background checking companies when conducting international background checks to ensure that the check is conducted in accordance with local laws.

Once you've conducted your background search, you can determine an employee's eligibility to work with your company. While some employees may not be eligible to work for you for legal reasons, there are also discriminatory laws that prevent companies from rejecting a candidate's application on specific grounds.

Ensure you don't inadvertently defy anti-discrimination regulations during the background-checking and candidate selection processes.

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Hiring international employees for remote roles hugely benefits employers who want to access a broader candidate pool. However, operating a global business also poses additional risks and challenges.

If you ask yourself questions such as, "How long does an international background check take?" or "How do I run a legally compliant background check on someone from another country?", then utilizing Skuad's EOR services may benefit your globally-scaling business.

With the ability to operate in more than 160 countries, Skuad can help with efficient international hiring across the globe. Book a demo today to learn how Skuad can help you manage your global team.

Employ contractors and employees in 160+ countries

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About the author

Catalina Wang is a Human Resource Consultant. She manages recruitment, onboarding, and contract administration staffing for many organizations and remote teams. She’s passionate about efficient HR management and the impact of tech on hiring practices.

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