Parviz Malakouti, Esq.
2nd Citizenship: FBI Background Check Complete Guide
Updated: May 30
By Parviz Malakouti-Fitzgerald, Esq.
(Croatian citizenship by descent requires an FBI background check)
If you’ve lived in the United States for at least six months and you’re applying for citizenship in another country, you’ll likely have to get an FBI background check, known as an “identity history summary (“IHS”).
1. USPS, Approved Channelers & Fingerprint Cards
2. Does Your FBI Background Check Need an Apostille?
Many popular citizenship and residency programs require an FBI background check. Such programs include citizenship by descent in Croatia, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Poland and other countries.
Citizenship by investment in Turkey, the Caribbean, Vanuatu as well other programs require them too. Some semi-citizenships like the Slovak Living Abroad certificate will also require an American applicant to get an FBI background check.
It can be a very exciting time when you’re exploring applying for a life-changing second citizenship. However, in my experience, a lot of applicants get confused or overwhelmed when it comes to requirements surrounding getting their FBI background check and as a result, end up delaying for weeks before they get it.
Related: Second Citizenship & Residency for Americans
That may be partly because the FBI website isn’t the easiest on the eyes or because people don’t know what to expect when they get the FBI background check or what exactly to do with it. In this guide I hope to help answer the most important questions people have about getting the FBI background check.
If you’d also like to see a video explaining some of these points, click here.
If you don’t want to deal with figuring all this out, you can book a consultation with our office to talk about how to get our support and assistance in pursuing your second citizenship from start to finish.
Let's get into nuts and bolts.
USPS, Approved Channelers & Fingerprint Cards
Firstly, if you are requesting your FBI background check from within the United States, you have three ways of giving your fingerprints after you create an account on the FBI website. Thankfully, none of them involve walking into an FBI office.
The first way is to go to one of the 181 approved U.S. postal offices to submit your fingerprints. This is the easiest, fastest option if available. If you have no criminal record, you’ll usually receive an email with the PDF results on the same day, and a copy in the mail within a week.
The second way is to go to an FBI approved channeler to get your fingerprints taken and on a livescan machine and submitted to the FBI.
The third way is to have your fingerprints physically taken using an FD-1164 and mail them into the FBI. This option is messy with the inky fingerprints and it requires mailing them physically which tends to be a hassle. This is also the slowest route and can result in a weeks-long wait to get your FBI report even if you have no background check.
Note: If you are in the United States and close to one of the approved U.S. postal offices, the most convenient, quickest way to have your fingerprints taken is to have them taken at the nearest approved post office.
(FBI background check)
Does Your FBI Background Check Need an Apostille?
(Apostille of FBI Background Check)
For some applicants, getting your FBI background check isn’t the last step. Some citizenship and residency programs require that you authenticate the FBI background check by getting it apostilled.
If you’re not represented by a professional, you’ll have to find out whether the program you’re applying to requires that you apostille the FBI background check before submitting it with your application.
Apostilling a document is a second step that requires you to send a paper copy of your FBI background check to the U.S. department of state, office of authentications. With the FBI background check, you’ll have to also include:
Completed Form DS 4194;
A self-addressed envelope with postage (or shipping label);
The appropriate fee for the apostille (currently $20 as of the date of this article)
After submitting the FBI background check to the office of authentications, you’ll typically have to wait three to six weeks to receive it back (assuming you properly made your request).
The form DS-4194 has detailed instructions on the third page. Read them and follow them carefully.
If you’d like to see a video showing how to request an apostille, click here.
Related: 8 European Citizenships by Descent You May Qualify For [Updated for 2023]
Consult with Malakouti Law
If you're looking to get an FBI background check to pursue second citizenship by investment or descent, we can help you.
We have helped many people, especially Americans pursue second citizenship by descent, or investment.
Book a consultation with us so you can be properly screened by an experienced lawyer, to know what citizenships you actually qualify for, and the best path forward to meet your needs.
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FBI Background Check FAQs
Q: How do I get started?
You electronically submit your request to the FBI here then choose one of the three options for submitting your fingerprints.
Q: What’s the fastest way to obtain my FBI background check if I’m in the United States?
In our experience, obtaining the background check by fingerprints with one of the 181 approved U.S. postal office yields the quickest results, with the FBI background check arriving to the applicant’s email address oftentimes within an hour of submitting the fingerprints.
Q: Do I have to be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident to obtain my FBI background check?
No, but in our experience some “approved channelers” may not process your fingerprints if you are not a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident.
In that case, you’ll have to get your fingerprints taken by an approved U.S. post office or by submitting physical fingerprint cards to the FBI.
Q: How much does it cost to get my FBI background check?
The FBI charges $18 as of the date of this article. The facility that takes your fingerprints charges separately and the cost can be variable. Approved U.S. post offices and approved channelers tend to charge around $60.
Q: How lengthy is the FBI background check?
For applicants with no criminal record, the length is typically two pages. Applicants with a criminal record have longer records. I’ve even seen background checks six pages long!
Q: What type of photo ID do I need to bring with me to the fingerprint location?
Approved U.S. post offices request government issued ID such as an unexpired passport or driver license. For approved channelers, check with them while making the appointment. When possible, it is recommended that you call to ask.
Q: How do I request an FBI background check if I’m currently OUTSIDE of the United States?
You’ll likely have to submit physical fingerprints on an FD-1164 and mail them into the FBI.
Q: Can I request my FBI background check AND an apostille at the same time?
No, you will have to obtain your FBI background check first then request an apostille from the Office of Authentications in the Secretary of State.
Q: How do I get my FBI background check apostilled?
You have to follow the instructions discussed in this video, submitting the FBI background check to the U.S. office of authentications, along with payment, form DS-4194, a self-addressed envelope with postage and the appropriate fee which is $20 as of this writing (Uncle Sam wants his cash).
Q: What if I have a criminal record?
If you have a criminal record, you should book a consultation with a professional such as our office, to help you determine whether the criminal record can prevent you from getting the citizenship you’re seeking and if, so to help you determine whether you can qualify for any post-conviction relief (i.e. “record cleaning”) that can make you eligible for second citizenship.
Q: Can I still get an FBI background check (IdHS) if I was present in the U.S. as a student and don't have a social security number?
Yes, you can. One is not required to have a social security number to request an FBI background check.
The Law Office of Parviz Malakouti does not guarantee the accuracy of information presented nor assume responsibility for actions taken in reliance of this information. The information in this page could become outdated. Each immigration case is particular and you should consult with a qualified, licensed immigration lawyer about your case before taking any steps.