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What is an International Background Check? 

What is an International Background Check

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Key Takeaways

1. An international background check is commonly used as a pre-employment screening tool, to check various aspects of an applicant’s background. 

2. These checks are conducted if an applicant has traveled or lived abroad for a significant period of time, if the applicant resides outside the company’s local jurisdiction, or if the company is expanding into a new market and requires local applicants to have background checks. 

3. The most common checks include international criminal history checks, education, and professional credential verification, and personal identification validation.  

4. Some key benefits of conducting an international background check include making sure you are hiring a quality applicant and making sure their background will not impede the safety of current employees in the workforce.

It is always good to know who you’re hiring, especially for roles that handle sensitive information about your company. When hiring locally, checking a candidate’s background can usually be done quickly and easily via organizing a local police check, a national police check, and/or a reference check. But what if one of your candidates has spent considerable time overseas, or you want to expand and diversify your team by hiring internationally? That’s where an international background check comes in. This article will go through exactly what an international background check is, the benefits of conducting this type of check, and what is generally included when this type of check is conducted.

What is the meaning of an “international background check”?

An international background check is a pre-employment tool to screen certain applicants for several reasons. Some reasons include:

  1. Local applicants that have travelled extensively in the past
  2. Applicants have worked, studied, or resided overseas for long periods
  3. Applicants are being hired from abroad
  4. If the company is opening offices abroad and needs to hire locally
  5. Apart from pre-employment reasons, individuals or companies can ask to conduct an international background check for tenancy or real estate reasons, for households hiring in-house help, to check individuals who will be working around children, or for other various private investigative matters. Most of the time, an international background check is conducted to verify the contents of an individual’s resume but can also extend past this to check if there are any suspicious activities or red flags in their history abroad.

Is conducting an international background check simple or difficult?

Unlike local or national background checks conducted on home soil, running an international background check at times can prove challenging and complex. This is because there is not one global database that has all the information that a company can use to find the information required of an applicant. Background information can become even more difficult to search if applicants have lived or come from countries that are not included in shared foreign databases.

Generally, these countries will have their own laws, procedures, and processing times for conducting and releasing information related to a background check. In worst cases, some countries even forbid other foreign entities from accessing internal records. This will require other methods to extract any available information related to the applicant’s time in that country.

What are the benefits of an international background check?

Although the complexity associated with screening applicants in this manner may deter some companies, there are a few benefits attached to conducting an international background check. Some of these benefits are also attached with extensive local checks.

  • 1. Your company can make sure of a quality hire
  • It is important to know exactly who you are hiring, and this becomes imperative for hires that are jumping into roles that handle sensitive company information or require a certain level of character traits to best fulfill the position. Making quality hires is especially important for start-ups. If your candidate is a “boomerang candidate”, then background check formalities might be easier.
  • This aspect of the IFRS sets out the purpose of financial information, the key elements of financial statements (assets, liabilities, equity, income and expenses), the qualitative characteristics of statements, when to recognize financial items in statements, and how capital maintenance is recognized.
  • 2. Your company can make sure there is workplace and employee protection
  • Some companies implement international background checks as a standard check in their hiring processes, especially after all interviews have been conducted. Not only does this mitigate the possibility of hiring a candidate that flags a questionable background that could prove harmful to current employees or the workplace, but it can also give your company more information about a specific individual before offering a permanent employment contract.

What is included in an international background check?

Each international background check can vary, with many checks depending on what kind of background details a company requires. Some companies may find that an international background check is required based purely on an individual applicant’s history and resume. Below are some of the checks and verifications included in international background checks.

1. International criminal check

This check is one of the most common checks included in an international background check. International criminal checks utilise foreign repositories and databases to check if an individual has any major offence convictions overseas. The information derived from this check is like a local or national police check conducted in the applicant’s home country. Although they may have a clean record in their country of origin, if they have travelled extensively or lived abroad, it’s always recommended to check if anything flags during their time in each country.

Sometimes this will require getting in contact with a representative or embassy from the target country to conduct the check. In some cases, certain countries will not have record-keeping processes or be willing to release any internal data to foreign nations. This is where an adverse media check may be needed to rule out any criminal history abroad.

2. Verify and validate identification documents

This check is to verify and validate applicants’ primary identification documents to make sure they are authentic and not stolen. This can include passports, driver’s licence, and/or national ID.

3. Verify an applicant’s educational history

This check is to verify that an applicant’s educational credentials are valid and linked to the applicant. If a role requires an applicant to have finished a degree within a certain timeframe, this check can verify these dates.

4. Verify previous employment history

Like checking an applicant’s educational history, a professional employment history check may be needed to be verified. This check can cover dates of employment, identify gaps, verify positions held, and salary information. This check can help identify if an applicant is qualified for the role available.

5. Validate any professional licenses

This check is to make sure that any professional licences that are listed that your applicant has stated they hold, are real and conducted within specific dates (if applicable).  This could be imperative to meet outside compliance regulations for specific industries.

6. Check overseas driving records

Sometimes the roles and responsibilities of a job may require an applicant to utilize company vehicles, so this check can supplement a local driving record to rule out problematic driving offences abroad.

7. Verify an applicant’s financial & credit history

These checks can be difficult to attain in some countries as some countries have strict data and privacy laws prohibiting certain entitles from looking up the financial information of an applicant. However, this check can prove valuable for individuals entering roles with a financial aspect, or responsibility.

8. Country-specific debarment & watchlists

This check can be a part of an international criminal check or requested singularly. It is to check if an applicant is on any international most-wanted watchlists, such as those put out by Interpol or the FBI. Countries can also put out their own debarment list to sanction or restrict individuals or organizations.

9. Adverse media checks

Adverse media checks can fill in any gaps of an international criminal check that cannot be conducted in a respective country. This check goes through local media sources, sanction lists, and any other available public or private record sources in that country.

10. Social media checks  

Social media checks have become increasingly popular over the last decade because you can find out if an applicant has posted any problematic content related to hate speech, discrimination, terrorist activity or similar that might go against your company’s culture and own internal policies. 


While background checks aren’t always necessary, you might want to conduct a background check on your next international hire (if the hiring jurisdiction allows). Horizons can connect you to our trusted local background-check partners so you can be protected.

Horizons is a leading Global PEO that specializes in all related compliance matters that come with hiring foreign employees. With Horizons, your company will be able to expand into new territory quickly and compliantly. Contact us today for a free consultation for your global hiring project. 

Frequently asked questions

The sort of information that needs to be checked and verified of an applicant is up to the employer. This means that an international background check can vary in price depending on what and how much is investigated. Costs can also vary dependent on provider or if an investigation is conducted in house.

How long an international background check takes can vary. Timeframes come down to who is conducting the check, an individual within a company or a third-party provider. Timeframes also will lengthen if an individual check is extensive, or records are required from countries that either do not have any recording processes, or their own lengthy processing times for such a check. 

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