Remote workers looking to temporarily relocate to a new country will often be asked to submit a certified criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications.
The criminal background check is one of the most important and difficult documents to obtain when applying for a digital nomad. Whether you are located in your home country or already living abroad, it can be quite a venture.
At Nomads Embassy, our mission is to make the digital nomad visa application process as simple as possible!
While our hand-selected immigration lawyers can assist with the actual application and document verification part, getting the criminal background for digital nomad visa applications is up to the applicant.
So, we have created this guide about how to obtain a criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications for those who reside in or are citizens of the United States.
What is a Digital Nomad Visa?
Digital nomad visas are temporary residence permits that allow remote workers to live in a foreign country for a limited period of time.
They are perfect for remote employees, freelancers, and business owners with clients or companies established in their country of residence.
Sometimes digital nomad visas can lead to permanent residency and set applicants and their families up for a whole new life abroad. Other digital nomad visas do not have tax obligations.
With so many options, it’s important to find a digital nomad visa that helps you achieve your short and long-term goals. You’ll also have to meet the eligibility requirements, one of which may be having a clean criminal record.
What is a Criminal Background Check?
A criminal background check or police clearance is a record showing whether or not you have a criminal history or charges held against you.
Colloquially, these checks are known as RAP sheets.
So, what exactly shows up on your criminal background check? It can include the following:
- Misdemeanor or felony convictions
- Pending criminal cases
- Arrests pending prosecution
- History of incarceration as an adult
If you do not have a criminal history, the criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications will verify it.
Why Do You Need a Criminal Background Check When Applying for a Digital Nomad Visa?
When countries welcome foreigners to come and live there, they do not want to invite trouble and crime.
To ensure high-quality people of good character will positively contribute to the country’s culture and economy, applications will need to submit a certified criminal background check to get a digital nomad visa.
Not all digital nomad visas require a criminal background check, though. It is up to the discretion of the issuing country.
What Kind of Criminal Background Check is Required for Digital Nomad Visa Applications?
In the United States, there are two types of criminal background checks a resident or citizen can obtain.
While most digital nomad visas will request an FBI criminal background check, some may also request a state and local background check as well.
FBI Criminal Background Check
The most commonly requested criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications is from the FBI. This is a federal check that examines the applicants’ entire criminal history throughout the country.
State and Local Background Checks
Rarely a digital nomad visa application will require a state or local criminal background check. However, it’s a good idea to be prepared with the knowledge of what it is and how to get one.
A state and local background check reports on the applicants’ local criminal history. If the applicant has been charged or arrested in the county or state, it will show up on the report.
Convictions and charges from outside of the state will not show up.
How to Get a State and Local Criminal Background Check
When obtaining a state or local criminal background check, you will have to contact the local police station. Usually, the one nearest your residence or previous residence is ideal.
You can simply call or stop in and request that they conduct the background check. Some police stations may require you to show up in person to verify your identity. Be sure to bring a government ID with you.
If you are already abroad, this type of criminal background check can be difficult to obtain as you may need to be physically present to get it.
How to Get an FBI Criminal Background Check for Digital Nomad Visa Applications
Obtaining an FBI criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications is much more intensive than a state background check.
It’s important to note that when requesting your FBI criminal background check, you must submit your fingerprints.
There are three methods to obtain an FBI criminal background as a US resident or citizen.
If you are already residing abroad, you can request your FBI criminal background check via mail.
To take your fingerprints, you may visit a local police station that can do it for you. Make sure to put them on the FD-1164 form and read the instructions carefully.
There is an $18 fee to retrieve your FBI criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications. This can be paid via credit card or money order.
If paying by credit card, you must fill out the Credit Card Payment Form and include it with your other forms.
You can mail all of your forms and payment method to the following address:
FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
You will receive your report via first-class US Postal Service mail within three to five weeks.
You will complete the Applicant Information Form online and download form FD-258 to record your fingerprints yourself. The fee may be paid via credit card, Amazon services, or PayPal right online. Make sure to keep this receipt.
To take your fingerprints electronically, you can visit a select United States post office. They will submit your electronic fingerprints to the FBI. You may be asked to pay an additional fee for this service.
If you decide to take your fingerprints yourself or at the local police station, you must mail the form FD-258 to the following address:
FBI CJIS Division
ATTN: ELECTRONIC SUMMARY REQUEST
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
It will take three to five business days from when your fingerprints are received to obtain your FBI criminal background check via email.
If you are still living in the United States, then you can find an FBI-approved channeler to submit your FBI criminal background check request.
An FBI-approved channeler is a private business entity that is contracted by the FBI to conduct services such as criminal background checks.
They will collect and submit your fingerprints and documents to the FBI and receive your results. There may be an extra service fee when using one of the FBI-approved channelers.
Results can take three to five business days after receiving your fingerprints and forms.
How to Get Your FBI Criminal Background Check While Abroad
As we mentioned above, people who are already living abroad and need a criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications have two options.
They can request their report via mail or through the online platform.
You will have to risk doing your fingerprints yourself or find a local police station that can do it for you.
Even if you use the online platform, you must send your fingerprints via mail.
These methods can take two to four weeks to process. This does not count the time it takes to mail your fingerprints and forms.
Where to Get Your Fingerprints Done When Requesting an FBI Criminal Background Check
The most intensive part of requesting your FBI criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications is taking your fingerprints.
Fortunately, there are a few options for how you can achieve this.
In the United States
Getting your fingerprints taken in the United States for your FBI criminal background check is quite convenient.
There are almost 200 United States post offices that can take your fingerprints electronically and submit them to the FBI to expedite the process.
You can also use the services of an FBI-approved channeler to take your fingerprints electronically.
Both of these methods may come with extra fees.
If you wish to submit your fingerprints via mail, you can go to the local police station and have them done. You can also try to do them yourself. However, there is a risk of doing it yourself as they may be smudged or unreadable.
When you are abroad and requesting an FBI criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications, you will have to submit your fingerprints via mail.
Unfortunately, US Embassies and Consulates around the world do not have fingerprint services. There may be some limited fingerprint services, but these typically do not take fingerprints for the FBI background check.
Instead, ex-pats are encouraged to find a local police station that can take your ink fingerprints on the necessary form provided by the FBI.
You will have to send your fingerprints by mail to the FBI in West Virginia from abroad, along with any other necessary forms and payment methods.
How Long Does It Take to Get an FBI Criminal Background Check for Digital Nomad Visa Applications?
It depends on the method you use to submit your request and where you are located.
When submitting your fingerprints and forms by mail, it can take two to four weeks from the time the FBI receives everything to process your request. This does not include the time it takes to mail your report back to you.
Requesting your criminal record online can be faster, especially if you submit your fingerprints through an FBI-approved channeler or the US Post Office. Electronic requests can take three to five business days.
However, if you do not have a criminal record, you could receive your report within 24 hours when your fingerprints and forms are submitted electronically or through an FBI-approved channeler.
We encourage you to consider how you will request the FBI criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications to get an accurate estimate of when you will receive it.
How Recent Should the Criminal Background Check Be When Applying for a Digital Nomad Visa?
Your criminal background check shouldn’t be more than six months old when you submit it with your digital nomad visa application.
Do Criminal Background Checks Need to be Apostilled for Digital Nomad Visa Applications
Many countries will require your criminal background check to be certified with an apostille when applying for a digital nomad visa.
An apostille is a certification from the issuing country, allowing it to be valid and usable in another country that is part of the Hague Convention.
An FBI criminal background check must be apostilled by the US Department of State in Washington, DC. You cannot obtain an apostille from a notary.
You can use online services to submit your documents to get apostilled, or you can do it yourself.
If you have a hard copy of your FBI criminal background check, you must mail it to the Office of Authentications with a $20 fee per document.
It will take eight weeks to process and apostille your FBI criminal background check from the time it is received.
How to Get Your Criminal Background Check Apostilled While Abroad
You can visit the nearest US embassy or consulate abroad to get an apostille for your FBI criminal background check.
There is a $50 fee for each document, and can be paid with cash, money order, or a certified check.
Check the nearest embassy or consulate for their notary and apostille procedures.
You can also use online apostille services for US documents while abroad.
Can You Apply for a Digital Nomad Visa if You Don’t Have a Clean Criminal Record?
This all depends on which digital nomad visa you plan to apply for.
Other digital nomad visas, such as Spain, only require a clean criminal record from the last five years.
It’s important to review the eligibility requirements of each digital nomad visa to ensure you qualify to apply.
Find Out Which Documents You Need to Apply for a Digital Nomad Visa
Getting your criminal background check for digital nomad visa applications as a US citizen or resident can seem daunting. Fortunately, this is probably the most complicated document you’ll have to obtain during the process!
The digital nomad application process only gets easier from here with Nomads Embassy: The World’s First Embassy for Digital Nomads!
We have partnered with hand-selected local immigration lawyers to assist you with your digital nomad visa application and relocation to a new exciting country.
Plus, with our secure and innovative platform, you can safely upload your documents for our lawyers to review.
Want to know more about your favorite digital nomad visa?
Simply fill in the contact form in the individual visa article to request a consultation with our lawyers today!