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How Do US Citizens Obtain a Criminal Background Check for Teaching English Abroad?

If you're looking to teach English overseas, chances are you will need an FBI background check while abroad. While it's not necessarily the case for all countries, FBI background checks for teachers are required in some of the most popular TEFL markets such as South Korea or Japan.

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As an English teacher overseas, there is about a 50/50 chance you will need to obtain some kind of US criminal record check before or during the hiring process. For instance, a US criminal background check is required to qualify for a visa in countries such as South Korea. It is also very likely that the individual school that hires you request a background check.

For Americans teaching English abroad, the most common type of background check required is an FBI criminal background check, also known as an Identity History Summary Check.

What is an FBI background Check?

An FBI background check is a comprehensive review of an individual's criminal history records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in the United States. It verifies criminal history and is often required for employment, immigration, or licensing purposes.

Watch the video to learn more about what a US criminal record check is:

For some countries or English language schools abroad, a local or state criminal background check will suffice. However, an FBI criminal background check is recommended or required in most instances, especially for those interested in teaching English in Asia. It's also possible that you will need to obtain some kind of criminal record check locally in the country where you decide to teach once you arrive. In those cases, the school that hires you will likely direct you on where to obtain the check; most of the time at a local police station or government office.


How to Apply for an FBI Criminal Background Check

How to Get an FBI Background Check

You can apply for an FBI criminal background check by visiting the official FBI website and following the application instructions.

How Long Does an FBI Background Check Take?

The processing time can take up to 3-4 months so it is best to give yourself enough time in advance to apply. With that said, in some circumstances, it is required for the background check to be no more than 6 months old therefore plan accordingly depending on your timeline.

For quicker results, you can obtain your FBI criminal background check through a channeler that can expedite the process for an additional fee.

Read more: Here is a list of FBI Approved Background Check Channelers

Can I Get an FBI Background Check from Abroad?

You can apply for your FBI background check from abroad by submitting your fingerprints through an approved channeler or at a US embassy or consulate. The process may vary and typically involves specific procedures for applicants living outside the United States. Follow the instructions on the FBI website accordingly.

Applications for an FBI Criminal History Check must include a set of your fingerprints on the Standard Fingerprint Form (FD-1164). The fingerprint form may be picked up at the US Embassy of your country of residence by scheduling an appointment online or it can be downloaded from the FBI's website and printed on standard white paper stock.

Electronic submissions for a US criminal record check from abroad are now permitted too.

PLEASE NOTE: **Many times, criminal background checks for teaching English abroad are required to have an apostille which is a certification used to further authenticate a document for international use. If an apostille is required, when applying for the FBI criminal background check, check to see if the processing agency can help you with it. If not, you will need to obtain the apostille once you receive the background check. It is common for people to go through this organization for the apostille assistance.**

Be sure to talk with your International TEFL Academy Admissions Advisor if you have any questions about whether or not you need a background check before you head abroad. 

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