International Background Check
International Background Checks: Laws and Regulations
Background screening has become standard employment practice, but standard checks might fail to serve all the needs of modern business. Laws change, and employer policies must adapt. New regulations could modify the parameters of safe-screening practices that identify hiring risks but preserve a company’s reputation for fairness and impartiality.
For example, medical marijuana use has been legalized in more than 12 states, and others are studying the possibility. However, marijuana usage remains a federal crime and might disqualify some employment candidates. Marijuana could be legal in foreign countries, adding additional complications to developing a rational screening policy.
Companies rely on pre-employment background screenings, but they often fail to update their records by investigating on-the-job employees. An employee convicted of a crime involving a serious moral or ethical lapse could present many problems, especially if the worker has delivered outstanding work performance for many years. Another major background check problem involves international screenings.
International Laws Differ
The rise of global marketing means that companies must often establish foreign branch offices or deal with foreign customers and companies regularly. Finding the best talent might require a global search or hiring a local manager to facilitate business. Foreign background checks might be more critical than ever for companies operating blindly in unfamiliar territories.
Companies need to conduct foreign background screenings that comply with local customs, laws, and traditions. The rules could differ substantially from U.S. behavioral standards. Screening procedures might also involve different intelligence gathering techniques. In the United States, investigators check local and federal courts for criminal records, usually in areas evidence proves job applicants have lived. Checking every court in the country would present a logistical impossibility.
European citizens often live and work in numerous countries, complicating the search process. Companies must understand the rules in each country before initiating checks. Some countries might require a national check while others necessitate checking in each city. In the U.K., special agencies provide criminal information and checking locally would be a violation of law.
The following guidelines should help develop a consistent, methodical process for conducting international background checks:
- Research holds the key to successfully conducting searches. Choosing an experienced international expert or local background company for criminal records checks facilitates the process. U.S. companies could make decisions that would put them out of compliance with local regulations or face discrimination charges from local job applicants. Legal issues must often give way to regionalisms as well. Customs could vary considerably from legal policies, causing companies to make unfair assessments from report intelligence.
- Germany, for example, issues a Certificate of Good Conduct, but the job applicant must request that one be issued. Australia and the U.K. allow basic checks for any position, but advanced checks provided greater details for financial or health care positions.
- U.S. companies can order credit checks easily, but foreign countries often prohibit them for hiring decisions. The U.K., South Africa, and Australia only allow credit reporting companies to supply bankruptcy and court judgments information. Some states have also limited the use of credit in hiring decisions, such as Oregon, California, Washington, and others.
- Employment references often become more complex in European countries. In the United States, most companies will respond to phone inquiries, or background check services can confirm employment. France and Germany supply reference letters, eliminating the need for personal checks. Many countries require written requests for information and will refuse to discuss confidential employment issues over the phone.
- U.S. companies not only need to check educational references but also verify the credentials of institutions. Diploma mills offer phony degrees in exchange for cash payments. The standards of the institution make an important consideration when analyzing qualifications.
- Companies can verify U.S. educational institution credentials through the National Clearing House for most educational centers. South Africa operates a similar system that U.S. employers could use. Australian universities often list degree holders on their websites. For Chinese or Indian applicants, companies might require copies of degrees to confirm their legitimacy.
- African countries often lack infrastructure and digital records. Many types of confirmations might require an investigator to make a personal visit.
- Search companies operating internationally must enjoy the capabilities of delivering trained operatives who speak English and the target country language. Detailed knowledge of customs, security protocols, legal requirements, and privacy issues proves essential to make accurate screening assessments.
International background checks generate unique protocols and challenges for U.S. companies. Organizations must understand these key differences to implement a coherent screening policy.