Understanding the USCIS Background Check for H-1B Visas

Employers and employees petitioning for an H-1B visa undergo a complicated process involving paperwork and background checks. These checks are performed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and, if necessary, the FBI. What’s involved in this background check, and how can you prepare for yours? Read on to find out the details.

Why You’ll Need a Background Check for Your Visa

The H-1B visa program is highly coveted by foreign workers and their respective employers globally. As popular as it is, there’s a limit on how many of these visas are given annually. 

Anyone applying for the H-1B visa must be eligible to receive the benefits and qualify for the job they are trying to obtain. To ensure the beneficiaries are coming to the US for legitimate purposes and don’t pose a risk to those already in the country, background checks are part of the screening process. But the type of application and benefit will determine how deeply scrutinized your background check becomes.

Everyone Who Applies Gets a USCIS Background Check

If you want to enter the US under any visa, you must undergo this background check screening process. It doesn’t matter how young or old you are, your nation of origin, or any other demographic. Before you can enter the US, you must have a screening cleared.

These background checks are both criminal and national security clearance levels. They’re necessary to enforce the safety of those in the US and to ensure the beneficiary is eligible for the benefits they’ll receive when they are approved for the visa.

The Background Check Process

When you’re undergoing an immigration background check, there are three parts, and each part has to be passed. Missing any of them will prevent you from securing your visa interview, which is the final step before you receive your visa stamping.

If the USCIS official feels it necessary to secure other background investigations, they have the authority to do so. However, the three most common parts of this check include the investigation of your background, fingerprints, and a name check. We’ll break these three sections into more detail next.

The Background Investigation

We all make mistakes in our lives, and sometimes those mistakes go on our permanent background check. Not all of these problems will keep you from getting a visa, but that’s where the investigation starts.

This step is called the IBIS Name Check, or Interagency Border Inspection System. It’s used at the port of entry by all immigration officials. The system connects to a centralized database that combines information from various agencies and interfaces. 

The data it compiles relates to any public safety concerns or national security risks that law enforcement should be aware of. When your name is run through this system, US Customs and Border Protection are flagged if there is any reason to conduct a deeper investigation.


During the H-1B visa application process, you’ll be required to attend a biometrics service appointment. Here, you’ll record basic information about your height, weight, eye color, and other physical traits. You’ll also have your fingerprints collected and sent to the FBI’s database for a cross-check against their Criminal Justice Information Services system in West Virginia.

The only thing the FBI looks for here is whether your prints match any criminal or administrative records. However, in some cases, the fingerprints are unclassifiable, in which case USCIS can determine whether to proceed further with the investigation and screening or deny your application.

Fingerprint checks typically take 24-48 hours. By that time, if you do have a matching criminal record, the report, called a RAP sheet, is sent to the USCIS.

Name Checks

Finally, the FBI reviews your application for a name check. Your name is input into the National Name Check Program in Washington, where it is run through multiple databases of known criminals and suspects. Matches may be connected to criminal, personnel, administrative, and applicants in paperwork compiled by law enforcement.

Because it’s a universal check, it can take weeks unless your match is found quickly. However, if there isn’t a match, the system will continue to run through the entire list of names before clearing you. As long as your match isn’t with anyone with a criminal nature, it’s relatively simple to determine that you’re not that person and move on with your application.

What’s Next?

If you’re concerned that something in your past could show up on a background check, you might consider investing in a preliminary investigation. You have the right to see what’s attached to your name, and seeing what the FBI and USCIS see can be reassuring or, at the least, help you prepare your explanation.

Small offenses might not impact your immigration qualification. If the offense is closed and you have already paid your fine or dealt with your consequences through jail or other penalties, it’s likely not as big of a deal to USCIS as it is to you. The key is to ensure you have a clean record since your incident.

However, if something serious could hinder your immigration process, be sure to contact an attorney before filing your immigration petition. 

At Visa2US, we can help you sort out the details or understand how your background could impact your ability to obtain an H-1B visa. If an H-1B visa isn’t in your future, we’ll point you in the right direction for other ways to enter the US. Contact us today for more information on background checks, the H-1B visa process, and how to get started!

Skip the research part for your immigration application.

Simply answer questions we prepared for you and the completed forms are ready!

H-1B Visa

H-1B Visa

H-1B visa is used by businesses and organizations in the United States to employ foreign nationals with the preferred qualifications, knowledge, and expertise in a role.

I-485 Adjustment of Status

I-485 Adjustment of Status

Submit a form I-485 application to apply for lawful permanent resident status.

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

National Interest Waiver (NIW)

An applicant must either hold an advanced degree or have an exceptional ability in their field that would substantially benefit the U.S. to be qualified.