10 Things You Need to Know Before Conducting International Background Screening

Posted: August 18, 2020

As our economy becomes increasingly global, companies must take steps to ensure that they are executing international employment screening legally, accurately, and efficiently.

There are several reasons why international background checks need to be conducted. Companies may have global offices or may need to screen candidates who have lived abroad. International background screening can be complicated, and it is important to have an understanding of applicable privacy laws, labor laws, position-specific laws and requirements and operational nuances before diving in.

Info Cubic has compiled a list of 10 must-know topics in regard to international background screening:

  1. International background checks need to be done legally. Many countries don’t allow just anyone to obtain criminal record information. Some do not provide this information to third parties or they might only allow a limited search based the job position or the candidate’s current country of residence. For example, in some countries, the only way to receive criminal record history is for the candidate to go to the court, local police department, etc. and request the information themselves, in person. In other countries, if the candidate has relocated to the US, the records may potentially be obtained by a third-party, such as a Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA). When considering whether certain searches can be performed legally, there are many things that need to be considered, such as the location of the client/end-user, the location of the candidate, the location of the record, and the job position.
  2. Learn the acronyms and definitions associated with international screening. There are many specific definitions and acronyms specifically related to international background screening. It is crucial that you become familiar with them both in a general sense and in regard to the country in which you would like to conduct background checks in. Additionally, it is important to be aware that not all the reports and records are returned in English and in many cases, records will be returned in the country’s local language. One of the most prevalent mistakes that people make—one that may not even occur to most people—is the differentiation between the terms “domestic” and “international.” Companies may use the term domestic when referring to products offered within their own country; however, these terms are relative. If you are speaking to someone outside of your country, “domestic” and “international” take on completely different meanings.
  3. Understand that the source, scope and process of criminal searches can vary significantly between international screening and criminal screening in the US. There are many differences between conducting criminal searches in US and internationally. For example, in the United States, criminal records are public records and can be obtained from courthouses and police departments, as well as statewide record repositories. Criminal records in other countries may be obtained from many different places, including courthouses, administer of justice, police stations, etc. Some countries provide Police Certificates or Certificates of Good Behavior, and searches may be conducted at the local level, nationwide level, or both.
  4. Know that reference checks matter internationally. Reference checks are used quite often internationally as certain restrictions in the United States don’t apply. In the US, companies have been trained to provide only basic information about a candidate’s past employment, while internationally, past employers will talk more about the candidate’s job performance. “Directorships” are also checked internationally.
  5. Understand how ID verifications work. International screening may include verifying the validity of identification, including checking the code at bottom at passport and using other methods to verify whether an ID is legitimate.
  6. Understand how credit reports work. Credit information is generally obtained using the same method internationally and in the US; although the information included can vary quite a bit from country to country. Many developing countries don’t have a centralized credit bureau like Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian so they sometimes need to pull from financial institutions, which can often result in a report with very limited information.
  7. Determine the types of international searches you would like to run. Some common international searches include: Criminal Records, Sanctions, Verifications, Directorship, ID Verification, Civil Records, Credit Reports, Bankruptcy, Motor Vehicle Record searches, etc.
  8. Understand the main challenges of international screening. There are numerous challenges associated with international screening, including increased costs, miscellaneous school and employer third-party/passthrough fees, differences in time zones, communication challenges, results interpretation, and, most importantly, meeting international privacy and data transfer requirements.
  9. Learn the legalities and requirements of your target county. When screening globally, there are many privacy and data-transfer laws that you need to be aware of, including privacy laws, labor laws, position-specific laws and requirements and even laws outlined in a country’s constitution. We encourage you to discuss these laws with your legal counsel prior to conducting international background checks to ensure that you are compliant with all applicable laws and regulations. The following are a handful of the most well-known and most frequently encountered global privacy regimes: UE/UK: GDPR, Canada: PIPEDA, India: PDPB, Japan: APPI, Australia: Privacy Act 198
  10. Adhere to data transfer requirements. Getting data from other countries may seem as simple as pushing a button or sending an email, but in actuality, there are multiple data transfer laws and restrictions you need to follow to ensure that you are importing the data legally and safely. While the EU-US Privacy Shield Framework was just recently invalidated on July 16, 2020, other transfer methods such as the Swiss-US Privacy Shield, Standard Contractual Clauses, and Binding Corporate Rules (for larger companies) remain viable options for transferring data from other countries.

Here are a few best practices of international background screening:

  • Collect only the data you need—and are allowed to collect—for your purposes.
  • Don’t over-collect the information. For example, if only a name and date of birth is required to perform a search, don’t request a copy of passport.
  • Keep the data only as long as you need it.
  • Review your data retention policies and ensure that you are not keeping sensitive data longer than required.
  • Partner with compliance resources to help you stay up to date and compliant with all applicable international laws.

Info Cubic has extensive experience with conducting international searches and is familiar with cultural and operational challenges across the globe. Our team is here to help you navigate your international screening program and offer the following international products:

Info Cubic is a premier provider of international screening services. We work closely with a thoroughly vetted and reliable network that allows us to provide robust coverage around the globe in the most cost-effective and timely manner possible. Contact our client service team at 888-925-0922 to discuss how we can support your organization globally.

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