The Rundown: International Background Check Terms

Posted: November 05, 2021

We were inspired by a recent PBSA webinar, “When is a Swede not a Swede,” to create a glossary of international background check terms. There are many international screening acronyms and phrases out there that can be confused or misused, so it is important to be aware of them, especially if you are hiring globally.

First up, here are a couple of commonly used international background screening terms:

  • “Background Search” – The general terms “background check” or “background search” can have a variety of meanings internationally, including obtaining consumer reports, conducting criminal searches, vetting, performing investigations, doing Fit and Proper tests, etc. While background checks/searches are often equated with criminal checks, this isn’t necessarily true since reference checks, education verifications, employment verifications, etc. don’t involve checking criminal records.
  • Vetting – “Vetting” is a commonly used term internationally that is not used as much in the U.S. “Vetting” refers to conducting a thorough background check on a job candidate, including verifying educational credentials such as degrees, professional licenses, and certifications, searching for criminal records, checking social media profiles, and pulling credit reports.

Background Screening Terms Used Primarily in the United States

Here are a few specific background screening terms that are generally only understood in the United States:

  • Consumer – The term “consumer,” commonly used in the U.S., refers to the person who is the subject of the background report.
  • CRA – A Consumer Reporting Agency (CRA) is a company such as Info Cubic that conducts the background check and reports the results.
  • Consumer Report – A “consumer report” is the actual background report provided by a consumer reporting agency, which covers anything from a criminal search to an educational verification.
  • End User – The “end user” is the employer who orders the consumer report and receives the results from the consumer reporting agency.
  • FCRA “Fair Credit Reporting Act” (United States) – The FCRA Act (Title VI of the Consumer Credit Protection Act) protects information collected by consumer reporting agencies.
  • Identifiers – Identifiers are facts used to determine if public records belong to a consumer. Some common identifiers include Date of Birth (DOB), Social Security Number (SSN) and Driver’s License Number (DLN).
  • SSN Trace – This term refers to conducting a social security number validation, which based on information that comes from US credit bureaus will typically provide a consumer’s address history.
  • NSOR – “NSOR “refers to the “National Sex Offender Registry.”

International Background Screening Terms that Can Get Mixed Up

The speakers in the PBSA webinar make some very interesting observations regarding international background screening terms. One main takeaway is that it is critical to remember that a term in one country does not necessarily mean the same thing as it does in another country. Here are a few examples of this:

  • “Swede”- In the U.S., we often refer to a person from Sweden as a “Swede.” However, in Europe, a “swede” is a large, yellow vegetable.
  • “Domestic” – Merriam-Webster’s definition of “domestic” is, “of, relating to, or originating within a country and especially one’s own country.” Always be careful how you use the word “domestic,” since it is very situational, depending on the context it is used in. For example, if you use the term “domestic” in Colorado, you are referring to the United States. On the flip side, if you are in Canada, the term “domestic” means somewhere in Canada.
  • Date format –The international standard for writing a date is for the year to be first, then the month, then the day (YYYY-MM-DD). So, October 15, 2021, would be written as 2021-10-15, which is quite different than 10-15-2021.

Geographical Terms

Here are a few other international terms that describe different regions of the world:

  • EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) – “EMEA” is an acronym for the geographic area covering Europe, Middle East, and Africa.
  • EEA (European Economic Area) – The region encompassing the EU countries, along with Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway.
    • EU (European Union) – The EU refers to countries in the European Union.
    • Asia-Pacific (APAC) – “APAC” generally refers to the geographic area encompassing East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Australia, and Oceania.
  • Latin America (LatAm) – The Latin America region includes Brazil and sometimes Mexico where Latin languages are spoken (Spanish, Portuguese, and French).

ISO country codes are another thing to be aware of when conducting international background screening. Each country is assigned a two or three letter code. The codes are recognized internationally.

International Screening Terms to Verify Identity

When conducting international background screening, there are many different methods of verifying identity. For example, in the United States, an individual’s social security number may be used as a main identifier, although it is technically only intended to serve as a taxpayer ID number. Here are a few terms that are used internationally as identifiers:

  • NIN/NINO (United Kingdom) – The UK uses a “National Insurance Number” as an identifier in its National Insurance, social security, and tax systems. The National Insurance Number is sometimes referred to as a NIN or NINO.
  • SIN (Social Insurance Number) (Canada) – A SIN, which is used in Canada, is a nine-digit that is needed to work in Canada.
  • PAN (India) – A Permanent Account Number, commonly known as PAN, is a 10-digit alphanumeric number that is used as an identifier in India.
  • NRIC (Singapore)– The National Registration Identity Card (NRIC) is an identity document and number that used in Singapore.
  • Clave Única de Registro de Población (CURP) (Mexico) – A CURP is alphanumeric population number, like a social security number, that is issued to Mexican citizens and lawful residents.

International Criminal Search Terms

There are many international screening terms related to job candidates’ criminal history:

  • Certificates – “Good Conduct” and “Good Behavior”– Some countries issue certificates to show that a candidate has no criminal history, although these are not commonly requested in the United States. They are sometimes needed for US citizens going through an adoption, searching for employment opportunities, etc. The certificates, often with a tile like, “Certificate of Good Conduct” or a “Good Behavior Certificate,” indicate that there is no record of criminal activity.
  • Police Clearance Certificate – An official document that is issued after a background check is conducted by the police or government agency of a country that clears the subject of any criminal records (arrest, conviction, etc.).
  • DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) – Used to prevent employers in the United Kingdom (England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) from hiring unsuitable applicants who are banned from working with vulnerable groups, especially children.
  • Adverse Media – Refers to unfavorable or negative information found across a variety of sources.
  • Watchlists and Sanctions Lists – Sanctions, or watchlist checks, are searches done through numerous databases that are designed to pinpoint individuals who are prohibited from certain activities, industries, or occupations.
  • Central Banks’ Warning Lists – These lists are used to spot signs of scam or fraud.
  • Spent Record – This term, which is very common in other cultures, means that the subject has a finished serving a sentence.
  • Record Suspension (Canada) – This is term, used primarily in Canada, means that the subject has been issued a pardon for a past offense.

Miscellaneous International Screening Terms

  • Curriculum Vitae (CV) – A “CV” is a term used in Europe that refers to submitting a full job application. The Latin meaning of the term is the “’course of (one’s) life.”
  • Fit and Proper Test – A series of checks used to assess whether an applicant is suitable to perform a certain function. For example, a Fit and Proper test might be run to see if a subject is ethical enough to be put in a position of trust such as an officer or a board member.

International Financial Reports

  • Credit Check An international credit check verifies a job candidate’s credit data from top international credit bureaus.
  • County Court Judgment (CCJ) – A “CCJ” is a court order in the UK against a subject if he or she fails to repay money owed.
  • Here are a few other umbrella terms that are commonly used for international financial checks:
    • Financial stability
    • Financial probity
    • Fit and Proper
    • Adverse financial

International Driving Records Terms

  • Driver’s license validation – Verifies the information on the card.
  • Driver abstract – Includes a summary of a driving record over the past three years.
  • Driver license check – Checks for driver’s license.
  • Driver record – Pulls information on driving records.
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) (UK) – Driver’s License agency for the UK.

International Privacy Terms

  • Personal Identifiable Information (PII) – Also commonly referred to as personal information or personally identifiable information, PII is a term that is used to describe personal data, including name, driver’s license, medical records, and financial information.
  • The Data Protection Act (DPA) – The DPA was enacted by the United Kingdom Act of Parliament in 1988 to control how organizations use customer information. “DPAs” are authorities that oversee the implementation of the data protection
  • Standard Contractual Clause (SCC) – A Standard Contractual Clause involves data transfers between EU and non-EU countries.
  • General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – The GDPR regulated transferring personal data out of the EU and EEA regions, along with protecting the privacy of information.
  • Data Subject Access Request (DSAR) – The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) grants individuals the right to submit a DSAR to determine how their personal information has been collected, stored and how it is being used.
  • Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) (Canada) – An individual must give consent to organizations that collect, use, or disclose use their personal information. Subjects also have the right to access any personal information held by an organization and if needed, challenge the information’s accuracy.
  • Brazilian General Data Protection Law (LGPD) – The Brazilian General Data Protection Law regulates the use and of all personal data.
  • Personal Data Protection (PDPA) (Asia) – The PDPA, used in Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and Korea, establishes a data protection law that governs the collection and use of personal data.

There are enough international background screening terms out there to make your head spin so we hope this glossary will be a good resource for companies conducting international background checks

Info Cubic will help you sort through the ins and outs of international background checks. We offer unparalleled customer service, international compliance knowledge and fast turnaround times. For more information on Info Cubic’s international background checks, please contact us at (888) 925-0922 to discuss how we can support your organization’s global hiring needs.

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