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International Screening

Special Report on International Background Screening

November 07, 2013

Many firms are finding that they have a need to conduct background screening on individuals from other countries. This can occur in two situations:

An American company is considering a job applicant who was born abroad, and has not been in the United States long enough to rely solely upon checking American references and records;

An American company is hiring an individual in another country to work in that country, such as outside sales or marketing representative.

Types of International checks:  Screening versus Investigation

There are two types of international services an employer may utilize. The first type is an international employment screening. The second type is an international investigation. For most employers an international employment screening involves verifications of supplied information, as opposed to an active investigation to locate information. In other words, an employer will have already obtained from an applicant the name, addresses and phone numbers of previous employers or schools. Also, the employer will have obtained locations where an applicant has lived, worked or studied, which is important to know where to conduct criminal searches. The employer does not need to hire an international investigator to locate that information. In other words, an international investigation typically involves an investigator working in the country where the investigitns is being conducted.  When an employer utilizes a screening firm, there is not necessarily an agent on the ground in the country where the information is being obtained.  It is often obtained by contact with courts, employers and schools done by phone or e-mail.  For that reason, an international investigation typically is considerably more expensive then a screening. 

A typical international screening will consist of contacting the employers and schools that have been supplied, and conducting a criminal check to the extent possible in that country. A screening may also include if available a driving record and credit report.

If an employer is filling a highly sensitive potion, or is conducting a due diligence investigation of a potential business partner, then the services of a qualified investigation firm is needed. ESR only conducts employment screening. If an investigation is required, ESR will assist the employer in obtaining qualified professional assistance.

In addition to the screening tools available from ESR, there are other steps an employer can do when hiring a person who has spent time abroad:

1. Even though the person's time in the US may have been limited, do whatever background checking is possible based upon their time in the US. It demonstrates due diligence by documenting the fact that an employer did what they could do.

2. Even if a person is relatively new to this country, ask for the name of personal references that are in the US. However, be sure to also document the relationship between the reference an the applicant. Although this is not a perfect solution, an employer demonstrates due diligence by making and documenting an attempt to do a screening

3. If hiring a number of applicants from abroad, state in the Release form that you will also conduct background investigations of any countries where an applicant has lived in the past seven to ten years. This can have the effect of discouraging applicant with something to hide. However, this should be worded carefully, so that an employer does not imply that any hiring decision are being made based upon country of origin or ethnicity.

Special challenges when performing international backgrounds screenings:

When performing international checks, the following are some of the special challenges that are faced:

Each and every country is completely different. Techniques and information that are taken for granted here in the United States are often times not available abroad. Outside of the United States, there is generally very limited access to public records and the types of information needed for background screening. Each country has its own laws, customs and procedures for background screenings. Criminal records can be a challenge. In many countries, it is extremely difficult to obtain criminal records. There are parts of the world where such record are not available without retaining a local private investigator that has their own resources. In other countries, such as Canada, a person may apply themselves for a certificate of good conduct from a local police agency.

Practical difficulties:

Language barriers: Although all investigators utilized by ESR can communicate in English, that is not normally their first language. In addition, technical words can lead to some confusion. In addition, language can become an issue in communication with foreign schools and employers. The can also be language issues in reviewing court documents for criminal record searches, although ESR criminal researchers will provide translations of any court documents.

Differences in courts and criminal systems: In doing international criminal searches, each country has its own legal codes, definition of crimes and court system. International criminal checks requires an understanding of each country's court system, how criminal records are created and maintained, where searches should be conducted, the type of records that are available and what the records mean.

Time differences: When communicating with researchers, past employers or schools around the world, there can be delays due to time differences. This can add lag time to the reporting process.

Means of communications: Each country will have different means of communication. Although e-mail would be preferable, not all countries have reliable e-mail delivery. Communications are normally done by fax machine.

Calendar: Since each country has its own holidays, sometimes communications are delayed because of a country's calendar, or some other internal problem.

Locating phone numbers for employment and educational checks: To conduct an international verification efficiently, it is important to have the applicant provide as much information as possible. It is not practical, for example, for an American firm to attempt to call a foreign country to locate the past employer's phone number. ESR will typically need permission to contact the applicant directly in order to obtain any additional necessary information.

Legal: It is important to stay within legal guidelines that are applicable in both the US and the foreign country. For example, when obtaining information form an applicant about past employment or education abroad, it is important not to refer to the country as their country of origin. That would likely be a form of discrimination since such a statement can imply that the employer is considering ethnicity or country of origin as a factor of employment. Instead, and employer should refer to any screening outside of the US as simply an "international screening." In addition, it is important not to perform any type of check that would be an invasion of privacy, or contrary to the laws of either the US or the foreign country.

Payment: If ESR needs to help an employer arrange for the services of an investigator abroad, then in many countries, payment must be made in that country's currency. Some investigators require that some or all be paid in advance. ESR can arrange payment through an international wire transfer (which currently costs $40.00, depending upon the bank). Or, ESR can obtain a money order in the foreign currency (currently at a bank fee of $7.50) and send it by means of DHL.

Costs: International screenings are normally much more expensive then a comparable investigation in the United States. Because an employment screening will normally consist of verifying supplied information, the pricing can be kept more reasonable. However, even verifying supplied information can be expensive for the reasons indicated above. For some countries, there is also a translation fee.

Exact fees vary by counties. In many countries, criminal searches must be conducted in each relevant location where a person has lived worked or studied. There are very few countries that have a true "national" or "official" criminal search. The searches are usually limited to felonies or serious matters. However, even though the system for international criminal checks is not perfect, this still allows an employer to both demonstrate due diligence in the hiring process, an to also discourage applicants with something to hide, since all checks are conducted pursuant to a signed release under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

Please contact ESR to for pricing for each country where a criminal record check is needed.

In addition, ESR charges a set fee for each international employment and educational verification, plus long distance phone charges and interpreter services where necessary. This service requires that an applicant provide the correct phone number of the employer and school to be contacted.

ESR can also access international databases such as the International Wants and Warrants database from Interpol, the international police organization sponsored by 179 countries. As with any database, the presence of a name in the database does not mean the person has a criminal background, and the absence of a name does not mean that a person is safe. However, the Interpol database is a valuable tool used in conjunction with other screening tools.

Countries where ESR can assist an employer include: India, most European countries, Philippines, Japan, South Africa, Hong Kong, numerous countries in Central and South America, Indonesia, Canada, Mexico, Israel, Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, and numerous others.

Please contact Employment Screening Resources for further information about performing International Background Screening.

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