International Background Screening More Necessary Due to Mobility of Workers in Global Economy

By Lester Rosen, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) President & Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Editor

In 2011, due to the mobility of workers across international borders in a global economy making it no longer adequate to conduct background screening checks just in the United States, a major trend will be the necessity of international background screening since an increasing number of workers will have spent part of their professional careers abroad.

Employers in the U.S. have long recognized that conducting due diligence on new hires with background screening is a mission critical task that can help them avoid being the subject of negligent hiring lawsuits if they hire someone that they should have known – through the exercise of due diligence – was dangerous, unfit or unqualified.

However, with the increased mobility of workers across international borders it is no longer adequate to conduct these background screening checks just in the United States. Background screening also must be done internationally since an increasing number of workers have spent part of their professional careers abroad. The number of foreign countries from which U.S. employers may seek information about applicants with international background screening is expansive, and includes Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, and the United Kingdom (U.K.).

This is Trend #5 of the Employment Screening Resources (ESR) Fourth Annual ‘Top Ten Trends in Pre-Employment Background Screening’ for 2011.

A need for international background screening can occur in several situations:

  • Job applicant from abroad: International background screening is necessary when an American company is considering a job applicant who was born abroad and is either coming directly to the U.S. from another country or has not been in the United States long enough to rely solely upon checking American references and criminal records.
  • Job applicant spent time abroad: International background screening is necessary when an American company is considering a job applicant who spent considerable time abroad in another country and the employer wants to obtain data for that time period.
  • Job applicant from other country will work in that country: International background screening is necessary when an American company is hiring an individual in another country to work in that country, such as an outside sales representative.

Recent U.S. government statistics show why international background screening is so necessary. Employers should understand that, statistically speaking, people in the United States who were born – or have spent significant time – abroad make up a surprisingly large amount of the current U.S. population:

What these figures tell employers is that only performing background screening within the U.S. is probably not enough. More and more, employers find they need to obtain information from outside of the United States on such matters as criminal records, past employment, and educational accomplishments with international background screening.

However, due to the perceived difficulty in performing international background screening, some employers do not attempt to verify international employment or education credentials, or perform foreign criminal checks. However, the mere fact that information may be more difficult to obtain from outside of the U.S. does not relieve an employer from their due diligence obligation, or “duty of care,” associated with hiring.

An employer cannot simply take a position that it is harder to exercise due diligence because the research is international. Nor can employers simply assume that the U.S. government has conducted background checks if the worker was issued a visa since government checks are generally not aimed at verifying credentials or checking for criminal records for employment purposes.

To exercise due diligence in hiring workers with backgrounds outside the U.S., employers should – at a minimum – consider international background screening for:

  • Criminal records
  • Employment
  • Education
  • Publicly available terrorist lists and international databases
  • Driver’s license, media searches, and – in some countries – credit reports

Employers should also be aware of special challengers when it comes to international background screening. Each and every country is completely different when it comes to international background screening. Techniques, information, and availability of public records that are taken for granted here in the United States are often times not available abroad. Outside of the U.S., 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.

When performing international background screening, there are a number of the special challenges and practical difficulties employers may face, including:

  • Differences in courts and legal systems
  • Language barriers
  • Name variations including transliteration into English and Phonetic transcription or “transcribing”
  • Time differences
  • Means and cost of communications
  • Differing calendars and holidays
  • Inherent risk of fraud
  • Costs more expensive compared to background screening in U.S.
  • Payments must be made in another country’s currency

Although international background screening can be challenging, it is not impossible. Employers can find themselves in hot water if they assume that international background screening is too difficult or expensive and simply bypass the process.

Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), both employers and background screening firms still have certain obligations regarding international background screening. If the task of international background screening is outsourced to a U.S. background screening firm, that firm has an FCRA obligation to take reasonable procedures to insure accuracy. If there is a negative public record, such as a criminal record “hit,” then the U.S. background screening firm must make certain the information is correct and up-to-date, and supplied in a way that does not violate any data or privacy protection rules.

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a leading background check provider both nationally and internationally accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS) and the third U.S. background screening company to be “Safe Harbor” certified – recommends employers implement an international Background Screening program that best fits their needs. ESR recommendations include:

  • Employers not assume that just because a person has spent time outside of the U.S., that international background screening is not possible.
  • Employers not assume the U.S. government has performed a background check that relieves employers of their due diligence obligation to conduct their own screening.
  • Employers perform international background screening in a legally compliance manner.
  • Employers perform the broadest criminal search allowed in each country, the international ESR criminality search.
  • Employers perform verification of, at the very least, the highest education that the applicant attained, the last employment where the applicant worked.
  • Employers pay particular attention to international education verifications since the world is awash with phony schools, fake degrees, and worthless diplomas.
  • Employers never identify applicants as “applicants born abroad” but rather simply as “international screening” since it may be discriminatory under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations.
  • Employers use proper consent forms for European Union (EU) “Safe Harbor” data privacy standards.
  • Employers perform international credit reports and driving records when available in some countries.

In January of 2011, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) will release a white paper ‘Introduction to International Background Screening’ that will provide information about what risks employers conducting such international background screenings should be aware of and the many ways background screening overseas differs from background screening in the United States. Some of the topics covered in the white paper include:

  • Two Types of International Background Checks:  Screening vs. Investigation
  • Why Employers Cannot Assume Government Screens Workers from Abroad
  • Challenges When Performing International Background Screenings
  • Tips on International Education & Employment Verifications
  • Terrorist Watch Search Lists, International Databases & International Sanctions Search
  • Legal Implications for Employers Doing International Background Checks
  • EU “Safe Harbor” Privacy and Data Protection in International Background Screening
  • Recommendations for International Background Screening Programs

To read more ESR News articles about International background screening, visit  To read the article ‘Introduction to International Screening’ by Employment Screening Resources (ESR) founder and President Lester Rosen, visit:

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is releasing the ESR Fourth Annual ‘Top Ten Trends in Pre-Employment Background Screening’ for 2011 throughout December. This is the Fifth of the Top Ten Trends ESR will be tracking in 2011. To see an updated list of ESR’s ‘Top Ten Trends in Pre-Employment Background Screening’ for 2011, visit:

Founded in 1996 in the San Francisco Bay area, Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is the company that wrote the book on background checks with ‘The Safe Hiring Manual’ by ESR founder and President Lester Rosen. Employment Screening Resources is accredited by The National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS®) Background Screening Credentialing Council (BSCC) for proving compliance with the Background Screening Agency Accreditation Program (BSAAP). ESR was the third U.S. background check firm to be Safe Harbor’Certified for data privacy protection. To learn more about ESR’s Leadership, Resources, and Solutions, visit or contact Jared Callahan, ESR Director of Client Relations, at 415.898.0044 or