One of the requirements for obtaining our Portuguese residency visa, which allows us to stay longer than ninety days, is to submit to a FBI background check. Actually, the official name for this is an “Identity History Summary Check,” but everyone just refers to it as your run-of-the-mill background check. One of the requirements to apply for the background check is to submit a sample of your fingerprints.
The procedure is described in detail at the following link:
A number of years ago, Harold was a member of law enforcement and remembers with horror the process of inking fingers and capturing fingerprints on the fingerprint cards which were submitted to the FBI. Fortunately, that process is now electronic. However, the FBI still requires the prints to be submitted on a fingerprint card so the electronically-captured fingerprints are printed with a laser printer.
We headed off to our county police department and the nice people there helped us get what we needed for the application. The fingerprint cards were $10 each (your price may vary). One thing that we wish we would have done was to buy an extra set of cards in the event of something happening to the first set, or if someone else in this process needed a set as well.
It would have been very easy to get a second set since it is as easy as requesting two copies. I have also seen recommendations to send two copies of the fingerprint cards to the FBI with your application. Obviously more is better. Although, I really don’t see how a second card printed off of the same printer would have been any different so I am skeptical about that.
There are very specific requirements on how to fill out the fingerprint card, but the staff at the Gwinnett County Police had filled out a sample card for us to follow. The prints are submitted on a standard fingerprint card called a FD-258. Here is a link to the PDF and instruction sheet:
This was one of our first steps in our relocation project because currently there is a 12-14 week processing time to receive the background check directly from the FBI. The FBI charges a modest $18 per person, and that fee can be paid by money order or credit card. You will only get one original copy of the report so it is necessary to make extra copies for when you need them down the line.
There IS another alternative to the 3-month wait and that is to use a service known as a channeler. This is a private business that packages your background check information and sends it to the FBI on your behalf. Rather than the 3-month wait time, they usually are able to provide a response in 1-2 weeks. The cost is around $50 and expedited service is available for fees in the range of $100. Basically, you are paying the business a fee to allow you to cut in line at the FBI, but since we had enough time we opted to go right to the source and skip the unnecessary cost.
Another thing that we did NOT do (which in hindsight was probably a bad thing) was not preparing our hands properly before we had our fingerprints taken. I have heard that you should soften your hands with hand lotion a couple of times a day the week before you get the prints taken to make sure you get a good impression. If the FBI cannot scan the fingerprints, they will require you to have them re-taken, creating even more delay.
We received our background check with no problems after about 12 weeks. One thing that we did notice was about 2 weeks before receiving the report in the mail, our credit card was charged for the fees, a pretty good indication that you will either receive a report, or be notified of any issues.
Harold is a former software engineer. Jana is an author. Together they're exploring their new life in Portugal.