international background checking

Incorporating International Background Checking – let’s get started!

In Australia, we are welcoming overseas workers probably more than what we think.  According to HSBC’s annual Expat Explorer League Table list of the top 10 for most popular countries to work abroad in 2018, Australia came in at number 6, with our New Zealand neighbour number 2. At PeopleCheck, we are finding more of our existing and new clients coming to us with the question of how to best manage a background checking program when a candidate’s CV so rarely relates entirely to Australian residency, experience and qualifications. In this article, we will address some of the frequently asked questions our Australian clients have about international background checking, as they seek to minimise the threats and costs associated with hiring undesirable or unsuitable applicants, whatever their background!

Setting the Scene

Technology literally puts the world at our fingertips and creates “experts” in International travel.  We can see things through google maps, get advice in an instant, apply for jobs, attend interviews, study and plan an overseas journey from our loungeroom or a mobile phone application.

With technology giving us the tools, the reality of living in a global community helps us understand people and culture, and working abroad allows a deeper understanding of a country. The world stage creates career and personal progression for many of our working generations.  Merely taking a job or studying abroad is the first step for many to start or progress a career; others have limited choices with niche careers focused in particular locations – take technology or mining for example.  Even political and economic challenges in some countries makes career progression difficult, with options abroad far more viable.

Individuals that are open to explore a new country can often do so while earning a decent income and without sacrificing their career with long absences.  Some occupations require short and long term travel as core aspects of the role.

Finally, globalisation. Globalisation can potentially increase competition for business into local markets, yet conversely also creates new opportunities for growth and expansion. This has been seen as companies move into global markets more readily and transfer people resources across borders.

When are international background checks relevant to an organisation?

International background checks are relevant to organisations across a variety of scenarios:

  • Australian organisations that hire personnel either originally from an international location or those who have lived, worked or studied abroad;
  • Organisations based in Australia with an international presence that require consistency in approach between the Australian background checking process and that in other locations;
  • Organisations based overseas that require checks in Australia and other international locations; or
  • Organisations that are Influenced by external sources, such as our customer’s clients, governments or regulators that may be internationally based, owned or influenced.

The first category is where most of the interest PeopleCheck has seen in incorporating international background checks stems from. Often Australian organisations are driven to look at international background checking largely due to candidates with international backgrounds applying for positions and the need for a consistent approach across the organisation.

With a transient workforce and globalisation for business, it is not just long stays our clients require us to background screen – short term secondments and exchanges can be just as crucial in exposing adverse information in someone’s background, as a stay exceeding a couple of years.

Do all background checking providers offer international checks?

No, many background checking providers in Australia have chosen to focus only on the provision of local checks and their services do not extend to offering equivalent checks overseas. At PeopleCheck we are sometimes contacted for assistance with international checks where the organisation’s existing provider could not facilitate these.

If you are selecting a provider, it will save time and resources, as well as ensuring consistency of approach and process, to have a “one stop shop” that offers a full range of services, including international checks.

How are international background checks undertaken?

The process for validating a candidate’s employment history, qualifications and memberships in countries other than Australia is generally the same as the process locally.  Some providers have offices in various locations around the world; others use wholesalers or align themselves with partners in the region.  All models are effective, as there are no providers in the industry that are able to service all countries independently. Providers that offer international checks often use a variety of methods, all bringing with them positives and potential drawbacks.

Personal and public database searches in international locations vary in terms of availability and process. These can be undertaken through a mix of subscription databases and applying for information from relevant authorities holding records such as a criminal, bankruptcy and credit. In some instances, it is necessary to have an “on the ground presence”.

In some countries a search might not be available due to record-keeping restrictions, legislation preventing disclosure or lack of a relevant framework (for example, in some countries there is no law governing personal bankruptcy). However, there can be industry-recognised alternatives, such as media checks or searches of court records, and in some cases (particularly with criminal history checks), candidates can obtain the records themselves.

The results of a survey of 2,137 HR professionals undertaken in April 2018 by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), showed an increased focus on international screening. The NAPBS is the only official worldwide recognised body for background checking and is based in the USA, with local chapters servicing APAC, Canada and Europe. In this survey, 80% of employers saw the importance in organisations being able to access global or international background checking capabilities.

Are there special requirements for international background checks?

Similar to checks in Australia, some background checks in international locations require specific forms and information and others can simply be undertaken with basic details from the candidate.  Usually, a standard authority consent form is a minimum requirement.

The type of information required will usually vary depending on the search being requested, the source and the country.  A commonly required piece of information is a national ID number for some countries where this is used a key identifier; sometimes a set of fingerprints is required for a criminal record check; and some require very little information beyond name and date of birth.

Providers will generally collect any special requirements such as forms and ID from the candidates directly and also ensure that they have obtained explicit consent from the candidate for their information to be transferred to this country.

Are the privacy laws different in other countries?

Each country has its own legislation relating to the collection, use, storage and transfer of personal information that has an impact on the background checking process.

A strong international background checking approach appreciates the complexities that each region has in terms of varying availability of information, privacy legislation and cultural differences and the way these impact on background checking, in order to ensure full compliance.

How does the GDPR impact?

With the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) in May 2018, it is important to ensure that international background checking adheres to the specifications of this legislation, including aspects such as explicit consent (and withdrawal of consent), the Right to be Forgotten, cross-border disclosure and requirements regarding sub-processors of data.

Do international background checks take longer than Australian background checks?

On average, international checks do take a little longer than those in Australia. However, this is heavily dependent on the country. For example, UK criminal history checks can be returned in 24 hours; whereas those in the Netherlands and Fiji can take up to 20-30 working days. Often it is the process of collecting any special forms or information from candidates that causes delays.

Are international background checks more expensive than those in Australia?

Sometimes, but not always! The perception is that incorporating international checks into a background checking program will be a great expense to the business. However, this is not always the case. In some international regions, information is cheaper to obtain than in Australia.

In the overall scheme, undertaking international background checks relevant to a candidate’s background may cost a little extra in some cases. However, if the candidate’s background has an international flavour, restricting background checks to only being undertaken locally leaves your organisation open to risk and somewhat defeats the purpose of undertaking background checks at all!

What is PeopleCheck’s approach to international background checking?

PeopleCheck has many clients both based in Australia and overseas location where international background checks form part of our service delivery. Whilst our core business is generally located in the Asia Pacific region; our coverage is broad, whereby we facilitate background checks in most international locations, where checks are legally available for background checking purposes.

Depending on our client’s needs, we have various methods for incorporating international checks into a largely Australian background checking program. These include:

  • adding frequently required international background checks to our client’s online ordering account;
  • auto-approval of checks in certain countries or within a certain period; and
  • reviewing the candidate’s background for international residency/experience and reverting with recommendations and to seek approval on a case-by-case basis.

More Information

For more information on the ways in which international background checks can assist in reducing risks to your business, please contact us via telephone on +612 4023 0603 or email at – we are always happy to help!


The information contained in this paper is the opinion of PeopleCheck Pty Ltd and does not form the basis of legal advice.

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