5 Steps to an Apostilled FBI Criminal Background Check

This post is a continuation of my series entitled, How to Prepare Documents for an E-2 Visa in Korea.

If you are a US citizen and want to work in Korea as an English teacher, there are several documents that you will need to collect before you can secure a job offer or an E-2 visa. One of them is an FBI Criminal Background Check also called a Criminal History Summary (stating no criminal record found) with Apostille. Procuring this document will likely require the most legwork and patience, so you should begin it first. Using this 5-step guide, you’ll be able to tackle this process with ease.

Here’s how I, a US citizen residing in the US at the time of processing, did it:

Step 1. Get fingerprinted at your local police station or authorized agency. If the precinct gives you a fingerprint card, make sure that it is Standard Fingerprint Form FD-258. Alternatively, you can print out your own card using the FBI’s PDF found here.

  • The instructions state:


On my card, the officer who did my fingerprints wrote down the name and address of his precinct in the space “Employer and Address”.

  • If you live in New York City, this should cost you around $15 (money order only) at a local precinct or $25 at NYPD headquarters


Step 2. Complete and print Form 1-783 from the FBI’s website.

  • Be sure to include a note that states “Please provide an FBI seal and signature from a Division Officer for the purpose of obtaining a Federal Apostille.” You may list this on the application or include it in an attached (post-it or paper clipped) note. I did both.
  • Prepare a money order, cashier’s check, or completed credit card form for $18 per copy of the results.
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Sample CBC Request Form (1-783)

Step 3. Express mail completed Form 1-783, completed fingerprint card, payment method, and a prepaid self-addressed express envelope to

FBI CJIS Division – Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306

  •  Before you mail your documents, make sure you have everything you need by using the FBI’s Identification Record Request Checklist. You should also write down the tracking number found on your outgoing express mail envelope. You’ll want this later to stalk track the arrival of your documents at the FBI.
    • UPDATE 1/29/14: Thanks to a comment from reader chalmozoTed, the FBI has changed their policy re: self-addressed return envelopes. 

Note from the FBI: “Due to changes in processing, effective October 12, 2013, the FBI will no longer accept return self-addressed stamped envelopes with Departmental Order requests. This includes pre-paid Priority Mail, FedEx account numbers, United Parcel Service, etc., foreign postage coupons, and requests to forward correspondence to the Department of State for the apostille process. Envelopes received postmarked after this date will be destroyed. The FBI will return all results, both foreign and domestic, by U.S. First-Class Mail via the United States Postal Service. Thank you for your patience as we try to streamline our processes to improve our service to you.”


Step 4. Wait mercilessly for 4-12 weeks for your background check to be returned to you. You can check the status of your request by calling (304) 625-2000 and speaking with a live person at the FBI CJIS Division. If you paid by credit card, you’ll see the charge hit your account once they have begun your request. My CBC, with signature and seal, was returned to me in approximately 4 weeks.The FBI claims that average wait times are around 5-6 weeks depending on the volume of requests received.


fbi cbc livetravelmore


Huzzah! You’re almost done. Now you have to get an apostille for your CBC.

Step 5. Complete Form DS-4194 to obtain an apostille from the U.S. Department of State (USDOS). You have several options to get this done. They are listed below in order of slowest to quickest.

  • Option 1: Send your request directly to the USDOS. Express mail a completed Form DS-4194, a check or money order for $8 per document, and a prepaid self-addressed express envelope to

U.S. Department of State
Authentications Office
518 23rd Street, NW SA-1
Columbia Plaza
Washington, DC 20520

Plan ahead if you use this option. According to the USDOS Office of Authentications website,

The average processing time for mail-in requests is 10 business days from the date of receipt from the Department mailroom (different from the date of delivery for most tracked packages) to the date of return to the Department mailroom. Use of tracked mail delivery will expedite handling of your request by mailroom and may prevent damage to documents caused by irradiation of USPS regular mail.

  • Option 2: Send your request to USDOS via professional courier service. You send your documents to the service, they walk them in to USDOS on your behalf, pick them up when they’re ready in 1-3 business days, and mail them to you soon after. I chose this option because it was the quickest and easiest one for me. The courier service I used was US Authentication Services. They were reliable, professional, and affordable. At the time of my inquiry (12/19/12), I was quoted a price of $45 (including apostille fee and service fee). This is the option I chose and my turnaround time of 10 calendar days was pretty quick considering federal offices were closed for 2 business days when I went through this phase of the process. 
  • Option 3: Submit your request to USDOS in person. If you’re near the DC area, you can make an appointment, drop off your documents in person and pick them up in 1-3 business days. Procedures for this are constantly changing, so you should be sure to check the USDOS Office of Authentications website for hours and rules.


An apostille was bound to my CBC and had a raised seal on it.

fbi cbc apostille livetravelmore
US DOS Apostille

Yipeee! You’ve now procured a very important document. Pat yourself on the back, do a happy dance, then continue working on the rest of your documents. You don’t want to let this thing sit around for too long because the CBC is only valid for 6 months after the check was run. To be on the safe side, time your job applications so that you won’t have to re-do this process all over again.

Up next, I will walk you through obtaining an apostille for your degree(s).


Edit (6/11/13): If you are currently in Korea and need to get an FBI CBC then you can follow the detailed instructions found on Kasham’s informative blog by clicking here.


65 thoughts on “5 Steps to an Apostilled FBI Criminal Background Check

  1. Hi, I love reading your entries. Super useful!

    I just had a quick, somewhat borderline dumb question, about the FBI check. I just received my background check from the FBI Bureau in a manila folder. Am I allowed to open this and check what I received before submitting it to for its apostille?????

    Everything has been so time consuming that I do not want to make any mistakes to jeopardize the process…


    • Happy to help!

      Yes, by all means. Check that folder and make sure it says “no criminal record found” or something to that effect. You also want to make sure it has the signature and seal of an FBI official on it before you mail it off to the State Department or courier service. The only things that need to be sealed are your transcripts and letters of recommendation… But even with the transcripts, I’m unsure if they meant have an official seal or have the envelope it’s in closed. I submitted official transcripts with the school’s seal in an opened envelope to the Korean embassy for my visa and it was fine.

      I definitely understand the fear of making timely and costly mistakes. I trust that you are scanning color copies of everything before you send it off for your records.

  2. Hi, thank you for posting this info. form ds-4194 doesn’t have a place where i specify that i need an apostille. do you know how i do this?

    • I don’t think there’s a space, officially. I wrote it at the bottom of the application and highlighted it and also paper clipped a note saying the same (“Please have add an official signature abd seal for the purpose of Apostille.”). But I tend to go overboard. 🙂

      • i have one more question. where do i indicate that i need this document for spain? there’s a drop-down menu where i can choose the country right next to the section where i put down the type of document i’m submitting. is this where i put down spain?

  3. Great info! I forgot to include a self address envelope when I mailed the criminal background form. Do you think this will be a problem or will they still send me the results? Thanks!

    • Lexie,

      When you open the DS-4194 you should also have a look at the Instructions page (top left-hand corner button). According to the instructions page:

      “Indicate the country (or countries) of use, the number of documents, and the document type.”

  4. I’m in Korea and the FBI Checklist said nothing about including a pre-paid self-addressed envelope. Is it necessary? I’ve done this before a few years ago, and I recall not including an envelope for the FBI check, but I know it’s necessary for the Apostille from Department of State. I already sent my fingerprints, have things changed?

  5. Hello,

    Your blog post was very helpful. I have question, which might be one you can’t answer, I’m just unsure. I’m 22years old, but when I was 16years old I was arrested (but never taken to court; never convicted, it was all dropped as if it never happened). Does that mean I have a criminal record? Do you think it’ll show up on my FBI Check as a criminal record? Either way, I’m afraid Korea might not look pass that and I’ll be denied to work there. What do you think? I’m not sure what “no criminal record” means.

    Once again, thank you so much. I benefited a ton from your post.

    • Hiya!

      You’re right. I don’t know for sure, but I think the best way to find out would be to do your criminal background check and see what comes up in the report. If it says no criminal record found then I would continue to the next step. Good Luck!

  6. Hello! I stumbled across your blog because I have a couple of specific questions about filling out the DS-4194. I’ve tried calling the Department of Authentications multiple times and am on hold forever. I stayed on hold for 20 minutes one time and left a voicemail explaining my questions, but when I checked my messages all the person said was “You’ll have to call back and speak to someone.” Helpful…very helpful.

    Anyway, here are the questions:

    1) I know I need to select “Individual” in the Case Type section, but do I need to type anything into the “Specify” line or just leave it blank?

    2) I’m going to mail it using UPS, and I can select that on the form, but I won’t have a tracking number until I’ve printed the form out and gone to the UPS facility. Is it OK to leave the Tracking Number section blank or will the Department of State have some kind of problem with that?

    Maybe these questions are a bit on the anal retentive side, but I only have 1 copy of my FBI background check and it’d be really bad if it got lost in the mail or something.

    Thanks so much in advance!


    • Hi, Josh. Hope you’ve got this sorted by now, but here are the answers to your questions in case anyone else is wondering:

      1) Select “Individual” in Case Type and there’s no need to specify.
      2) You can print out the form and add the tracking number before you include the paperwork in your envelope. I’m not sure what happens if you leave it blank – though I suspect nothing horrible. I had my background check dropped off and picked up from the Department of State by a courier service, so I didn’t need to fill out Section 3.

      I totally understand the anal retentive questions. That CBC is crucial and takes the longest to process. Some people order multiples just in case it gets lost, but I was a risk taker and only got 1. It worked out just fine.

  7. Hi Timah,

    Your post was so helpful! I went on the Department of State website and tried to download the DS-4194 form, but when I clicked on the link, it only directed me to a Officials Forms page where I could only find the pdf version of the form. Did this happen to anyone as well? I don’t know if it’s my operating system (Windows 7). I don’t know how else to fill out this form!

    • Hi, Caroline. Sorry you’re having so much trouble. I just clicked on the link and was able to fill in the form. Not sure if it is indeed an operating system issue, but I’m on a Mac. Maybe try another browser? Otherwise, just print it out and fill it in very neatly with black ink.

      • Yeah, I’m not sure what the problem is. I’m on my mac now and have tried different browsers, but no luck. :/

        I have one more question to ask you: You said you submitting your authentication request through the courier service. Did you still need to fill out the DS-4194 form?

        Thank you!

        • Strange. Hope you’ve had better luck by now.

          The courier service I used requested an order form (their own), money order, original FBI document with stamp and seal, and prepaid return envelope. They filled out a DS-4194 on my behalf based on the information I sent them in my form.

  8. I was having the same [terrible/annoying] problem as Caroline Re: DS-Form 4194 and mac compatibility via-a-vis cerenade software and the missing html and un-editable pdf files. I eventually found that the link on the following page seemed to allow me to fill out the form and print from my mac after all fields were filled out and document was saved to my computer as a pdf (including barcode) Hope this helps someone : https://bestmessenger.net/passport_visa_state_department_authentication.html

    • Do you mean when you send in a request for a CRC they won’t use your return envelope? Because I did this in late February and they sent my back the completed CRC in my return envelope without any issues.

      • According to the website, you are advised not to submit “pre-paid Priority Mail, FedEx account numbers, United Parcel Service, etc., foreign postage coupons, and requests to forward correspondence to the Department of State for the apostille process.” If it worked for you recently, then great. I would, however, advise all others to save their money and err on the side of caution.

  9. Hey Timah,

    I’m having a little confusion and was wondering if you could help clear it up. I went through the necessary paperwork and got a Criminal History Summary in the mail, which looks almost exactly like the document you posted above. I sent it to one recruiter and she said that it was the correct document. However, I sent it to another recruiter and she said that it wasn’t the correct document because there is a difference between a FBI Criminal History Summary and a FBI Criminal Background Check, which threw me for a loop. I could not find the difference and when searching the FBI site, I kept on being directed to the Criminal History Summary page (it also says, “AKA Criminal Background Check”). This all makes me think that the second recruiter was mistaken and I do indeed have the correct document. Do you possibly have any insight on this?

    Thank you in advance! Your website is SUPER helpful.

    • Perhaps the second recruiter was mistaken. To my knowledge, the FBI also calls the CBC a Criminal History Summary. Were you able to get it stamped/notarized by an agent so that it could be apostilled by the Department of State?

  10. hi

    i read all the above post and they seem very useful

    i have lived in the USA and require to attain a criminal background check done for immigration to Australia

    i have applied with the details mentioned above and my credit card has been charged few days back by the FBI of 18 dollars as a charge

    does this mean my process is finished or is it started

    how long do they generally take to post the mail back to a address in united states

    thanks a ton


    • Kiran,

      In my experience, the charge on my credit card indicated that the check was in progress. I received my documents a week or two later. If you’d like more details pertaining to your specific case, I suggest you call the number listed in the post and speak to an FBI representative. Good luck!

  11. Great stuff. I just shared this on Google+, and I hope I can link to it on my weblog, EXPATESL.wordpress.com.

  12. Thank you for all your questions they have helped me tremendously. I have a cousin who had a resident alien card. She traveled to Spain and decided to stay. Her alien card expired on 12-12-12. She is trying to get back to the U.S. I am trying to help her but am so confused. She went to Madrid and got her fingerprints taken. She had two sets which she mailed to me. I was going to fill out the FBI Criminal background form, pay the fee and send it with one if her fingerprint cards. I am confused about the DS4194. My question is should I wait to hear from the FBI before sending the DS4194? It sounds like I should wait to receive the clearance notice from the FBI and then send that with the DS4194? Also looking at the DS4194 section says: country-number of documents-document type. I am confused as to what to put there. For country I was going to put Spain since that’s where she is? Number of documents I was going to put 1? Document type I was going to put criminal background check? Sorry for all these questions I want to help her get back home and I am afraid of doing something wrong. Any help is greatly appreciated.

  13. hi Timah, can you help me answer a question, do we still need a cover letter for the DS4194? I am lost about that info. Thanks and much appreciative of all you’ve done so far.

  14. I also want to say thank you~ This is definitely one of the more concise, accurate, and updated sources of information I have found on this.

  15. Hey, thanks for posting this! I’m currently waiting the 50 years it takes the FBI to process my fingerprints and I keep coming back here to get the phone number to check the status.

    For the record, I think your estimate of 4-12 weeks is a bit optimistic. The FBI should have gotten my fingerprints no later than the first week of 12/2014, and I was just told that it will be another month before it’s done. By the time I get ready for the apostille I’ll probably have been waiting close to 16 weeks.

    Moral of the story: CRC is good for 6 months and it could take 5-6 months to get a new one, so don’t delay. It’s probably a good idea to just do it continuously, like how they paint the Golden Gate Bridge from end to end on a nonstop cycle because it takes so long to do.

  16. I have two copies of my Background check. Is it necessary to get them both Apostilled to be safe or no?


  17. Hi, this is a very useful website and I recommend people to follow it. I had been teaching in korea for three years, and am recently finishing up an 8 month break (so nice). Unfortunatley, I had to do the whole process over gain (not so nice). It’s a huge pain in the butt, but the worst part is waiting for the CBC to finish processing. I did it the cheap way where you wait for three months, but this was a HUGE MISTAKE. Trust me, save yourself the stress and misery of this delay (unless your job literally doesn’t start for at least six months) because the remaining steps will take at least another month if you’re on the ball and getting things done as soon as possible. I ended up having to send out another application for my CBC through an expedited courier just because I was running out of time (I had originally thought I could finish everything in three months without the courier, big mistake).

    Expedite the Federal Criminal Background Check b/c life sucks if you don’t.

  18. Hi,

    I am planning for applying Global Entry (A Frequent Flyer Program) & would like to access my FBI records before tossing out $100 towards GE. I got a ticket 11 years ago for smoking on NJ subway station stairways & wondering if it’s in my report. I am sure before granting Global Entry they do all kinds of checks & wanted to confirm what they on file about me. Since this is just for my own verification do you guys advise me to the do this?

    Many Thanks In Advance
    – G

  19. Hi!

    I sent in my fingerprint documents and payment about 3 weeks ago, but I didn’t know I needed to request for a seal and signature! (I plan on teaching abroad, and the country I want to teach in requires an apostilled FBI background check; I also plan on starting in Feb Or March). Should I send in another fingerprint and payment? What do you think I should do?

    I did try calling them and left a message, but they haven’t got back to me.

  20. Hello everyone. I recently contacted the FBI customer service and I was told that one does not have to write on a sticky note to have it “authenticated” they automatically do it and in order to get it apostille one has to send it out to the Department Of State. I hope that answers everyone’s doubts and worries. Have a nice day or night.

  21. Hello.
    I am living in Ireland and lived in the USA in the 80′. I have to get FBI Security/Overseas Clearance from the USA which has to be obtained from the FBI.
    Does any one know how I get this clearance, I have got my finger printing done in my local police station in Ireland ?

  22. The DS-4194 that you can fill out online has been moved to this address: http://www.state.gov/authentications/c60228.htm

    I think anyone who was having trouble accessing the form with drop-down menus was accessing the PDF version of the form. Try the above link- it should work on any computer.

    Otherwise, THANK YOU, TIMAH! This information is incredibly helpful, so I am truly appreciative that you took the time to share so many details about the process. Especially since it took me more than an hour to find the same information on the State Dept. website. You are wonderful:)

  23. Hello! This was extremely helpful! Does anyone know if someone (like a friend) can walk in and turn in an FBI background check on behalf of someone else (in a different state) to the Office of Authentication in D.C. to get an Apostille on it? I live in IL and wanted to have a friend that lives in D.C. drop off the document for me.

  24. Thank you SOOO much for this! I’ve looked at your blog countless times for this process and it has helped me out incredibly!!

    • Yes. Many people have different authentication mailing addresses on their blog post do I wasn’t sure where to send it off to.

  25. Hi, Thanks so much for your post. I sent off my FBI background check for an apostille a while ago and am worried it is not getting back in time for me to leave the country. Do you know if there’s a way to call and check on the apostille process? Thank you!

  26. So I have looked around other blogs and the mailing address for authentication for fbi check is different. On the travel.gov there’s the physical address and the mailing address and it doesn’t say Columbia plaza anywhere just sterling VA. Other bloggers have like passport Services plan Dulles VA. I live in USA. But I’m not sure where I have to mail it in.

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