Name Checks FAQs
Frequently Asked Questions
How long will it take for my name check to be completed?
The length of time it takes for a name check to be completed varies from name to name. Currently, the National Name Check Program (NNCP) receives over 70,000 name checks every week, with about 40 percent coming from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). When the name checks are submitted, the names are electronically checked against the FBI's Universal Index (UNI). The searches seek all instances of the individual's name appearing in both main files and reference files. A main file contains the name of an individual who is the subject of an FBI investigation, whereas a reference file contains the name of someone who is mentioned in an FBI investigation. Reference files may name associates, conspirators, or witnesses.
The majority of name checks submitted are electronically checked and returned to the submitting agency as having "no record" within 48-72 hours. A "no record" indicates that the FBI's UNI database contains no identifiable information regarding a particular individual. Duplicate submissions (i.e., identically spelled names with identical dates of birth submitted within the last 120 days) are not checked, and the duplicate findings are returned immediately to the submitting agency.
A secondary manual search of residuals from the original run is conducted within 10 days and identifies an additional number of names as a “no record” response. The remaining name checks (usually about 7 percent of the name checks originally submitted) are identified as possibly being the subject of an FBI record. At that point, the FBI record must be retrieved and reviewed. If the record is available in the FBI's electronic recordkeeping system, it can be reviewed quickly. If not, the relevant information must be retrieved from an existing paper record. Review of this information determines whether the information is positively identified with the name check request. If the information is not identified with the request, the request is closed as a "no record" and the requesting agency is notified as such.
The average time required to retrieve and review an FBI record for possible information related to a name check request is case specific—it depends on the number of files an analyst must obtain (which is dictated by the number of "hits" on a name), the location and availability of those files, and the amount of information contained in a file. If a file is stored locally, an analyst will be able to obtain the file within a matter of days. If a file is located in a field office or other FBI location, the applicable information must be requested from that location. There are over 265 different FBI locations that could house information pertinent to a name check request. If a file is electronically available, an analyst will have immediate access to that file. Additionally, once an analyst receives the file or the pertinent information contained in a file, the analyst must review it for possible information related to the name check request.
Many times, the delay associated with the processing of the remaining name checks is not the actual time it takes to process a name check, but the time it takes for an analyst to retrieve the relevant information in the files in order to process it. Less than 1 percent of the requests are identified with a file containing possible derogatory information. If applicable, the FBI then forwards a summary of the derogatory information to the requesting agency. It is important to note that the FBI does not adjudicate the name check requests, but only provides available information to a requesting agency for its adjudication process.
How can I have my name check expedited?
The FBI tries to process its oldest name checks first. Customer agencies will occasionally request expedited handling of specific name checks. Criteria used to determine which name checks receive expedited handling are internal matters of each customer agency. The FBI does request that the number of expedited cases be kept to a minimum in fairness to the other pending name check requests. Because each customer agency determines which name checks are expedited, contacting Congressional representatives, the FBI's Office of Congressional Affairs, or the NNCP will only further tie up vital resources and will not contribute to the expediting of a name check.
Does contacting my Congressional representative expedite my name check?
No, the customer agency determines expedited handling. The FBI's policy is to be responsive to our customers’ needs, given the limits of our resources. Reprioritization from multiple sources would convolute the customer agency's ability to manage their priority cases.
Is there a fee I can pay to expedite the process?
No. Processing times are a function of the volume of work versus the resources that can be applied to the task. Paying an additional fee would not speed up the name check process.
My Freedom of Information/Privacy Act request to the FBI resulted in a "no record" response. Given that, why is my name check request still pending?
Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOIPA) requests are sometimes confused with name check requests. FOIPA provides copies of FBI files relevant to a specific FOIPA request. For FOIPA, the FBI search uses the name or information as provided in the FOIPA request. A FOIPA search determines whether there is an investigative file associated with an individual—a main file search. For a name check, in an effort to protect our national security, main files and reference files are both checked in addition to searching a name in a multitude of combinations.
Who can I call to check on the status of my name check?
The FBI will only respond to status inquiries from its customer agencies. Please contact the organization receiving your original application. In citizenship and immigration cases, please contact the USCIS for the status.