All About The FBI’s Identity History Summary Checks

October 29, 2021

By a Biometrica staffer

If you are planning to apply for a new job, especially a federal one, or are planning to foster or adopt a child, or are considering other similar new opportunities or decisions in your life, it’s very likely that your prospective employer, a licensing agency, or a local law enforcement agency will run a background check on you. When it comes to roles or decisions that involve spending time with children, in particular, a background check is crucial. There are various kinds of background checks out there. For example, there could be private checks done by prospective employers as a one-time screening before finally onboarding a new employee, or companies that run continuous criminal background screenings.

But to prepare yourself for an eventual background check, and preempt any surprises, you can submit a request to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for access to your own criminal history record for a fee. That record, known as the Identity History Summary Check (IHSC), is even mandated in certain cases. For instance, if you’re applying for an educator credential issued by a state education department, one of the documents you will be required to submit is an IHSC report. What exactly is an IHSC report and how do you request the FBI for it? We take a look at the process in this piece.

To begin with, it is the U.S. Department of Justice Order 556-73, also known as Departmental Order, that establishes rules and regulations for you to obtain a copy of your Identity History Summary for review, or proof that one does not exist. That order was passed on Sept. 24, 1973, resulting from a determination that “28 U.S.C. 534 does not prohibit the subjects of arrest and convictions records from having access to those records.” The order directed the FBI to release to the subjects of identification records copies of such records upon submission of a written request, satisfactory proof of identity of the person whose identification record is requested, and a processing fee.

What exactly is in a “rap sheet,” the colloquial term for an FBI Identification Record or IHSC? According to the DOJ order we mentioned earlier, it is a listing of certain information taken from fingerprint submissions retained by the FBI in connection with arrests and, in some instances, includes information taken from fingerprints submitted in connection with federal employment, naturalization, or military service. The Identification Record includes the name of the agency or institution that submitted the fingerprints to the FBI. 

What happens if the fingerprint records concern a criminal offense? In that case, the Identification Record includes the date of arrest or the date the individual was received by the agency submitting the fingerprints, the arrest charge, and the disposition of the arrest if known to the FBI. All arrest data included in an Identification Record are obtained from fingerprint submissions, disposition reports, and other reports submitted by agencies having criminal justice responsibilities.

How Can You Get Your IHSC?

According to the FBI, there are three ways for anyone to request access to an IHSC (or for proof that one does not exist, of course):

  • Electronic — To submit an electronic request directly to the FBI for your IHSC, you can click here and then follow the steps listed by the Bureau under the “Obtaining Your Identity History Summary” section. If you choose this method, per the FBI, you may visit a participating U.S. Post Office location to submit your fingerprints electronically as part of your request. You may go to any of the participating U.S. Post Office locations nationwide upon completion of your request. Additional fees may apply.
    If you choose not to use a U.S. Post Office location to submit your fingerprints electronically, then you may still mail your completed fingerprint card, along with the confirmation email you received when you started your electronic request, to the address listed on the confirmation email. The request will continue to be processed as an electronic submission once the completed fingerprint card is received.
  • Mail — If you are considering mailing in your request, you first need to complete the Applicant Information Form. Next, you need to obtain a set of your fingerprints, which needs to be placed on a standard fingerprint form (FD-1164) commonly used for applicant or law enforcement purposes. For more information on the fingerprinting process requirements check the FBI website here, and for guidelines on recording legible prints from the Bureau, click here.
    Importantly, if you are submitting a request using this method, make sure you pay either by credit card using the Credit Card Payment Form, or get a money order or certified check for $18 made payable to the Treasury of the United States. Cash, personal checks, or business checks are not accepted, and sending any of these will delay processing of your request. Finally, you need to review the Identity History Summary Request Checklist to ensure you’ve included everything, and then mail the required items — signed applicant information form, fingerprint card, and the payment of $18 per person — to the following address:
    FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
    1000 Custer Hollow Road
    Clarksburg, WV 26306
  • FBI-Approved Channeler — An FBI-Approved Channeler, per the Bureau’s website, is a private business that has contracted with the FBI to submit your request on your behalf. They receive the fingerprint submission and relevant data, collect the associated fee(s), electronically forward the fingerprint submission with the necessary information to the FBI for a national Identity History Summary check, and receive the electronic summary check result for dissemination to the individual. In other words, they help expedite the delivery of an IHSC report. The process for making the request is consistent with FBI submission procedures, but the approach may be different, and additional fees may apply over and above the FBI fee for processing the request. If you are using this way to get your IHSC, you will need to check with the specific Channeler you are planning to go with for costs, processing times, and availability in your area. For a list of FBI-Approved Channelers, click here.