Many organizations require candidates they’re interested in hiring to take a Live Scan fingerprint. Since no two fingerprints are alike, Live Scan provides a fast and accurate check to see if you have a criminal background. The system gives employers a way to verify someone's background based on more than just a name and date of birth.

The Basics

The Live Scan process has the applicant go to an approved vendor, where an expert technician rolls the applicant's fingers across a glass plate to electronically scan the prints. The prints go to the state Department of Justice for authentication and a check against national or state databases. Due to privacy laws, the scans are destroyed when the test is done. The results can only be shared with the organization that requested them in the first place.

Organizations that Use Live Scan

Businesses, federal and state government agencies use Live Scan. So do non-profit organizations that need to hire or allow a volunteer to work in a position of trust. In some states, such as California, all teachers, recreational workers and nursing home employees must take a Live Scan as a condition of employment. In addition, people who need certification, such as notaries and realtors, are often required to obtain a Live Scan.

What It Reveals (and Doesn’t)

Results of a Live Scan are available within hours if the fingerprints are sent electronically or up to five days by mail. The results only show what that organization requested. A scan for a criminal record, for instance, may not show if a person is on the Sex Offender Registry. You can request a copy of your results from the entity that ordered them if you need to check the Live Scan's accuracy.


Sometimes it’s difficult to get a clear fingerprint, whether it’s due to age, scars, or a change due to chemicals or the type of work you do. You may be asked to give your prints a second time. If the second scan also fails, the law requires the Department of Justice must rely on other means, such as your full name, to check state and FBI criminal database records. If the Live Scan results show a criminal record you feel is erroneous, you must challenge the state Department of Justice or the FBI to request an amendment.