Guide to Virginia State Background Checks

Sarah Archambault
September 26, 2023
7 min read

Background checks in Virginia can be used to help employers learn about a candidate’s history and make more informed hiring decisions. Employers can choose from many different types of screenings to gain insight into an individual’s background, including criminal records, driving history, and education verification. This guide covers what employers need to know about conducting Virginia state background checks and what federal, state, and local laws may apply.

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What is a Virginia background check?

A background check in Virginia searches a variety of databases and public records—such as Virginia’s Online Case Information System (OCIS) or the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)’s driver and vehicle records—to gather information about a candidate’s history during the hiring process. Hiring managers can use a VA background check to determine if a candidate is qualified for a role, help mitigate compliance risk, and create a safer work environment.

In addition, a Virginia background check for employment can help employers gain insight into a candidate’s background that goes beyond what was included on an individual’s job application or resume. In some cases, a background check in Virginia may be required by law. For example, school bus drivers may be required to pass both a criminal background and child abuse check.

What shows up on a Virginia background check?

What a VA background check looks for depends on the types of screenings ordered, and a background check may look into an individual’s past employment, criminal history, education, driving history, and more. Here are some of the common types of screenings and what can show up:

  • Criminal background checks search a candidate’s criminal history and can show records of arrests, convictions, and incarcerations, along with both current and past arrest warrants.
  • Driving record checks search a candidate’s motor vehicle history, and are most useful for roles that require an individual to operate a vehicle or machinery. Virginia driving records are maintained by the Virginia DMV.
  • Credit checks look into a candidate’s credit history and show financial information like payment history, accounts in collections, and bankruptcies. This type of check is often used for jobs that require financial responsibility.
  • Civil searches look into an individual’s civil court records and can return several types of non-criminal information, such as restraining orders, lawsuits, liens, and judgments.
  • Employment verification confirms a candidate’s professional background, including previous employers, positions held, and employment dates.
  • Education verification validates an individual’s academic history, including schools attended, degrees earned, and graduation dates.
  • Drug testing screens a candidate for illicit substances and commonly abused prescription medications. Pre-employment drug tests can help employers stay compliant with their company’s drug policy and industry regulations. They also may be used to create a safer work environment.

How far back does a background check go in Virginia?

How far back a Virginia background check for employment can look varies depending on the type of screening conducted and who is performing the search. Employers carrying out background checks directly may only be subject to state and local laws.

For example, motor vehicle records in Virginia include up to seven years of driving history, accidents, license status, traffic violation points, and traffic convictions. DUI convictions, however, may remain on a Virginia motor vehicle report for 11 years and have the potential to permanently remain on an individual’s criminal history.

The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) also imposes limits on some background checks for employers that choose to work with a consumer reporting agency (CRA). The FCRA allows criminal convictions to be reported indefinitely in most searches, but non-conviction criminal information is limited to just seven years. Under the FCRA, an individual’s civil records, which may include tax liens, credit information, and judgments are also limited to a seven-year lookback period.

Some exceptions to the FRCA’s limits may apply in certain circumstances, including bankruptcies, which have a ten-year lookback period. Another exception under the FCRA is if the expected salary for the role is $75,000 or higher.

How to get a background check in Virginia

Virginia employers who want to perform pre-employment background checks can conduct them in-house or partner with a qualified CRA, like Checkr, for a more streamlined process. Depending on your approach, different types of screenings and reports can be requested directly from law enforcement agencies and courthouses and typically ordered online or by mail.

To get a criminal background check in Virginia yourself, employers may submit a notarized SP-176 form online or by mail through the Virginia State Police’s Civil and Applicant’s Record Exchange (CARE). Online forms may be notarized using NotaryCam.

Certain approved Virginia employers, such as those that provide childcare or adult care, are not required to have form SP-176 notarized to conduct a Virginia criminal background check for employment. However, these agencies are entitled to conviction information only. Other agencies, including certain types of volunteer fire and rescue agencies, public school boards, and foster care agencies, are also not required to get SP-176 notarized but may be eligible to receive copies of a candidate’s full criminal history.

If an employer would like to conduct a motor vehicle record check on their own, they may submit a request for records online or in person through the Virginia DMV (employers will need a signed release from candidates to order their driving records).

Some other background records may require the employer to make the request in person, including by visiting courthouses. Hiring managers interested in checking professional references will need to contact past employers, while drug screenings require coordination of either onsite testing or testing through a third-party lab.

Conducting background checks using these methods can present many challenges for human resources teams. Not only can running background checks take up valuable staff time, but manual processes can result in errors. Employers who work with a CRA, like Checkr, often benefit from simplified compliance workflows and tools that make managing their compliance tasks easier.

How much does a VA background check cost?

Employers that choose to conduct VA background checks themselves will need to pay out of pocket for individual reports, and the prices can vary. For example, criminal records can cost up to $27 per report. When ordered in person, a seven-year Virginia driving record costs $8, but only $7 if requested online.

However, employers that want to order a Virginia MVR online must first get approved for access by Virginia Interactive, a company that manages online driver records in partnership with the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and pay $95 for an annual online access subscription. Each online user is also charged $105 for access.

Employers that partner with a CRA like Checkr can benefit from custom pricing options (Checkr’s pricing packages start at just $29.99), which include multiple screening types streamlined into one workflow. Employers can have the option to build out their screening packages based on the types of records needed, the number of background checks, and screening frequency.

How long does a background check take in Virginia?

In Virginia, background check turnaround times can vary from a few minutes to several weeks, depending on the type of screening conducted and who is performing the background check.

For those employers who want to go the DIY route, you may be able to access some records online, such as Virginia motor vehicle records. Other types of records, however, may need to be requested in person or over the phone. Virginia criminal records, for example, can take up to 15 days to process by mail.

Employers that choose to partner with a CRA, like Checkr, can benefit from faster and more accurate background check results fueled by advanced technology that gathers and sorts data from thousands of databases and record sources. With Checkr’s candidate portal, employers and candidates can also get a transparent view of the status of each screening every step of the way.

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Virginia background check laws

Virginia has multiple state and local fair hiring laws, including three statewide Ban the Box laws. Ban the Box laws dictate when employers can ask candidates about their criminal history and what types of information can be requested, among other restrictions. VA laws may also limit employer inquiries into a candidate’s social media accounts and criminal history related to marijuana. To help reduce potential legal liabilities, Virginia employers may wish to comply with the strictest regulations.

Virginia Ban the Box laws

Virginia employers are required to comply with the following Ban the Box laws, including a 2020 law that limits access to criminal history information about a candidate’s marijuana possession history.

  • **Executive Order 41
    **Summary: This law prohibits government employers in Virginia’s executive branch from asking about a candidate’s criminal history before an individual's eligibility is determined and the candidate is being considered for a role. See law.
  • **Virginia Code § 15.2-1505.3
    **Summary: Under this law, public sector employers cannot ask about a candidate’s criminal history, including pending criminal cases, on a job application or before the initial interview. However, certain roles may be exempt, including positions deemed “sensitive,” local school boards, and law enforcement. See law.
  • **Virginia Code § 19.2-389.3
    **Summary: This state law prohibits most Virginia employers and education institutions from inquiring about arrest, charge, or conviction records for possession of marijuana. A candidate may not be required to disclose this information, and these types of records are inaccessible to the public except in certain cases. See law.

Virginia Code § 40.1-28.7:5

Summary: Under this state law, employers are prohibited from requiring a candidate (or employee) to provide social media login credentials, including usernames and passwords. Employers cannot also request to be added to a candidate’s social media contacts. See law.

Virginia Code § 19.2-392.2

Summary: This law limits employer access to certain types of records during a background check. Employers are prohibited from asking a candidate to disclose information about pardoned, expunged, or other types of erased records. See law.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

Summary: Virginia employers that opt to partner with a CRA are required to follow the federal regulations of the FCRA. The FCRA requires a permissible purpose, certain federal (and state/local as applicable) disclosures, and written consent by the employee or candidate before initiating a report. If an employer decides not to move forward with a candidate based on information contained in the background check report, then under the FCRA they are required to provide a two-step adverse action notification process. See law.

Local Virginia fair hiring laws

Local Ban the Box laws apply in certain Virginia counties and cities, including:

  • Arlington County: A countywide Ban the Box laws apply to government positions.
  • Charlottesville: A Ban the Box law applies to positions within the city government.
  • Danville: A Ban the Box law applies to positions within the city government.
  • Fairfax County**:** Ban the Box laws apply to government positions in the city of Alexandria and Fairfax County.
  • Henry County: Countywide Ban the Box laws apply to government positions.
  • Montgomery County: Ban the Box laws apply to government positions in the city of Blacksburg and Montgomery County.
  • Newport News: A Ban the Box law applies to positions within the city government.
  • Norfolk: A Ban the Box law applies to positions within the city government.
  • Petersburg: A Ban the Box law applies to positions within the city government.
  • Portsmouth: A Ban the Box law applies to positions within the city government.
  • Prince William County: A countywide Ban the Box laws apply to government positions.
  • Richmond: A Ban the Box law applies to positions within the city government.
  • Roanoke: A Ban the Box law applies to positions within the city government.
  • Staunton: A Ban the Box law applies to positions within the city government.
  • Virginia Beach: A Ban the Box law applies to positions within the city government.

Get a Virginia background check with Checkr

Checkr helps organizations of all sizes streamline their hiring process with our easy-to-use platform and built-in background check workflows. Plus, hiring teams can access 100+ ATS, human resources, and onboarding system integrations. Checkr’s advanced technology can help you access more accurate reports and stay compliant with federal, state, and local laws. Get started with fast and reliable Virginia background checks now.

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The resources and information provided here are for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Always consult your own counsel for up-to-date legal advice and guidance related to your practices, needs, and compliance with applicable laws.

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About the author

Sarah writes about small business topics and corporate communications. She has written on a wide range of topics, including background checks, hiring trends, company culture, and employee training and development. Her work includes educational articles, press releases, newsletters, and employee onboarding collateral. 

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