Emerald Technology Sep 21, 2022 12:58:16 PM 15 min read

How Companies Can Do International Background Checks

Hiring international employees is the new normal. Ever since the internet democratized knowledge-work, we’ve seen a massive growth in companies hiring international teams. This also means running international background checks. Every geographical location has laws and regulations that must be adhered to. The following is a step-by-step guide on how you can start navigating these waters and get the employees you need, where you need them.

What Are The Purpose Of International Background Checks? 

It’s standard procedure to conduct pre-employment background checks, for many reasons. The situation becomes even more complex when you must conduct international background checks. Although it might be tempting to side-step this part of the process, you shouldn’t.  

Running background checks can deliver enormous benefits and can help you: 


  • Stay The Right Side Of The Law 

Some countries put a legal requirement on the employer to conduct pre-employment screening. Certainly, for jobs that require the employee to work in situations where highly sensitive information is concerned. You must also check if the potential new hire has the legal right to work in the country that you’re hiring for. Some organizations also require credential checks, where specific qualifications are mission critical and hiring an unqualified prospect can lead to a legal infraction.


  • Check Credentials 

As mentioned above, confirming credentials is a valuable part of international pre-employment background checks. It’s easy to assume that a potential new hire is being honest about their abilities and qualifications, but a background check will remove all doubt.  


  • Prevent Criminal Activity 

Criminal background checks are also more popular than before. It used to be businesses with specific legal demands in place, but now criminal background checks are common among many businesses. It’s important to protect your customers and other employees from would-be criminals trying to cause problems in your company. If an employee gets in and commits a crime, you could be found negligent and liable for prosecution.



What Steps Are Involved For Conducting Background Checks? 

When performing international background checks, there are a few steps to consider. This guide is a rough overview of the process, since the process will differ from country to country.  


1: What Kind Of Background Checks Are Required? 

We will use “pre-employment screening” and “background check” interchangeably for the purpose of this guide. Some of the checks mentioned below are not relevant for all positions, but we’ve included them because they are relevant to some jobs. As a general guide, these are some of the background checks you should complete.  


  • Citizenship Or Right To Work 

First and foremost, your candidate must have the legal right to obtain a job in the country you’re operating in. This means confirming the citizenship of the potential new hire. If you ignore this and employ someone who doesn’t qualify, not only do you run the risk of losing that employee, but you could also be prosecuted by the government.  


  • General Employment History 

Investigating the potential candidate’s employment history is also a must. This is so you can verify the work experience, and check references with previous employers. Accuracy is very important when it comes to employment history. 


  • Qualifications And Credentials 

If the position you’re hiring for involves formal qualifications or a degree, it’s important to ensure they actually have the credentials. Companies do exist that will print out fake diplomas, so make sure what you’re looking at is real and not a forged document.  


  • Criminal Record Check 

As mentioned above, it’s important to perform a criminal background check to reveal any hidden criminal history that an applicant might be hiding. This background check can reveal important elements of a person’s background. For instance, if a person has been convicted of fraud, you would not want them working with money or sensitive data. 


  • Credit Checks 

Like criminal background checks, credit checks have also become commonplace, even for businesses that don’t handle money. The reason for this is that if someone has a bad credit history, they are probably more likely to commit some kind of financial crime against your business. A credit history check is not always justified, but it’s worth looking into. 


  • Social Media Check 

Over 70% of employers think that checking an employee’s social media is part of screening potential employees. More than half of those employers have chosen to not hire someone based on their social media presence. This is, however, a very fine line to walk. You can’t discriminate based on color, race, gender or political affiliation.  


  • Medical Records Check Or Drug Screening 

Medical history is unimportant most times, but some jobs require a certain level of fitness to complete the work. In most Western countries, you need the applicant’s express permission to get medical records, but this is usually laid out during the pre-hiring process. The job posting must clearly state that a medical check or drug test is required.  


  • Driving History Check 

Most jobs won’t require the applicant to drive, but instances where they need to be able to drive a vehicle, a motor vehicle record check is necessary. This is because in some countries, driving infractions are separate from criminal infractions and may need to be investigated separately. 


2: What Are The Local Laws? 

Screening processes in your home country are probably well defined and run like a well-oiled machine. As soon as you cross international borders, things get a bit more complicated. You must abide by local laws in the jurisdiction that you intend to employ people. A background check that you complete at home might be highly illegal abroad.


The main reason for this is because privacy laws vary from country to country. Some countries have a policy of open access to public records, while some countries are very protective of their citizens’ privacy. Partnering with an Employer of Record who already has a history of hiring talent in that country, is a good way to circumvent this issue. 


Partnering with an Employer Of Record who works in the host country can be extremely valuable. They already know the legal prohibitions against certain types of background checks. Some countries do not allow criminal record checks unless the job is directly connected to an industry where the potential employee could commit a crime. For instance, finance. Other countries don’t allow medical background checks except in exceptional circumstances. 


Hiring foreign employees can become even more complicated if you try to do it yourself. Some countries prohibit potential employers from making conditional job offers. In some countries if you offer someone a job on condition the background checks clears, it’s illegal. You will need to screen the job applicant long before you make them a job offer 


Apart from the legalities, it’s important to have a local partner who understands the idiosyncrasies and customs of the host country. A question you might ask as part of the background check in England could be very offensive in Dubai.  


And finally, if you are conducting international background checks for employees that have worked in multiple countries, you may need to do multiple background checks in the countries that they have lived and worked.  


3: Getting Authorization 

Some countries require a waiver to conduct background checks, you’ll need to express permission of the potential candidate to access medical or education records.

It’s a good idea to ask potential candidates to consent to a background check as part of the early stage application process. This means there are no surprises for people that make it to the end of the process. This could be a simple checkbox on an online application form or in some countries you may require a physical signature.


At this point, you should know what type of checks you need and what type of checks are permitted. You also gained the necessary permission from the potential candidate. Now you are ready to start the process for any of the applicants you are looking to hire. Unless, as mentioned above, it’s illegal in that country to make a job offer on the condition of a background check.


These checks can take place during the onboarding process. We must make sure the applicant fully understands if the background check comes back negative, they are at risk of losing their job offer. This could also be contingent on inaccuracies in the application forms.


4: Checking References 

Unfortunately, there is no universal international database for accessing these records. Every country has their own particular agency that handles the individual background checks. You need to figure out which agency you need in the country you want to employ in. Employers might be able to handle a few aspects of the background check process.  

For instance, anybody can check social media. You could also gain access to previous employers and check references with relative ease. Depending on language barriers, you may have to employ a translator at this point to speak to employers in different countries and get the relevant reference checked out. 


You will need to contact the correct agencies and government bodies in each country and again, some countries make it harder than others. Certain countries in Central America require you to hire a private investigator to produce background checks. Some government bodies make you pay for official documents, others will provide them for free. 


It’s also worth noting, not every country has an equivalent agency. France famously doesn’t have the central credit scoring system. It is done on a bank-by-bank basis. You’ll have to know the particular bank and check the person’s credit with them. 


Occasionally, this all looks overwhelming, so companies might be inclined to outsource the hiring process to a third-party company that specializes in conducting background checks. Partnering with a company like Emerald, for instance, can alleviate a lot of these problems when conducting international background checks.  


5: Review 

At this point, you need to review your findings, either through your own processes or through the third-party company employed to do the background checks. You will need to sift through the information and figure out if any of this info has any implication with the position you’re trying to fill. In some cases, a negative background check will leave an employer with an obligation to not hire a potential candidate. This could be because of a lack of legally required credentials or citizenship in the host country 

On the flip-side, a perfect potential candidate might have a few bits of negative information. You can choose to overlook them because they’re the right person for the job. The ultimate goal of a background check after all is to secure the right person for the job and help the employer feel secure in that decision. 


How Can An Employer Of Record Simplify This? 

International background checks are just one piece of the puzzle with hiring international employees. You also need to figure out payroll, benefits onboarding and many other aspects of international employment. If you’d like to onboard international employees in a much easier way, consider using an Employer Of Record.  


We remove all the responsibility and legal pressure from your company. It might be worth partnering with an Employer Of Record. Not only does the Employer Of Record save you from having to establish a business entity in that country, but they can also do all the background checks mentioned above on your behalf. 


We are a simple solution to what can become a very complex issue. Speak to us today about your international hiring needs. 

Emerald Technology FAQs

Are Background Checks The Same In Every Country?

No, they vary in legality and complexity depending on which country you are looking to hire from.


Does France Have A Credit Check Agency?

No, France takes financial privacy very seriously. You have to know which bank your potential employee uses and ask the bank for financial references. With the candidates’ permissions, of course. 


Is It Illegal To Hire Someone With A Criminal Record?

It depends on the job. While not strictly illegal to employ someone with a criminal record, it is illegal if the job requires a clean criminal background. 


Is It Illegal To Lie About Your Qualifications?

Again, it depends. If the job is not deemed critical in the country you hired the person, then no. For instance, a Product Lead who lied about having a degree is very different from someone lying about having qualifications to run a nuclear power plant. 


What locations do Emerald search, hire and payroll in?

We offer a limitless solution. We source, onboard and payroll employees in every region worldwide (except sanctioned countries.)


Who are Emerald’s customers?

We support Pre-IPO, VC or PE backed technology start-ups. We are a trusted partner to some of the most innovative and globally recognised technology companies since 2000.


How quickly can Emerald onboard employees?

We can compliantly onboard employees on average of just 24-72 hours.


What is the difference between Emerald’s Employer of Record solution and Automated Payroll Platforms?

Both support organisations in payrolling employees globally. However, an Employer of Record provides a risk-free bespoke approach, with a high level of experience and knowledge unlike an Automated platforms. An Employer of Record provides end-to-end support including worker onboarding and any HR administration, which a Payroll Platform lacks.