FBI Name Check Overview

All applicants for a U.S. immigration benefit, such as a green card applicant, are subject to criminal and national security background checks to ensure they are eligible for that benefit. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the Federal agency that oversees immigration benefits, performs checks on every applicant, regardless of ethnicity, national origin or religion.

The Purpose of NNCP?

The purpose of the name check is to enhance national security and ensure the integrity of the immigration process. USCIS is responsible for ensuring that our immigration system is not used as a vehicle to harm the United States or its citizens by screening out people who seek immigration benefits improperly or fraudulently. These security checks are used to identify applicants involved in violent crimes, sex crimes, crimes against children, drug trafficking and individuals with known links to terrorism.

NNCP Function

The NNCP review and analyze potential identifiable documents to determine whether a specific individual has been the subject of or mentioned in any FBI investigation(s), and if so, what (if any) relevant information may be disseminated to the requesting agency. It is important to note that the FBI does not adjudicate the final outcome; it just reports the results to the requesting agency.

Name Check Database: Source of Data

The NNCP conducts manual and electronic searches of the FBI's Central Records System (CRS) Universal Index (UNI). The CRS encompasses the centralized records of FBI Headquarters, field offices, and Legal Attache offices. The CRS contains all FBI investigative, administrative, personnel, and general files.

NNCP Process - Major Steps

The FBI NNCP conducts manual and electronic searches of the FBI's Central Records System (CRS) and Universal Index (UNI) for all instances of applicant's name and approximate date of birth in main case files or references. A main file name is that of an individual who is the subject of an FBI investigation whereas a reference is someone whose name appears in an FBI investigation.

  • Search Request

    The agency/entity (UCSIS) submits a request to the FBI's NNCP. Submissions are accepted via magnetic tape, hard copy, telephone, or fax.

  • Primary Search

    The electronic (batch) submissions are searched against the UNI. The majority of the batch names are electronically returned as no record with 48-72 hours.

  • Secondary Search

    A secondary manual search is done for names with possible reference or entries from the hits (possible matches) of the primary search.

  • Manual Review

    The remaining paper files and/or electronic files are reviewed to ensure they are relevant to the name check request.

  • Disclosure of Search Results

    Identifiable files ("Idents") are then analyzed for relevant or derogatory information that may be disseminated to the requesting agency/entity (USCIS). The NNCP forwards a summary of the information of the individual to the submitting agency/entity.

Explanation of Search Results

  • No Record

    A no record indicates that the UNI database contains no identifiable information regarding a particular individual. By agreement with the Department of State, partially due to the concern about the time factors in approving visa requests, a "No Record" translates in to a "No Objection" to the issuance of a visa.

  • Hit (Possible Match)

    If there is a match with a name in a FBI record, it is designated as a "Hit," meaning that the system has stopped on a possible match with the name being checked, but now a human being must review the file or index entry to further refine the names "Hit" upon.

  • "Ident" (Match)

    If the search develops a name and birth date match of a hit, it is designated as an "Ident which is then analyzed for relevant or derogatory information.

  • Further Investigation is Needed

    Additional review is required for searches that were not immediately eliminated as a "No Record" due to a name and birth date not being enough to positively match the file with an individual. A secondary manual search is done to determine a no record or a possible hit. The electronic and/or paper FBI record for these is retrieved and reviewed. Which is then determined a hit or no record.

Name Check Processing Time

The majority of name checks submitted are electronically checked and returned to the submitting agency as having "No Record" within 48-72 hours. The processing time for FBI name checks usually take from 30-120 days but timing does vary from case to case. The FBI's intention is to have all visa requests processed within 120 days. Most name check requests that are over 60 days old are the result of the time required to retrieve and review field office record information. Any case which is not processed within this time frame is usually delayed because of a potential "hit" (match) which will be further reviewed manually.

Major Name Check Requesting Agencies

The FBI's NNCP Section provides services to more than 70 federal, state, and local governments and entities. Although most name checks are conducted for each agency on a first-in, first-out basis, the contributing agency determines the order of resolution for priority, project, or expedite cases.

  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

    Submits name check requests on individuals applying for the following benefits: asylum, adjustment of status to legal permanent resident, naturalization, and waivers.

  • Office of Personnel Management

    Submits name checks requests in order to determine an individual's suitability and eligibility in seeking employment with the federal government.

  • Department of State

    Submits FBI name check requests on individuals applying for visas.
    Not all visa matters require FBI name checks.

Freedom of Information and Privacy Act (FOIPA) vs. Name Check

Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts (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, main files and reference files are both checked, in addition to searching a name in a multitude of combination.


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