National Name Check ProgramFrequently Asked Questions


How long will it take for my name check to be completed?

The length of time it takes for a name check to be completed varies from name to name. Normally, a name is submitted by an agency, such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), on a data tape. Currently, the National Name Check Program (NNCP) receives over 75,000 name checks every week, with about 45 percent coming from USCIS. When a data tape comes in, the names on the tape are electronically checked against the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Universal Index (UNI). The searches seek all instances of the individual's name appearing in both main files and reference files. A main file name is that of an individual who is, himself/herself, the subject of an FBI investigation, whereas a reference is someone whose name appears in an FBI investigation. References may be associates, conspirators, or witnesses.

The majority of name checks submitted on a data tape are electronically checked and returned to the submitting agency as having "No Record" within 48-72 hours. A "No Record" indicates that the FBI's UNI database contains no identifiable information regarding a particular individual. Duplicate submissions (i.e., identically spelled names with identical dates of birth submitted within the last 120 days) are not checked, and the duplicate findings are returned immediately to the submitting agency.

A secondary manual name search conducted within 30-60 days usually identifies additional requests as having a "No Record." The remaining name checks (usually about 10% of the name checks originally submitted) are identified as possibly being the subject of an FBI record. At that point, the FBI record must be retrieved and reviewed. If the record is available in the FBI's electronic record keeping system, it can be reviewed quickly. If not, the relevant information must be retrieved from an existing paper record. Review of this information determines whether the information is positively identified with the name check request. If the information is not identified with the request, the request is closed as a "No Record," and the requesting agency is notified as such.

The average time required to retrieve and review an FBI record for possible information related to a name check request is case specific—it depends on the number of files an analyst must obtain (which is dictated by the number of "hits" on a name), the location and availability of those files, and the amount of information contained in a file. If a file is stored locally, an analyst will be able to obtain the file within a matter of days. If a file is located in a field office or other FBI location, the applicable information must be requested from that location. There are over 265 different FBI locations that could house information pertinent to a name check request. If a file is electronically available, an analyst will have immediate access to that file. Additionally, once an analyst receives the file, or the pertinent information contained in a file, the analyst must review it for possible information related to the name check request.

Many times, the delay associated with the processing of the remaining name checks is not the actual time it takes to process a name check, but the time it takes for an analyst to get to the name check request in order to process it. This is due to the constant volume of name checks, several million each year, combined with the FBI's current work on processing residual name checks from a batch of 2.7 million requests submitted by USCIS in December 2002, as compared to the NNCP's limited resources. Less than one percent of the requests are identified with a file containing possible derogatory information. If applicable, the FBI then forwards a summary of the derogatory information to the requesting agency. It is important to note that the FBI does not adjudicate the name check requests, but only provides available information to a requesting agency for its adjudication process.

How can I have my name check expedited?

The FBI tries to process its oldest name checks first. Customer agencies will occasionally request expedited handling of specific name checks. Criteria used to determine which name checks receive expedited handling are internal matters of each customer agency. The FBI does request that the number of expedited cases be kept to a minimum in fairness to the other pending name check requests. Because each customer agency determines which name checks are expedited, contacting Congressional representatives, the FBI's Office of Congressional Affairs, or the NNCP will only further tie up vital resources and will not contribute to the expediting of a name check.

Does contacting my Congressional representative expedite my name check?

No, the customer agency determines expedited handling. The FBI's policy is to be responsive to our customer's needs given the limits of our resources. Re-prioritization from multiple sources would convolute the customer agency's ability to manage their priority cases.

Is there a fee I can pay to expedite the process?

No. Processing times are a function of the volume of work versus the resources that can be applied to the task. Paying an additional fee would not speed up the name check process.

I am aware that some name checks have been completed that were submitted to the FBI after cases that remain pending. Why are the name checks not handled in the order in which they are received?

The vast majority of name check requests are completed in less than 60 days. Of those remaining, the FBI tries to complete the oldest name checks first. The time to complete any given name check varies. There are many factors that impact processing times such as the number of files to retrieve and review, a file's location and accessibility, case status, and workload all impact processing times. Another factor that might delay the processing of a name check request on a first in/first out basis is the number of requests for expedited handling received from a customer agency.

My Freedom of Information/Privacy Act request to the FBI resulted in a "no record" response. Given that, why is my name check request still pending?

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 an effort to protect our national security, in addition to searching a name in a multitude of combinations.

Who can I call to check on the status of my name check?

The FBI will only respond to status inquiries from its customer agencies. Please contact the organization receiving your original application. In Citizenship and Immigration cases, contact USCIS for the status.