If you’ve lived in the United States of America for a period of more than 12 months during the last 10 years, you’ll need to submit an FBI Identity History Summary police check as part of the requirement for your 820/801 Australian Partner Visa. This applies even to non-US citizens and non-US permanent residents who have lived in America.
Unfortunately, it can be a bit of a headache to complete the FBI police check if you’re currently living in Australia— you’ll be required to mail off a set of fingerprints and the FBI is notoriously particular about it, which means most people will use a professional fingerprinting service… expensive and very limited appointments. Instead, I decided to take my own fingerprints and had great success! Here’s everything you need to know about getting your FBI police check while living in Australia.
There are essentially 3 options for applying for the FBI police check:
Online: submit the application for an FBI police check online and then mail just the fingerprints to America
Snail mail: mail the entire FBI police check application along with your fingerprints to America
Use an authorised “channeler”: a third-party service can submit this request for you. I’ve heard that this is the easiest and quickest option for getting your FBI police check, but it is more expensive, can only be used by American citizens or PRs (so not someone who has just lived in America on a visa), and you need to be in America to receive the results by mail. So this is not useful if you’re applying for a Partner Visa onshore in Australia!
1. To begin your online application, visit the Electronic Departmental Order website and enter your email address in the blue box on the right hand side of the screen (you’ll need to scroll about half way down the page).
2. You’ll receive an email from Criminal Justice Information Services with a 6-digit PIN number. Click the link in your email (“Click here to access your request”) to be directed to a new webpage, where you can enter the PIN.
3. Begin the application by completing some basic personal information, including your full name, DOB, and the last 4 digits of your social security number.
4. Provide your mailing address and phone number in Australia (if you are living in Australia).
5. Confirm how you would like to receive the FBI police check. I requested a hard-copy for my records (it’s likely that an electronic copy would suffice, but I wanted to be safe!).
6. You’ll be asked to confirm your full name, mailing address, DOB, and social security number one last time.
7. You can pay for the FBI police check using a credit card, PayPal, or Amazon Pay. As far as I could tell, the cost is $18USD irrespective of payment method.
8. Following payment, you will be redirected to a page with status information about your application. Don’t be alarmed that it reads INCOMPLETE, this just means that the FBI is still waiting on your fingerprints. Take note of the address on this page, it’s where you’ll be sending your fingerprints! I’d also recommend downloading a copy of the application (using that long blue button on the top of the page) just for your own records.
Getting your fingerprints in Australia
Regardless of whether you’ve applied online or by paper application for the FBI check, you’ll need to mail fingerprints to the FBI in America. These fingerprints must be on an Applicant Fingerprint Form (FD-258), which you’ll also fill out with some personal information (name, DOB, address, social security number, height, weight, eye colour, hair colour, etc).
It used to be that you could just rock up to a police station and get your fingerprints taken for free, but apparently that’s no longer the case. There are only a few police stations that offer the service now and you’ll need to make an appointment, as well as pay a fee ($50.40 for a single set or $71.10 for 2 sets; note that these prices may be specific to VIC).
You can make an appointment or find more information on these pages:
I originally planned to just get my fingerprints done at the police station in Melbourne since it seemed the easiest choice, but appointments were booked out months in advance and I didn’t like the idea of turning over $71.10 (better to get 2 sets, in case one is rejected by the FBI, which does happen), so I ended up taking my own prints.
Taking your own fingerprints
It’s surprisingly easy to take your own fingerprints— I’d recommend getting a specific “fingerprinting pad” (these are actually inkless, so they don’t smudge or stain), which should cost around $10-15 from a craft store.
You need to provide a rolled fingerprint for all 10 fingers, as well as a flat fingerprint for each hand (4 fingers together for right and left, then both thumbs together), and the best way to learn the technique is to watch this YouTube video and read this handout from the FBI on fingerprinting:
Using these resources, I managed to take decent fingerprints completely on my own and these were accepted by the FBI. Granted, I sent them 6 copies of the form because I wasn’t sure which prints they’d like best and I wanted to be safe… but my Police Check was finalised with no issue! I’d suggest sending at least a few versions to avoid possible delays.
Sending your police check request to the FBI
After completing your FD-258 fingerprint form (including all the necessary personal details), you need to mail that form AND a copy of your online application email confirmation to the FBI at the following address:
FBI CJIS Division ATTN: ELECTRONIC SUMMARY REQUEST 1000 Custer Hollow Road Clarksburg, West Virginia 26306
The best way to do this is by Registered Post or Express International Post, since these both have end-to-end tracking. It’ll definitely cost you ($24 or $36, depending on which option you choose), but at least you’ll know exactly when your forms have been received.
Just 4 days after I got the SMS notification from AusPost that my parcel had been delivered, I got an email from the FBI saying that my “Identity History Summary Response” was available for review online.
Using the link and pin given in their original email (after submitting the online application), I was able to log-in and download my letter from the FBI, which could then be uploaded to my application. It’s not to say that everyone’s turn-around will be this quick, but at least it’s promising to know that there’s not a large backlog of these requests at the FBI!
* I am not a migration agent or affiliated with Home Affairs in any way, so all the information provided in these posts and in the comments below is based entirely on my own experience and my own understanding of the application process.
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UPDATE: A MASSIVE THANK YOU to everyone who’s commented on these posts to let me know that you found the information helpful— I can’t tell you how much it means to me, because it was a crazy amount of work to put this together (while I was trying to finish my PhD, no less), but knowing that it’s being used makes it all totally worth it. More importantly, though, thank you to everyone who has shared their own experience or answered questions for other readers in the comments below!!
We are building a little community of Partner Visa applicants and survivors here and it’s massively reassuring for anyone just beginning their application to hear stories of success or get advice from those who’ve come out the other end. SO, if you felt like these posts or the information in the comments helped with your application, I’d encourage you to come back after your visa is granted (or even after various milestones) and let us know what happened! It could end up being a huge help to someone else 🙂 xx Brooke