In this phase you will be communicating with several different state-level bodies in order to acquire the required documents. This means the steps below may occur concurrently or slightly out of order.
- Obtain the original copy of your diploma from your university and make a copy
- State Background Check
- In person: Go to your local police station. Check the days/hours that the station does fingerprint services. Your station may have digital services, which means you fill out a form in the station and they send your request electronically to the state body.
- Via mail: obtain a fingerprint card at an authorized fingerprint services establishment or via mail request. Mail an envelope with the fingerprints, written check or money order, and any requested forms to the appropriate state body. Be sure to request the official state seal if it is not explicitly offered.
For both in-person and mail requests: You will receive a letter in the mail from the state corrections office that states your criminal history. From my experience in Maryland, through in-person and mail requests, I received the letter at my home address in the States within one week.
- Federal Background Check
Official FBI background checks can be submitted via mail for $18. You will need to fill out the application form, include a fingerprint card (from your local police station or authorized fingerprint services establishment), and a payment via check or credit card form. Mail these items together to:
FBI CJIS Division – Summary Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
You can expect to receive a response at your home address in the US within 3-6 months as of January 2016. Given the 180-day validity of all documents, you will want to submit this request first or apply through an FBI-approved channeler.
The approved FBI channelers will provide you a response within weeks. The cost is higher, but given the time sensitivity of the document, it is worth it to receive this document quickly. Here is a list of the approved entities.
You will need to receive an apostille for each of the 3 official documents: your diploma, your state background check, and your federal background check. An apostille is a stamp that is internationally recognized and authorizes the validity of the document according to international standards of the Hague Treaty. The Hague Treaty states that authorizations can be accepted from the level of the secretary of state of individual states, not only the federal secretary of state level.
When I lived in the DC Metro area, I went to three different offices to get the appropriate apostilles: once to DC for the US Secretary of State, a second to DC again for the District of Columbia Secretary of State, and third to Maryland for the Maryland Secretary of State. These processes can all be completed in person or by mail.
From my experience, this process took about 20 minutes in the Maryland and DC Secretary of State offices. If you cannot go yourself, you may have someone else go on your behalf. If you or a representative is in the DC metro area, you can go to the Walk-In Counter Authentication Services (only open M-F 8am-9am) to get your federal background check apostilled in 3 days.
Canadians do not need documents apostilled. Rather, their documents must be legalized by an Ecuadorian consulate (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver or the embassy in Ottawa). For more about apostilles and legalization, read 10 Things to Know Before Moving to Ecuador.