Every country has their own approach to background screening, and which checks can be run on prospective new employees. Businesses which recruit staff to work overseas have to make sure they are complying with local legislation, which is often quite different to that in the UK.


New Zealand and Australia

These two countries take a similar approach to checking. Both have a legal requirement for employers to check on immigration status and have extended checking on people working for children. In some cases, employers might be able to do criminal or credit checks but need written consent from the candidate first.



Japan is an unusual case in that there is no legal requirement to do any background checks at all, not even into immigration status. Similarly, authorities discourage employers for looking into someone’s criminal past as these records are strictly confidential. Many employers will try to verify references or educational qualifications, but there is quite a high level of non-compliance from people asked to complete these checks.


United States

The picture in the US is complex, as laws and rules around employment checking are decided on a state-by-state basis. Some industries, especially those which are security sensitive, will ask for things like fingerprinting or drug screening. In most states, it is common practice to check educational qualifications, and take up references. Many states are trying to limit the amount of criminal record checking, and usually this can only be done at the job offer stage. Many industries will permit a full medical screening after a job offer has been made too.



Employers have to go through a similar Right to Work check as in the UK, by asking to see the applicant’s Social Insurance Number. Criminal record checks are required for people who work with children, but employers need to get consent for this. Most Canadian workers will be used to having their references checked, and credit checks are commonplace for finance and related industries.


European Union

Although there are differences between the individual EU members, all have a requirement that employers check nationality and immigration status before making a job offer. Most countries also have the requirement for criminal record checking for those working with children, but this is often called a “certificate of good character” or similar. Credit referencing checks are usually restricted to positions involving handling large sums of money, and some states such as Portugal ban medical checks under all circumstances.

Employment laws and practice does vary hugely around the globe, and it’s very easy to fall foul of local laws if you assume that all countries operate to the same standards as the UK. Most companies which employ just a few overseas workers and who haven’t the budget for a large HR department work with a specialist agency who can ensure that they are complying with law and custom when it comes to background checking on new hires. When operating at a distance, it is more important than ever to make the right recruitment decisions.