Attorneys, especially those in the immigration field, need to
review their client's criminal history in a thorough manner.
Clients are incomplete reporters of their criminal history, and it
is not unknown to "forget" a previous removal case. This lack of
accurate information can lead to an attorney placing the client in
an untenable position by applying for a benefit the attorney
believes the client is eligible for based on the information at
It is always better to have a complete criminal history, as it is
a medical history for physicians. A Massachusetts Criminal Offender
Record Information (CORI) check only shows matters reported in
Massachusetts, and not out-of-state or Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) arrests. A report from the Federal Bureau of
Investigation can assist an attorney in rendering advice to the
It should be noted that an FBI record check is based on
fingerprint submission of arrests. It is not always accurate as to
eventual court dispositions, and not all arrests result in
fingerprint submissions to the FBI. It does not relieve the
attorney of thoroughly examining the client's memory, nor of
obtaining referenced records.
The FBI more accurately refers to it as an FBI Identification
Record. It is not only a criminal history/removal listing, but also
a listing of certain information taken from fingerprint submissions
retained by the FBI in some instances in connection with federal
employment, naturalization or military service. When dealing with
ICE arrests, it will list the alien number assigned to the client
by ICE, allowing the retrieval of Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA)
information, or the checking of Immigration Court records of
The first step is to obtain the client's fingerprint set. This
must be submitted on a standard fingerprint form (FD-258). I have
found the easiest way to do it is with the use of a private
investigation firm that does employment background checks. For a
nominal fee, the client can privately obtain a copy of their
fingerprints without any need for police involvement. Such firms
can be found in the Yellow Pages.
The fee for the record is $18 and must be paid by money order or
cashier's check made payable to the Treasury of the United States,
or by the use of a credit card payment form found at
The client also must fill out and sign an applicant information
form found at www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/background-checks/ and
click on Applicant Information Form (pdf).
These three items are mailed to:
FBI CJIS Division-Record Request
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306
The FBI suggests leaving 12 weeks for a response. It is possible
the response will be "no record," which is always good news.
Remember, the failure to disclose a record may be considered fraud,
and it is not unknown for an individual to be arrested at a U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) interview, always an
embarrassing moment. You can prevent these unpleasant consequences
by this simple and inexpensive process.
Michael D. Greenberg, a solo practitioner in Boston,
focuses on family practice, naturalization, Immigration Court
appearances, appeals to the Board of Immigration Appeals, and
federal courts. He is chair of the Committee on Unauthorized
Practice of Law and a past U.S. Executive Office of Immigration
Review liaison for the New England Chapter of the American
Immigration Lawyers Association.