In the U.S., interpreters are typically classified as independent contractors. But that doesn’t mean you’re exempt from undergoing a background check before accepting assignments. While the laws around background checks vary by state, here are some general guidelines.
Background Checks for Medical Interpreters
Before you’re hired, you must agree in writing to undergo a criminal background check. This includes checking arrest records, convictions of felonies and misdemeanors, warrants, and incarceration records. It doesn’t include credit history or financial records.
To run the background check, you may need to make arrangements with a third-party organization. Other medical facilities have a designated provider and will submit your information. You’ll likely need to pay a small fee ($10 – $20) for a statewide background check.
You must also provide vaccination records for Mumps, Measles, Rubella, Chicken pox (Varicella), Pertussis, and Hepatitis B, and undergo a Tuberculosis screening.
Some medical facilities will ask you to take a drug test.
Background Checks for Court Interpreters
To apply for a court interpreter role, the process will vary slightly based on whether it’s for a State or Federal court. Both State and Federal courts may ask for a resume, current CEU transcript, and your certification or equivalent qualification. However, the background check you undergo will differ.
As of May 16, 2005, Federal courts require all contractors—including interpreters—to undergo a fingerprint background check. This is a nationwide criminal background check that’s performed by the FBI.
The FBI will collate all arrests, felonies, and serious misdemeanors. The report may also include some financial information such as credit reports. However, it rarely includes moving violations or small fines.
Fingerprint background checks cost around $90 and must be renewed every two years.
State courts typically conduct a statewide background check. (See the medical interpreter section for details.) You may also need a fingerprint clearance card.
Background Check for Other Interpreters
If you work in a field other than medical or legal, the background check will depend on the federal, state, and the organization’s requirements.
In addition to criminal records, some background checks include credit reports, your financial history, and work history. Some organizations may also request references.
If you work around children, you’ll need to undergo a federal background check.
Final Tips on Background Checks
Although background checks sound scary, you likely have nothing to worry about. However, if you want to know what potential clients will see, you can run a background check on yourself.
Keep in mind that if you do have a criminal record, it won’t automatically disqualify you from being hired. Most employers will give you the opportunity to explain the situation and demonstrate how you’ve redeemed yourself.
And remember, clients must always ask you to submit authorization for a background check in writing before they conduct one!