Virginia Record Sealing & Expungement Blog

Background checks and the seven year rule

Last updated: March 20, 2024

The Truth about the Seven-year limit for background checks

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) prohibits reporting of non-convictions seven years after the dismissal of criminal charges. Unfortunately, too many people believe that this restriction applies to convictions. It doesn’t! In Virginia, a criminal conviction can be reported on your criminal background check for the remainder of your life. To be clear, a charge that was dismissed can be reported on your background check for seven years unless you use Virginia’s expungement laws to have it removed.

New Virginia record sealing laws finally allow qualifying criminal convictions for eligible people to be sealed.

Exploring the Regulatory Framework

With background checks, the seven-year limit holds significant importance. Understanding its implications requires considering the regulatory framework governing background screening processes. The FCRA in the United States is a cornerstone legislation dictating the permissible scope of background checks conducted by employers and other entities.

Virginia law permits background checks for various purposes, including employment, housing, and licensing. However, employers must adhere to specific guidelines outlined in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and the Virginia Consumer Reporting Act (VCRA). These statutes mandate obtaining the candidate’s consent before initiating a background check and providing them with a copy of the report if adverse action is taken based on its findings.

FCRA Compliance and Limitations

Under FCRA guidelines, certain types of information cannot be reported beyond a seven-year period. This limitation applies to non-conviction records, including arrests, civil suits, and paid tax liens, among others. However, it’s crucial to note that there are exceptions to this rule, primarily concerning positions with an annual salary exceeding $75,000.

Exemptions and Variations

While the seven-year limit is a standard guideline, there are state-specific variations and exemptions that demand attention. States like California, for instance, have more stringent regulations, mandating a seven-year limit for all employment-related background checks, irrespective of salary thresholds.

Implications for Employers

For employers, adherence to FCRA guidelines is paramount to avoid legal repercussions. Failing to comply with the seven-year limit can lead to lawsuits and damage to reputation. Employers must also consider the relevance of information beyond the seven-year mark and its potential impact on hiring decisions.

Balancing Legality and Thoroughness

Navigating the intricacies of background checks requires a delicate balance between legality and thoroughness. While FCRA sets clear boundaries, employers must also ensure they gather pertinent information necessary for making informed hiring decisions. This entails leveraging available resources effectively while respecting legal limitations.


In essence, the seven-year limit on background checks serves as a crucial regulatory safeguard, protecting individuals’ rights and promoting fair hiring practices. Understanding its nuances is imperative for employers and entities involved in screening processes to ensure compliance and foster trust within the workforce. By adhering to legal guidelines and exercising prudence, organizations can navigate the complexities of background checks responsibly and ethically.




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