Uber Background Check: How Long They Take And What They Look For

In light of the recent news about several lawsuits that have been filed against Uber, alleging wrongdoing on the part of some of its drivers, Ridester thought it would be a good idea to take a closer look at the Uber background check process.

Some of what we learned may also help prospective drivers who may have been deactivated or rejected by Uber and aren’t sure why.

Disclaimer: This article has been written based on our own research and findings, but we can’t guarantee the information outlined below will apply to every driver or situation. This article is meant to give potential and existing drivers a look into the background check, but for definitive questions about your own situation, please contact Uber directly.

Before applying to drive, we recommend checking to make sure you meet the Uber car and driver requirements.

Let’s dive right in and take a look at the Uber background check process and see what’s really going on.

What Is An Uber Background Check?

The Uber background check is the final step in the Uber driver signup process to ensure the safety of riders. At the end of the application to drive, candidates are prompted to allow Uber, through a third party provider, to run a background check on them.

The check reviews multiple areas of a potential driver’s Motor Vehicle record, as well as a candidate’s criminal history. Essentially, Uber wants to make sure they keep riders as safe as possible by disqualifying drivers with a terrible driving record and criminals.

Watch the brief video we made to find out more about the Uber driver application process…

The Anatomy of an Uber Background Check

There are two elements to any background check, but apply directly to an Uber background check.

  1. Criteria that workers need to meet
  2. Data on the applicant’s background

The first element is how the company decides what criteria it wants its workers to meet, and how that applies to the job.

A bank for instance, might put a high priority on employees who have never committed any type of financial fraud. They may decide to look for criminal fraud convictions up to 10 years in the past. And they may not care much at all about their employees’ driving records.

For Uber, on the other hand, they may not put as high a priority on such crimes as financial fraud and other non-violent crimes, so they may only look back seven years for those types of crimes. But they will surely care very much about violent crimes and bad driving records.

You can see from the list below that they do in fact put a high priority on screening prospective drivers for violent crimes, sex crimes and unsafe driving records.

The second element of a background check is finding the data on the applicant’s background. That part of the check is determined by what the company has decided are the most important aspects of a prospective workers’ background, as it relates to the specific job they will perform.

If they are mainly interested in violent crimes and bad driving records, then they will direct the background checking company to go into more depth in those areas.

What Prospective Drivers Need to Know about Uber Background Checks

You often see prospective drivers complaining online that Uber rejected them after completing their background check. They are often mystified as to why, but when you understand what Uber is looking for, if you are rejected, at least it will make sense.

And as you’ll see, it doesn’t take a serious crime in your past to earn you a rejection notice, because Uber also puts a very high priority on driving records. They have a strict set of criteria when it comes to driving records.

According to a post on help.uber.com, when a new driver signs up with Uber, they are told the following about the background checks:

  1. The background check includes a Motor Vehicle Record review as well as a criminal background check.
  2. Local laws and regulations often establish the specific background check criteria that Uber applies, and these criteria can vary significantly from state to state.

In general though, in order to pass the background check, drivers must have:

  • At least one-year U.S. licensing history (if under 23 years old, must have at least three years licensing history)
  • A valid driver’s license and Motor Vehicle Record (MVR) that shows:
  • No major moving violations, such as DUIs or reckless driving, within the last seven years
  • No more than three minor moving violations in the past three years, such as speeding tickets or failure to obey traffic laws
  • A criminal record that does not include a conviction for a felony, violent crime, or sexual offense within the last seven years, among other things such as a registration on the U.S. Department of Justice National Sex Offender Public website.

Uber makes it a point to let drivers know that an Uber background check is free, secure, and private. The check looks at driving record and criminal history, but does not take into account credit, and a credit check is not part of the process.

The key take-aways from this are that:

  • They focus a lot of effort on screening drivers to assess their driving record. They also have a strict criterion where no one with a major moving violation within the last seven years will be accepted. And that’s appropriate, as the job these people will be performing is driving people safely from point to point. So, it is right that Uber puts a lot of emphasis on this aspect of their background checks;
  • Uber itself does not actually perform the background checks. They contract this out to a third-party background check provider that is accredited by the National Association of Professional Background Screeners;
  • The fact that they contract out the work of background screenings should make it very difficult for anyone to win a lawsuit against them by claiming they were negligent in the performance of background screenings. All their background screenings are performed by a well-respected industry leader and that should inoculate them against most claims of negligence;
  • Their criminal background checks are tightly regulated by state and federal law and the laws in each state can vary widely.

What Disqualifies Drivers During an Uber Background Check:

  • Uber doesn’t allow anyone to sign up if they’ve had any major moving violations within the last seven years;
  • No one is allowed to drive for Uber who has had more than three minor moving violations in the last three years.
  • If you’re older than 23 years old, you must have had a U.S. driver’s license and license history that is at least one year old;
  • If you’re younger than 23 years old, you must have at least a three-year old U.S. driving history;
  • You must not have a criminal conviction within the last seven years for a felony, violent crime or sexual offense.

Although Uber contracts with a major background checking company called Checkr, Uber still has the ultimate responsibility for giving them guidance on what things are important and what things aren’t as far as driver backgrounds go. And they have the responsibility of making the final decision about drivers based on the information provided to them by Checkr.

To show you how seriously Uber takes the driving part of the background check, they have been known to do annual checks on existing drivers. A driver may have gotten an email like this one regarding an annual check:

“We are reaching out to notify you that in the next 24-48 hours we will be re-running your background check as part of an annual safety initiative. Safety is of the utmost importance to Uber for our partner-drivers and riders alike, and these background checks are just one way to ensure that all partner-drivers have continued to drive safely since the initial report was run.

As a reminder, in order to pass the background check, you must have:

  • A clean Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) with no more than 3 incidents in the past 3 years
  • No driving with a suspended license or without insurance in the past 3 years
  • No DUIs and no reckless driving
  • A clean criminal background check with no felonies or misdemeanors involving theft, violence or drugs

Please Note: The above list is not necessarily comprehensive. Certain states and municipalities may have requirements that differ from the above.

Checkr, the company Uber uses, also provides background screenings for other major app-based on-demand companies such as Instacart, GrubHub, Postmates and Handy.

Each of these companies is responsible for working with Checkr to make sure they conduct the kind of search that most closely corresponds to the type of work their independent contractors will be performing.

Uber has done a good job emphasizing driving records as well as violent and sex crimes. The background check itself, however, isn’t the end of the story.

The final decision on each driver candidate is up to Uber and its discretion.  It is up to Uber to decide what kinds and how many background blemishes they’ll accept.

For many jobs, disallowing a candidate because they’ve had, say, four or five minor moving violations in the last three years might not make sense. But for a company that is contracting with drivers to provide a consumer-facing service, it makes sense to disallow drivers with that kind of driving record. It also makes sense to disallow any and all applicants who have any kind of violent or sex crimes in their past.

How long does an Uber Background Check Take?

For most drivers, an Uber background check typically takes between 5-7 days to clear. The time it takes for your background check may be longer or shorter, depending on how many applications Checkr is processing at the time you applied.

Uber Background Check Taking Too Long?

If your Uber background check seems like it is taking too long, and it has been longer than 7 days since you applied, reach out to both Checkr and Uber support to see what is going on.

When I applied to drive, my application got stuck because there was a lot of other applications and background checks getting processes, and I heard back from Checkr first.

Once Checkr approves your application, the ball is in Uber’s court to approve or deny you. If your Uber background check is taking a while, reach out and ask why.

What to Do if Your Uber Background Check is Denied

First things first!  If you’re Uber background check gets rejected, your first problem will probably be finding out that you were rejected.

Uber is not exactly consistent with their policy on letting rejected drivers know that they were rejected.  You may or may not get an email from them about it.

They say they will let you know within 7-10 business days.  If you contact them before that time, they will probably tell you to keep waiting.  If 10 business days has passed, and you haven’t heard anything, then you should contact them.

How to Contact Uber Before You Become a Driver

Uber frequently changes their method of contact.  Right now they’ve established a page where people can contact them without having an account.  This is by far and away the easiest Uber has ever made it to contact them.

Just go to this page and look for the contact form at the bottom:  

However, there is no way of knowing when Uber might change, move or delete that page. If it’s not there when you try it, then let me explain their old tried and true method which they’ve used for the longest time.

The alternative traditional method of contacting uber requires that you have either a rider or a driver account with them.  So, if you’re waiting to hear about your driver account, you’ll need to sign up as a passenger before you can contact them through this method.

Once you have a rider account, go to help.uber.com.  This page is constantly changing so it won’t help for me to give you specific detailed instructions here, instead I’ll give you the general idea of how to contact them through this site.

Under most of their question categories they will have a way to contact them.  But it will be well hidden.  The best way to find it is to click on any of the main question categories and then do a page search for the word “other”.  That will bring up all instances of “other” and “another”.  And most of those links will say something like, “I have other questions” or “I have another question” and they will take you to a page where you can send them a message.

For instance, right now, from the first page after you login to help.uber.com, you can click on “Account and Payment Options”.  Then, on the next page just search on the word, “other”, and click on the first result you come to.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  I clicked on, “I have another payment question.”  If you’re a prospective driver inquiring about the status of your application, you’re not going to have a payment question, but that’s okay.  Just type your question into the box, and click “Submit”.

When they reply – which can take up to 24 hours – you can then respond simply by replying to their email.

The Best Way to Get a Decent Answer from Uber

Think of Uber’s customer service reps as very fragile people, who are not capable of understanding anything more than a few sentences long. We’ve seen this with a lot of on-demand service departments, including Postmates and Amazon Flex.

You should make your initial request very short and very simple.  They are so swamped with emails, each rep answering hundreds a day that they simply don’t have time to read and comprehend anything more than a few sentences long.

So, just state your name and email address you signed up under and tell them you’ve applied to be a driver and you want to know the status of your application.

There is a chance they will answer back with a pre-written response that won’t address your situation.  If so, remain calm!  Realize they answer everyone like this, it’s nothing personal to you.

Write them back again telling and politely let them know they didn’t answer your question, and then re-state it.  When you re-state it, don’t sound upset and don’t add anything to your original question.  Simply restate your original question.

You may have to go through this two or three times before somebody gives you a real answer.  Just exercise a little patience and you’ll eventually get your answer.

What An Uber Background Check Can and Can’t Do

Uber background check - gold fingerprint against blue background

Background checks only allow a company to learn if a person has been convicted of a crime in the past. There are two significant parts to that statement.

They can only tell you if someone has been convicted of a crime in the past. And that’s all they can do. They can’t even tell you for sure that a person has never committed a crime in the past.

That’s because a person could have committed crimes and never gotten caught or perhaps gotten caught but was never convicted. In those cases, even the most thorough background checks will not pick anything up.

In order for criminal activity to be detectable in a background check, the person must have gotten caught and they must have been convicted of a crime.

Another important thing background checks can’t do is predict whether or not a person will commit a crime in the future. All they can tell you is whether or not a person has been convicted of a crime in the past.

But we know there are many first-time criminals and when it’s their first time, there is nothing that a background check could have picked up on in their past that would have predicted their future criminal acts.

Background checks also can’t tell you if a person is contemplating committing a crime.

So, you could have a person who has never been caught or convicted of a crime in the past but who is now actively considering committing a crime. Unfortunately, the toughest background check in the world would never be able to tell you that.

In October, 2017, a man rented a truck from Home Depot and drove it into Manhattan and proceeded to mow people down, killing eight, on a jogging path just off the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan.

It turned out the man was an Uber and Lyft driver. When that information came out, people asked how he could have been allowed to sign up on either platform and they said it made them feel unsafe knowing that people like that could be driving them around.

Well, the reason he was able to sign up on both platforms is because he had never been convicted of a crime. So, there was nothing a background check could have picked up that would have predicted his future actions.

Some of the lawsuits against Uber, alleging that they didn’t do a thorough background check will fail for this same reason. Because some of the drivers who are being accused of crimes didn’t have a criminal past. So, no background check could have excluded them from eligibility to sign up with Uber and Lyft.

Background checks can only tell you if someone has been convicted of a crime in the past. No background check can tell you if someone will commit a crime in the future.

Why Background Checks Don’t Always Catch Everything

There are many reasons why, but background checks can’t turn up everything an employer might be interested in.

For instance, one major reason is that background screenings are regulated primarily by the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). And the FCRA does not allow employers to look at arrest records older than seven years.

The FCRA does allow employers to search criminal convictions more than seven years old but some states don’t. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has guidelines that while not specifying a specific amount of time into which employers can look at criminal conviction records, does give guidance that employers should not go farther back than the standards of business necessity would warrant.

This is a fairly nebulous ruling but it has pushed companies to limit the amount of time in the past they look at, in order to stay out of trouble with various governmental entities.

It has become an accepted standard for most companies, including Uber, to put into place a seven-year limit. So, the fact that a driver comes back clean, only means that he comes back clean for the last seven years.

Another limitation to what background checks can do is brought on by the complexity of the American system of states, where each state has its own set of laws and a great deal of autonomy from other states and from the federal government.

Counties and municipalities aren’t required to report every court action to their respective states and states aren’t required to report everything to the federal government. So, there is no single source of information for criminal background checks.

Companies like Checkr are therefore a bit hamstrung and end up checking only the places the applicant has informed them that they have lived.

  • There are 3,130 separate territorial entities in the United States, including counties, boroughs, parishes and independent cities, as well as one District (DC).
  • And there are more than 7,000 courts and municipal jurisdictions that maintain criminal records.

Since there is no single national source of criminal record information, things get complicated fast with each county and municipal court having its own rules and regulations as to how records are kept and released.

To do an absolute complete and thorough background check a company would have to employ hundreds of people to go into hundreds of county and municipal courthouses to hand search through all their records which aren’t even computerized yet. Many of these jurisdictions still have all their records on only paper or microfilm!

Because of the above reasons there is no such thing as a completely thorough background search. Even with the best of searches, bad characters will slip through.

Now when you see stories that start off like this, maybe it will make more sense why some people do slip through:

Uber drivers are required to pass a criminal background check in order to be eligible for employment with the ride-hailing transportation service, but drivers with serious criminal histories have slipped through the cracks, and some cities where Uber operates want answers.

The ironic thing about this story is that it appeared in a California paper and California has state laws in place softened background checks as a whole.

For instance, companies aren’t allowed to look into someone’s criminal history any farther back than seven years. So, Uber and Lyft both complied with that.

However, in an interesting twist, and in response to a rash of sexual assaults committed by California Uber drivers, California enacted a new law that took effect on January 1, 2017, that specifically exempts rideshare companies from the seven-year background check limit.

The law specifically extends that seven-year period for rideshare companies and will allow them to conduct background checks that can cover a driver’s entire life.

This law will also exempt rideshare companies from another new California law that will take effect on January 1, 2018 that will further restrict companies’ abilities to do thorough background checks on job applicants.

While Uber and Lyft both have taken a lot of heat for conducting faulty background checks, it must be noted that background checks are strictly regulated by federal and state governments.

Just how far a company is allowed to go in checking the backgrounds of prospective workers has been limited by these laws. It is therefore likely that Uber will prevail in most of these lawsuits, as long as they can show they have followed the law and acted in good-faith to perform as thorough a background check on drivers as was allowed by law.

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