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Important Tips to Improve Fingerprint Quality

Minn. Stat. § 214.075 requires a fingerprint-based criminal background check to obtain health professional licensure. To fulfill this requirement, the applicant must provide high quality fingerprints that will be transmitted to the FBI.

Some people have their fingerprints rejected by the FBI as “unclassifiable.”

Why Is This Important To Me?

Most criminal history results are received within two to three weeks. If the FBI rejects your fingerprints, you have to start the background check over again by providing new fingerprints. Two to three weeks could become four to six weeks, six to nine weeks, or more!

What Causes This?

The following are some circumstances that can increase the chance of fingerprints being rejected:

  • people who do a lot of work with their hands
  • people who wash/disinfect their hands repeatedly
  • people who are very active in their personal lives, including activities that are hard on fingertips, such as lifting weights, rock climbing, playing guitar, or even gardening!
  • people who handle a lot of paper or spend a lot of time typing
  • exposure to chemicals: such as bleach, chlorine, acetone, antibacterial products, soaps, etc.
  • age: skin becomes smoother and fingertip ridges are harder to capture as you get older
  • ethnicity: some ethnic groups have naturally fine/smooth skin, e.g. Asian, Scandinavian, German

The combination of these factors leaves some people with very smooth or dry skin and “worn down” fingertip ridges. To help minimize the chance of delays caused by poor quality fingerprints, you can do the following:

The best thing you can do to avoid having your fingerprints rejected is to moisturize! Start using lotion on your fingertips at least twice daily for several days before fingerprints are taken. This improves fingerprint quality by reducing dryness and helping skin ridges to heal.

If possible, license applicants should try to find a law enforcement agency that uses LiveScan (digital) fingerprint technology. Ink fingerprints are legally acceptable, but digital equipment produces better images. Prints must be taken either at the Minnesota Criminal Background Check Program office (which uses LiveScan technology) or by an employee of a law enforcement agency—private vendors, such as UPS, are not acceptable. The police agency does not need to digitally transmit your prints. They merely need to digitally scan your fingerprints and print out a hardcopy fingerprint card that you mail in. If the agency does not keep hardcopy cards on hand, applicants may request one be mailed to them by the CBC office. There are many police agencies to try: county sheriffs, state crime bureaus, city police, state patrol, federal law enforcement agencies, and even licensed campus police. If local police agencies do not do fingerprinting, check with neighboring jurisdictions.

Lifting weights is hard on fingertips, especially free weights like dumbbells or kettlebells. At the end of each repetition the weight in motion is stopped by your fingertips squeezing more tightly against the moving weight. Even with very light weights, this has the effect of literally scraping the weight against the ridges of your fingertips. This causes breaks, tears, and wearing down of the skin ridges that are essential for high quality fingerprints. To maximize fingerprint quality, avoid using weights for several days before your fingerprints are taken. In addition, avoid other activities that are hard on fingertips or dry out your skin, such as rock climbing, or exposure to chemicals and cleaners, getting a manicure, etc.

Please email or call the CBC office if you have any other questions about fingerprinting or the background check process overall.

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