From the bustling streets of Bogota to the rolling green hills of Medellin, Colombia has become a multinational home to digital nomads, expats, and a diverse, local talent pool. It's no wonder so many global companies are looking to Colombia for their next hire. But before you hire an employee in Colombia, a background check is a crucial step to verify their credentials and help mitigate risk to your company.
Even for global companies well versed in international hiring, navigating background checks can be daunting. Every country has different rules, and you have to tread carefully to ensure you follow local labor laws, handle employees' personal data appropriately, and more.
If you need a guide to running legally compliant background checks in Colombia, read on. Below, we have the details you need to screen your potential employees, protect your company—and stay compliant with Colombian laws.
Are you legally required to run background checks on Colombian employees?
Certain types of background checks are required for employees in Colombia:
- Immigration checks (including work visas or work permits)
- Education checks
- Licensure checks for certain regulated professions like engineering, law, and accounting
- Medical examinations
Other types of background checks in Colombia are allowed, but with one important caveat: You have to get the job seeker's explicit consent first. There are some other steps you should take to avoid running afoul of anti-discrimination laws, but more on that below.
Is it legal to run background checks on Colombian contractors?
It's legal to run background checks on independent contractors, too, but with the same condition: You need their explicit consent.
What types of background checks do businesses commonly run on Colombian employees and contractors?
In Colombia, you can conduct different types of background screenings, depending on the potential new hire's role. Here are more details about the most common types of background checks, as well as some other types you can consider if the role calls for it:
Common background checks
Less common background checks
Credit reports (depends on role)
Social media profiles
Driving records (depends on role)
Here’s each type of check in more detail:
- Immigration. Validation of the new hire’s work visa or work permit may be included in this step, if they aren't a Colombian citizen or permanent resident.
- Employment history. It's standard in Colombia to do an employment verification background check to make sure a candidate's employment history matches what they put on their resume or application.
- Education history. A quick check of a candidate's education or credentials is fairly standard, too. This may include checking for any special licensing that's required for the role.
- Criminal record. Criminal record checks are fairly common background checks to perform in Colombia. Criminal records can be accessed through the Colombian National Police. Note that it can be seen as discriminatory to deny a candidate based on their criminal history, so it's a good idea to only ask for criminal records if the role requires it.
- Medical screening. Pre-employment medical examinations are standard in Colombia.
- Credit check. Credit checks are less commonly performed as part of a pre-employment background check, but may be done if the role requires financial literacy.
- Social media profiles. Employers can check any public social media information about a job candidate, and many do, in order to see if a potential new hire will be a good culture fit at their organization.
- Driving records. Driving and motor vehicle records can be requested for roles that include driving, but not as part of a standard background check.
What types of background checks are illegal in Colombia?
- Questions about protected characteristics. In Colombia, it's illegal to discriminate against someone based on race, gender, nationality, family origin, sexual preference or orientation, religious beliefs, and political viewpoints.
- Background checks on political views or union affiliation. These are prohibited in Colombia.
When should you conduct Colombian employee background checks?
It's typical for pre-employment background checks to take place at the start of the employment relationship—often after an offer letter has been sent.
In many cases, the employment contract will include a clause that the offer of employment is contingent on the results of a background check. But in Colombia, you may want to do things differently. Under Colombian law, it's considered discriminatory to offer someone a job, and then rescind the offer based on the results of a background check. That's why all background checks should be done earlier in the recruitment process before an offer is made. And, to stay compliant with Colombian laws, make sure to get the applicant's written consent before conducting any background checks.
The easiest way to run a background check on a Colombian employee or contractor
There are several different companies that can run background checks on employees in Colombia, including Rippling, TritonColombia, Hireright, and BackCheck. The easiest by far is Rippling, because background checks are directly integrated into the onboarding flow.
Just enter basic hiring info like salary and start date, and Rippling will send the offer letter and new hire paperwork—and automatically run a legally compliant background check and e-verify the results. See Rippling today.
Background check mistakes to avoid in Colombia
- Assuming background checks in Colombia are the same as in the rest of South America. Every country in South America has its own laws around employment background checks. When you hire global employees, it's crucial to follow the laws in the country where they live.
- Not getting employee consent. Colombian labor laws say employers can't conduct any background checks without getting explicit consent from the potential employee first.
- Running the background check at the wrong time. In many places, it's standard to run background checks after offering someone a job. In Colombia, making a job offer and rescinding it based on the finding of a background check is considered discriminatory, so you should do background checks on potential employees before making them a job offer.
- Skipping the background check. Doing background checks in different countries can be complex and overwhelming. While it may be tempting to skip the background check altogether, don't—it's an important part of employee onboarding that helps protect your company and its workforce.
Rippling makes it easy to run background checks in Colombia.
Frequently asked questions about background checks in Colombia
Are background checks legal in Colombia?
Most background checks are legal in Colombia, as long as you have the candidate's explicit consent.
How do human rights laws affect background checks in Colombia?
Colombia has strong anti-discrimination laws. Employers can face sanctions if they're found discriminating against potential employees. Employers should always avoid background checks that have to do with race, gender, nationality, family origin, sexual preference or orientation, religious beliefs, political viewpoints, and union affiliation. They should also be careful with criminal background checks and credit checks and only conduct the types of background checks that are necessary for the role.
Do different industries in Colombia require different background checks?
For certain regulated industries, employers are required to make sure their prospective employees have the right qualifications. Some of these include engineering, law, and accounting.
How long do background checks take?
Turnaround time can vary based on the type of background check. Many Colombian businesses use third-party background check services that offer results in just a few business days.
What are the benefits of running background checks in Colombia?
Background checks come with many benefits for employers, including:
- Protecting the business. Background checks can help identify potential risks before they become problems. This includes not only criminal activity but also issues like poor work history or falsified qualifications.
- Ensuring safety. Uncovering violent or dangerous behavior in the applicant's past can be crucial in jobs where personal safety or the safety of others is at stake.
- Quality assurance. A background check can verify an applicant's education, skills, experience, and qualifications, ensuring they are suited to the job's requirements. It can prevent dishonesty in resumes and applications.
- Legal compliance. Background checks can help employers comply with legal requirements. Certain jobs, such as those involving working with children or vulnerable populations, may require background checks by law.
- Building trust. When everyone goes through the same background check process, it can help build trust and transparency within a company. And by ensuring the right candidate is hired for the job, background checks can contribute to higher employee satisfaction and lower turnover.
Onboard new hires and run background checks with Rippling
With Rippling's Talent Management System, you can seamlessly onboard new hires and set them up for success. Just enter basic hiring info like salary and start date, and Rippling does the rest—including running a legally compliant background check and e-verifying the results.
Ready to hit the ground running with every new hire? See Rippling today.
Rippling and its affiliates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice. This material has been prepared for informational purposes only, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. You should consult your own tax, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any related activities or transactions.