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What is a Live Scan? The Technology, Processes, and Applications

What is a Live Scan? The Technology, Processes, and Applications

Livescan devices are scanners that can take fingerprints in real-time by scanning the fingerprints of the user. Screened individuals lay their palms flat on the scanner’s reading surface. Because there is less human intervention needed in fingerprint scanning with a LiveScan system, it is faster and cheaper than scanning hard cards.

The higher print quality that results from using a Livescan to capture an image means that less unreadable prints will be rejected. Traditional fingerprint cards, on which fingerprints are “rolled” in ink, are scanned using a hard card scanner to submit an application to the FBI. Cards can be made “electronic” with the use of a machine that reads magnetic stripes. Due to the high level of expertise required to produce satisfactory results, “rolling the prints” usually comes with an additional cost.

What are the advantages of LiveScan over traditional card scanning?

Accurate and high-quality fingerprint scans are crucial for using fingerprinting as a means of identifying individuals and their criminal histories. Common fingerprinting techniques include ink and live scans, but picking the right one might be difficult. This article will compare and contrast the two methods of fingerprinting commonly used today: ink and live scan.

What is Ink Fingerprinting?

Taking fingerprints with ink and paper is called “ink fingerprinting” or “traditional fingerprinting.” This strategy has been employed for decades, and it is still often employed today. Each finger is rolled onto an ink pad and then pressed onto a fingerprint card. When all 10 fingers are rolled, the card is sent on to be processed.

Live Scan Fingerprinting: What Is It?

Live scan fingerprinting is a cutting-edge technique for digitally acquiring fingerprints. The fingerprints are scanned digitally rather than printed out, which eliminates the need for ink and paper. Electronic transmission of fingerprints to the relevant agency follows. Due to its speed and precision, live scan fingerprinting has been increasingly popular over the years.

When Is Ink Fingerprinting the Best Option?

When a physical duplicate of fingerprints is required, ink fingerprinting is the method of choice. This technique is often utilized for immigration, adoption, employment, and background checks. When live scan technology is not available, ink fingerprinting might be utilized as a backup.

For many applications, including those that need fingerprint cards, ink fingerprinting is still the method of choice. For criminal background checks, security clearances, and other security-related purposes, ink fingerprinting may be required by federal agencies like the FBI. This is because, for decades, ink fingerprinting has proven to be an effective way for creating high-quality fingerprint pictures that can be used to compare against the FBI’s database.

Additionally, ink fingerprinting may be necessary for out-of-state licenses or background checks. Possible reasons for this include a lack of infrastructure to process electronic fingerprints, or a requirement for physical fingerprint cards before they can be sent to the FBI.

Work visas, residence permits, and travel visas are just some of the reasons why ink fingerprinting may be required by a foreign country or organization. This is due to the fact that ink fingerprinting is a reliable and widely accepted biometric identification method.

How Does Live Scan Fingerprinting Work, And When to Use This Method?

When time and precision are of the essence, live scan fingerprinting is the method of choice. Background checks, security clearances, licenses, and certifications are just some of the many uses for this technique. When several fingerprint cards of the same person are required, live scan fingerprinting is the method of choice. In this scenario, fingerprints are scanned digitally once and then duplicated on physical cards as many times as necessary. When a person has to be licensed by various agencies or states, this is quite helpful.

Live scan fingerprinting is a cutting-edge technique for digitally collecting fingerprints, and it’s amazing to see how it works. Live scan fingerprinting replaces the ink and paper method with a digital scanner to record fingerprints. The first step in the procedure is for the person to place their fingertips on a glass plate. The fingerprints are then digitally captured in high quality by the live scan machine’s digital sensors. Light is used to scan the fingerprints and pick out the ridges and valleys that make each fingerprint unique.

When fingerprints are taken with a live scan machine, the image is digitized and sent electronically to the relevant agency for processing. The electronic transmission of fingerprints is quicker and more efficient than traditional ink fingerprinting. Live scan fingerprints, like ink hard cards, can be printed off and used by any state or federal agency.

Many corporations and government departments now exclusively use electronic fingerprinting due to its convenience and efficiency. Live scan fingerprinting, in general, is a crucial tool in many domains, such as federal and state agencies for security clearances and job checks, because it is a fast and effective means to acquire fingerprints electronically.

The Key Components of a Live Scan System

Each part of a Live Scan system is designed to complement the others so that fingerprints may be captured, processed, and transmitted as quickly and accurately as possible. When doing a live scan, each of the following is essential:

The Live Scan Fingerprinting Device:

The fingerprint reader, or Live Scan, is the first part of the system to make contact with your fingers. To meet the varied requirements of the Live Scan procedure, it can record a wide range of print styles, from rolls to simple impressions to 4-finger slaps. An additional safety measure is provided by the liveness detection feature included into some live scan fingerprinting equipment, which verifies that the fingerprint being collected is from a real person.

‍Live scan software:

The central processing unit. It monitors the whole process, from capturing an image to sending the data, to make sure everything goes through without a hitch. Incomplete fingerprints or fingers that aren’t properly aligned can be fixed with the software’s in-the-moment image quality checks. While an added security measure, it monitors the fingerprint data while it is electronically transmitted to the appropriate Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) or Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS).

Computer Workstation:

The computer workstation, be it a laptop or desktop, acts as the nerve center of the Live Scan activity. It’s not only about storing data; rather, it’s about coordinating the complete operation, from assisting the user to overseeing the transfer of collected information.

Trained Professional in Real-Time Scans:

A trained operator is the driving force behind any successful live scan system. Trained in the system’s functioning and intricacies, the live scan providers guide and reassure the individual being fingerprinted, navigate the program, and oversee the safe transfer of data.

Live Scan’s primary features are complemented by a number of optional extras that expand the system’s use. These enhancements supplement the core features by adding depth and flexibility to the identification procedure.

Digital Camera

A digital camera is utilized to take a picture of the applicant if one is needed. It’s a helpful kind of secondary verification for purposes including licensing and immigration.

Signature Pad:

The individual’s digital signature may be captured by this device, making it useful for formalizing papers and verifying permission in various procedures.

All of these parts work together to make the Live Scan experience smooth, accurate, and simple to use. They all contribute to making the Live Scan procedure an exemplar of cutting-edge efficacy and precision in biometric identification.

From Ink to Digital Fingerprints: A Brief Overview of Live Scan Fingerprinting

The intricacy of the Live Scan system can only be completely appreciated after its individual parts are understood. What led to its final shape, though? Insights into the development of fingerprint recognition procedures may be gained by looking at the history of live scan technologies.

Let’s follow the evolution of fingerprinting from its paper-and-pencil roots to its present-day digital incarnation.

The Dawn of Fingerprinting

The practice of using fingerprints as an identifier has been around for a lot longer than most people think. Business transactions were recorded using fingerprints on clay tablets in ancient Babylon, while in China fingerprints were employed on official papers as early as the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

The systematic examination of fingerprints, however, did not start until the nineteenth century. The fingerprint research by Charles Darwin’s cousin, the British scientist Sir Francis Galton, was published in 1892. The scientific study of fingerprints and their individuality owes much to his efforts.

Ink-and-Paper Era

Law enforcement organizations throughout the world began using fingerprinting systems in the early 20th century. However, rolling fingers in ink and then onto a paper card was a filthy, labor-intensive, and time-consuming operation.

Fingerprint cards would thus need a large amount of physical space for filing, sorting, and searching. In addition, inked fingerprint quality varied widely, sometimes resulting in ambiguous or erroneous findings.

On the Path to Automation: The Birth of AFIS

The FBI’s decision to automate the formerly manual and time-consuming process of fingerprint identification represented a major development in the field in the late 1960s. In order to investigate the possibility of automating fingerprint classification, searching, and matching, the National Bureau of Standards (now known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology) was hired.

As entire picture storage was too expensive at the time, in 1974 the FBI implemented the first Automated Fingerprint Identification technology (AFIS), an innovative technology that stores essential parts of a fingerprint, known as minutiae.

The Emergence of Live Scan Technology

In 1975, the FBI began sponsoring research and development of automated classifiers and minutiae extraction technologies, which led to the creation of fingerprint scanners. Capacitive fingerprint data collection methods were developed as a result, giving rise to the first reader prototype.

Although AFIS was a technical improvement, fingerprinting was still a manual process that required ink and paper. In the 1980s, however, the first Live Scan systems appeared, revolutionizing the industry despite the fact that their bulk and high price made them out of reach for many businesses.

In the twenty-first century, Live Scan systems have become more portable, cost-effective, and high-tech because of these developments. The FBI’s 1999 implementation of the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) was a watershed moment in the history of criminal justice. Additionally, improvements in size, cost, and sophistication have made live-scan fingerprint devices more accessible. As hardware improved, so did the corresponding software, which became more complex to guarantee precision and efficiency.

For fingerprint-based background checks today, Live Scan is the gold standard. It’s proof that government agencies, businesses, and other groups will never stop trying to find better ways to verify people’s identities quickly and reliably.

The Never-Ending Trip

Live Scan, like any other technology, is always getting better. Its evolution from paper to digital format has revolutionized the identification and verification processes. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement, and maybe in the future, biometric identification will be even more accurate, efficient, and secure than it already is.

Live Scan Fingerprinting: How Does It Function?

By following the development of Live Scan fingerprinting, we have come to a comprehensive grasp of the many important breakthroughs in this field. Now that we know where Live Scan came from, we can examine its practical applications.

How does the Live Scan procedure work for those who need to submit fingerprints for whatever purpose, whether they are employers doing background checks on applicants or individuals applying for certain licenses? Let us outline the process and describe what you may anticipate during a Live Scan session.

Getting Ready for the Real-Time Scan

The Live Scan procedure starts long before you even touch the scanner. First, decide why you need to get fingerprinted, then fill out the corresponding Live Scan form. This may be necessary for the purpose of job screening, licensure, or certification. The Live Scan Operator will fill out the Request for Live Scan fingerprinting service part of the form, which contains spaces for your personal data and contact information.

The Live Scan Session

The operator of the Certified Live Scan service walks you through the scanning process after your form has been completed and confirmed. Here’s what usually goes on during a Live Scan session:

  • Fingerprint capture involves placing your fingertips on the live scan device’s glass surface while being directed by an operator. Flat scans of all ten fingers on both hands will be taken in sequence, beginning with the thumbs. The operator will next have you roll each fingernail over the scanner’s sensor. This is done one finger at a time, allowing for clear, high-resolution photos of each fingerprint to be captured without the need for messy ink cartridges or paper prints.
  • Digital photographs and electronic signatures can be captured by the operator using supplementary hardware if necessary. This provides an additional form of identity that may be used for things like licensing and immigration.
  • The operator checks the fingerprints, pictures, and signatures for correctness and clarity after collecting them. If problems are found, including blurry fingerprints or fingers that aren’t in the right spots, the operator may ask you to try again.

Information Transfer

Once the Live Scan Operator has collected and confirmed all the required information, they will use the specialized software to send the digital fingerprint data in a safe manner to the relevant federal or state agency. This might include the FBI or the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Live scan fingerprinting typically completes in 5-10 minutes.

Conveyance of Background Check Outcomes

The relevant law enforcement agency does a background check after receiving the electronic submission. The completed background check is then electronically returned to the requesting agency. This can take anything from a few minutes to a few weeks, depending on the state and the agency in question.

The Live Scan procedure employs cutting-edge technology and a trained operator to facilitate speedy, accurate, and simple fingerprint-based background checks. This exemplifies how technology has reduced a process that was formerly labor-intensive and time-consuming, making it both more accurate and faster while still protecting sensitive personal data. Our dedication to improving identification procedures in light of the digital era is exemplified by Live Scan’s development.

Understanding how the Live Scan process works reveals how revolutionary it is compared to the old fingerprint-based background check in terms of accuracy, speed, and ease of use. However, you may be thinking, “Why is Live Scan relevant to me?” To address this question, let’s take a look at the many ways in which Live Scan may be used and used, as well as the reasons why this technology has become so crucial to our modern digital lives.

Who Should Get a Live Scan, and Why?

Live Scan technology is pervasive and is used in a wide variety of fields and professions to conduct essential background checks that contribute to the maintenance of a safe and trustworthy society. Who precisely does this service benefit, and what drives the demand for it? Several applications of Live Scan and their significance will be discussed below.

Certification and Licensing for the Professions:

Live Scan fingerprinting is an integral element of the certification or licensing procedure in many occupations. Regulators can protect the public’s faith in the profession and in its practitioners by conducting background checks on applicants and licensees.

  • Background checks are commonly a component of the licensing process for doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. Live Scan fingerprinting is similar and may be required of therapists, counselors, and psychologists.
  • Background checks are common practice for attorneys, legal advisors, and other professionals in the legal industry to verify they are trustworthy with confidential client information and other duties.
  • Background checks are typically required to obtain a license as a real estate agent or broker. This guarantees they are reliable enough to handle high-stakes financial transactions and private customer data.
  • Live Scan fingerprinting may be required for certification purposes. This includes not just teachers and school workers, but also tutors and private instructors.

Volunteers Working with Vulnerable Populations:

Background checks are common practice for volunteers working with vulnerable groups. Live Scan provides a time-saving, precise, and effective method for performing these analyses.

  • A Live Scan check is frequently needed for those who volunteer in child-serving settings including schools, children’s hospitals, and children’s activities.
  • Protection of Vulnerable Adults: A background check on volunteers in senior care institutions or home care services may be necessary.
  • People who work or volunteer with people who have impairments are frequently required to undergo extensive background checks.

Criminal Record Checks for Employment:

Live Scan fingerprinting is becoming used as a condition of employment, notably in government, education, and healthcare. This aids businesses in making well-informed recruiting decisions and preventing potentially dangerous persons from obtaining positions of trust.

  • Given the gravity of their duties, employers frequently do extensive background checks before hiring candidates for public safety jobs including police officers, firemen, EMTs, and similar positions.
  • Live Scan fingerprinting is commonly required for healthcare professionals to get a license, including nurses, physicians, carers, and home health aides.
  • Background checks are commonly needed by teachers, tutors, school volunteers, and other members of the educational staff to ensure the safety of the students in their care.
  • Bankers, financial consultants, and insurance agents are just a few examples of service industry workers who may need to go through vetting to prove they can be trusted with customers’ money.

Visa and Immigration Policies:

Live Scan fingerprinting is required for usage with several visa and immigration processes. Helpful for verifying the applicant’s identification and checking their background with immigration authorities.

  • Applicants for certain visas may be required to submit a Live Scan fingerprint check as part of the application procedure.
  • Those seeking permanent residency or citizenship in the United States may be asked to submit fingerprints using Live Scan.

Foster care and adoptions:

Adoptive and foster parents-to-be are subject to background checks to protect the children in their care. Live Scan is widely utilized because of its efficiency and reliability.

  • Services for Adoption: Those who wish to adopt a child are often subject to a thorough live scan background check.
  • When applying for foster care services, prospective parents must undergo a rigorous screening to ensure they can offer a loving home for the children in their charge.

Live Scan fingerprinting, as we have shown, is useful in a variety of contexts, including legal ones like hiring, licensing, volunteering, and adoption. It’s a must-have for making sure they are who they say they are and that they’re qualified for the jobs they’re applying for. Why is Live Scan the best option for doing such crucial background checks? We’ll examine the main benefits of this cutting-edge technology and why they make it preferable to more conventional approaches in the next part.

Where to Find Live Scan Providers Near You?

Knowing what Live Scan is and why it’s useful is one thing, but where do you go to get it done when you need it? We can help you get a background check for employment, licensing, or volunteering, whether you’re an individual in need of such a check or a company in need of coordinating such checks for several employees. This resource can help you locate a local supplier of Live Scan services.

Visit Local Law Enforcement Agencies:

A variety of local police and sheriff’s departments provide Live Scan services to the public. Some may require an appointment, so it’s best to phone ahead and be sure.

Online search or Google Maps

A fast web search can frequently provide answers if you need help with where to begin.

  • To locate nearby Live Scan centers, just put “Live Scan locations near me” on Google Maps. The hours of operation, phone number, and customer ratings and comments for each location may be gleaned from here.
  • You may find local suppliers of Live Scan services by conducting a similar search on your preferred search engine.

Make Use Of Search Engines

Locator tools available online are the most efficient approach in discovering a nearby Live Scan service. You may enter your zip code or city name into online locators provided by several government and business service providers to discover the nearest Live Scan site. Just a few instances:

  • Channelers on the FBI’s Approved Channeler List Channelers on the FBI’s Approved Channeler List are able to conduct Live Scan services.
  • The websites of many individual states’ departments of justice have directories or other methods for locating certified Live Scan service providers.
  • Numerous private businesses around the United States provide Live Scan services; many of them have straightforward online locators.

Check with Regulatory Bodies:

The State Bar for Attorneys and the State Department of Health for Medical Practitioners are just two examples of regulatory bodies that may be able to put you in the right direction if you require a Live Scan to practice your chosen profession legally.

 Ask Your Current or Future Employer:

Your company or potential employer will most likely provide you with information on where to go if you need to have a Live Scan as part of the hiring process. Live Scan technology may even be available on-site at certain bigger enterprises.

Investigate Live Scan Services That Can Go To You:

Some Live Scan suppliers also provide mobile services, where they will bring the Live Scan equipment to your location for added convenience. Organizations that need to fingerprint a large number of people quickly may find this handy.

Make sure you have a government-issued ID like a driver’s license or passport on hand when you arrive. Also required is a request for a Live Scan service form, which should include the contact details of the seeking agency.

It takes only a few clicks on a computer or mobile device to locate a Live Scan service provider in your area. Live Scan’s broad use has made it simpler than ever to gain access to this lightning-quick, impenetrable system. Finally, Live Scan keeps doing what it says it will do: making background checks faster and more accurate while still protecting users’ privacy and security.

What are the Top Benefits of Live Scan?

Background checks have been revolutionized by Live Scan fingerprinting, which offers several advantages over paper fingerprint cards. There are many different industries that have quickly adopted this technology because of its advantageous mix of speed, precision, dependability, and ease. Let’s go further into these advantages.

Effectiveness and Rapidity:

Live Scan’s quickness is one of its most noticeable advantages. It might take weeks or months for findings using conventional fingerprinting procedures. Live Scan’s turnaround time for background checks varies from minutes to weeks, depending on the nature of the investigation.

  • Quicker Processing: No more waiting for fingerprint cards to arrive in the mail thanks to digital fingerprint capture and transmission. The processing time for background checks is shortened as a consequence.
  • Live Scan’s rapid turnaround time means that in time-sensitive situations, you can get your answers in as little as a few minutes.


The use of Live Scan technology improves the reliability of identification and background checks by reducing the room for human mistakes inherent in these processes.

  • Live Scan systems collect high-resolution photos, so dirty or illegible fingerprints are less likely to cause mistakes or require retakes.
  • Live Scan’s error-checking software ensures high-quality fingerprint photos even while they’re being captured, minimizing the possibility of false rejections.


Live Scan’s emphasis on safety is a major plus. There are many layers of security built into the system to ensure the safety of your private data.

  • Sensitive information may be safely transmitted thanks to the Live Scan system’s built-in encryption technology.
  • Protecting Individual Privacy: Because Live Scan is performed digitally, fingerprint pictures are not retained and may be removed after use.

Ease of Use:

Background checks are made much more convenient with Live Scan, which is good news for both the people being fingerprinted and the businesses doing them.

  • Digital printing eliminates the need for messy ink and paper, creating a more pleasant and sanitary procedure.
  • Because Live Scan services are provided at so many different places, people can easily select one that is most convenient for them and finish their background check there.


As we’ve seen, Live Scan’s adaptability makes it useful in many different contexts and fields.

Live Scan’s versatility has led to its widespread adoption; the program serves a variety of purposes in fields as diverse as law enforcement, immigration, education, and healthcare.

Because of its reliability and speed, Live Scan has become the de facto standard for fingerprinting and identification verification all around the world.

Public Safety:

Live Scan’s ability to conduct thorough background checks in a short amount of time is a major step toward improving public safety.

  • Quicker apprehending of criminals is made possible by Live Scan’s near-instant identification in law enforcement settings.
  • Protecting Vulnerable Groups from Potentially Harmful Employees Live Scan helps industries including education, healthcare, and public services avoid employing people with certain criminal records.

Environmentally Friendly:

Live Scan is environmentally friendly since it may replace ink and paper fingerprinting.

Traditional fingerprinting procedures involve the use of ink and paper, both of which are wasteful and contribute to deforestation. Because Live Scan is digital, we may forego the use of these resources and lessen our impact on the environment.


Live Scan aids businesses in fulfilling their legal responsibilities and preserving their standing in the market.

  • Background checks are mandatory in many fields because of government regulations. Live Scan provides an effective and trustworthy method for accomplishing this compliance mandate.
  • Live Scan’s digital nature means that audit trails are easily accessible, which is useful for keeping track of who did what and when, as well as showing proof of compliance in the event of an inspection or audit.

For these and other reasons, Live Scan is an indispensable resource in the modern day. It is a major participant in the field of contemporary identification and verification procedures due to its speed, accuracy, security, ease, adaptability, environmental friendliness, contribution to public safety, and easing of compliance.

Which one is superior?

Each method has its own set of advantages. Compared to the traditional fingerprinting method, ink fingerprinting is more accessible and affordable. The digital option is more expensive but more dependable and less of a headache overall. If the prints are not precise enough, the appropriate authorities may reject them and force you to start over.

It’s important to remember, though, that electronic fingerprinting is only an option if the prints were taken in the same state as the license application. Any time an applicant registers for a license in a state that requires fingerprints, new fingerprints will be taken regardless of the method chosen. The ink form of fingerprint records is only good in one state and cannot be shared with other states.

To facilitate future transfers (within that state), fingerprints are often stored in the databases of many digital fingerprint providers. This may not be the case, however, in every jurisdiction or under every set of conditions.

Live Scan fingerprinting is far less of a hassle than the old ink and paper method. Live Scan Fingerprinting is preferable to traditional fingerprinting methods because it eliminates the potential for human mistakes caused by using an inadequate or excessive amount of ink.

In addition, the ink distribution on the card might be significantly altered by the rolling criterion, leading to even more identification problems.

Summing Up

All in all, both ink fingerprinting and live scan fingerprinting have their uses, and it’s important to know when to employ both. The use of ink fingerprinting is still beneficial and frequently necessary, despite the growing popularity of live scan fingerprinting due to its speed and accuracy. Let’s say you need to be fingerprinted for whatever reason but you can’t decide between ink and live scan. Always double-check with the organization or agency asking for fingerprints to be sure you’re submitting them the right way.