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Government Watch List Search: A Guide for Employers

government watch list search

A government watch list search helps companies screen out applicants that are suspected to have engaged in terrorism or related activities and would therefore pose a significant safety risk if hired.

At iprospectcheck, we conduct employment background checks, including government watch list checks, for companies across the nation in a variety of industries.

This guide outlines everything you need to know about government watch list checks.

What is a Government Watch List Search?

A government watch list search identifies people who are known or suspected to be terrorists, or have engaged in related activities such as cybercrimes, drug or human trafficking, and more.

Many government agencies have watch lists that include the names and identifying information of people who pose various types of threats.

Based on your business and the positions for which you are hiring, you might need to check specific watch lists or search them all.

The following watch lists might be included in a government watch list check:

What Shows Up on a Government Watch List Search?

What shows up on a government watch list search depends on the lists you check.

In general, a government watch list search identifies:

  • International terrorists
  • Foreign terrorist organizations
  • International drug traffickers
  • Individuals and entities that have been included on lists by U.S. agencies and foreign governments
  • Debarred individuals and entities
  • Specially designated foreign nationals
  • Entities that have engaged in proliferation
  • Domestic terrorists

Here’s what each of the various types of watch list checks might show.

FBI Terrorist Watch List

The FBI Terrorist Watch List includes the names and identifying information of people who have engaged in terrorism or are reasonably suspected to engage in terrorist activities.

BIS Check

A BIS check through the Department of Commerce involves searches of the following four watch lists:

A BIS search identifies individuals and entities that have been denied export privileges.

It also identifies those who can’t be verified and thus can’t export goods.

Finally, a BIS search identifies individuals and entities that pose a threat to divert U.S. military assets to Venezuela, Russia, or China.

FBI Most Wanted List

An FBI Most Wanted search shows whether your applicant is a wanted fugitive for the following types of offenses:

  • Crimes against children
  • Murder
  • Other violent crimes
  • Cyber crimes
  • Terrorism
  • White collar crimes
  • Counterintelligence
  • Human trafficking
  • Criminal enterprise


A FACIS check is a search of a system of multiple databases that include varying levels of information.

The databases are updated regularly and include the names and identifying information of people who have engaged in fraud against the government and those who have engaged in patient abuse.

The following three levels of FACIS checks can be performed:

  • Level 1 FACIS search – Checks federal databases from the DEA, OIG, FDA, OFAC-SDN, Tricare, Medicare Opt-Out, and state Medicaid debarments and sanctions lists
  • Level 2 FACIS search – Includes everything in Level 1 and adds more state-specific searches
  • Level 3 FACIS search – Includes everything in levels 1 and 2 and adds data from sanctioning boards throughout the U.S. and all U.S. territories


A SAM background check reveals whether a candidate has been debarred or suspended from engaging in federal contracts or subcontracts.

Employers with federal contracts or subcontracts should avoid hiring people who have been debarred or suspended from contracting with the federal government.


The OIG’s List of Excluded Individuals/Entities (LEIE) is updated monthly.

The LEIE includes a list of individuals and entities that are excluded from working in healthcare for organizations that contract with Medicare, Medicaid, or other federal healthcare programs.

FDA Debarment Search

The FDA Debarment list includes individuals who have been barred from working within the pharmaceutical industry.

People are added to the list when they are convicted of crimes involving drug products.

Pharmaceutical employers can face stiff sanctions if they hire a debarred individual. Under 21 U.S.C. § 335b(7), employers that hire debarred individuals can be fined $250,000 for one person or $1 million for two or more debarred employees.

OFAC Check

The OFAC Sanctions List includes specially designated nationals and blocked persons, including narcotics traffickers, terrorists, those who pose a threat to national security, and those working on behalf of a targeted country.

Why Would Someone Be on a Government Watch List?

Someone might be listed on a government watch list for any of the following reasons:

  • Engaging in suspected terrorist activities
  • Committing fraud against the government
  • Committing Medicare or Medicaid fraud
  • Being a fugitive from justice
  • Committing violent, white collar, criminal enterprise, human trafficking, or cyber crimes
  • Participating in international drug trafficking
  • Working for a targeted country
  • Engaging in export crimes
  • Posing a threat of diverting military assets to target countries
  • Abusing patients in healthcare
  • Being convicted of crimes related to drug products

Who Should Run a Government Watch List Search?

The following types of employers should conduct government watch list searches.

1. Public Sector Employers

Employers in the public sector, including schools, universities, government agencies, and others, should conduct government watch list searches as a routine part of their background screening processes.

These searches can identify individuals that have been barred from engaging in federal contracts, have received government sanctions, and who might pose a safety risk.

2. Security Companies

Companies that hire security guards and other security professionals should check whether their candidates are included on government watch lists.

Since security professionals are tasked with maintaining safety and security, it’s important to confirm that they do not pose risks to their employers.

3. Companies with Sensitive Information

Companies that have trade secrets, handle sensitive materials, or deal with critical information should conduct watch list searches on all applicants for positions that will have access to them.

You don’t want to hire someone who might pose a threat to your company’s trade secrets or your clients’ sensitive information.

4. Technology and Information Management Companies

Technology and information management companies can benefit from including government watch list searches in their background checks.

These types of searches can screen out individuals who have committed cybercrimes, work for target countries, or have other issues that could pose a threat.

5. Airports and Airlines

Airports and airlines must ensure the safety of everyone in an airport and on airplanes. Checking government watch lists can screen out suspected terrorists and others who could threaten public safety.

6. Healthcare Employers

Healthcare employers that contract with Medicare or Medicaid should perform watch list checks to verify their applicants have not been debarred from these programs.

They also should do so to ensure they don’t hire individuals who have engaged in patient abuse or have been sanctioned by the state or federal government.

7. Multinational Corporations

Multinational corporations should include government watch list checks in their background screening processes.

This helps to ensure they don’t hire foreign nationals who have worked for target countries, diverted military assets, engaged in suspected terrorism, or have done anything else that could threaten their employers and national security interests.

How does a Government Watch List Search Help Your Business?

Including government watch list searches in your background screens can offer the following benefits:

  • Conduct due diligence in confirming the safety of your candidates
  • Avoid potential problems in the future
  • Prevent substantial legal liability and fines
  • Protect your business reputation
  • Maintain the safety of your company’s trade secrets and other sensitive information
  • Promote a safe workplace

Even if you are not in an industry that requires government watch list checks, conducting these screens can help to prevent potential future problems.

How to Search a Government Watch List

There are two main ways to conduct a government watch list search, including taking a do-it-yourself approach or partnering with a trusted third-party background check provider.

Let’s take a look at both options.

1. Do-it-Yourself

Some companies attempt to conduct government watch list searches on their own through a do-it-yourself approach. They might perform searches on individual government database websites.

However, some watch lists, including the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center, can’t be accessed by the public.

Since there are numerous watch lists and databases to check, trying to complete a do-it-yourself watch list check might be unfeasible.

You might miss important searches, not have access to others, and end up with incomplete, inaccurate, or out-of-date information.

2. Partnering With a Reliable Third Party Background Check Provider

The best way to conduct government watch list checks is to partner with a reliable background check company like iprospectcheck.

Our extensive access to watch lists and government databases allows us to quickly confirm whether your applicants are included on any lists.

We also verify the listed individuals are the same people as the candidates we check to prevent potential problems.

We also conduct many other types of employment background checks, including employment verification, education verification, professional license verification, criminal history searches, and more.

When you work with us, you can be confident that the results you receive are accurate, up-to-date, and fully compliant with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and other relevant employment background check laws.

iprospectcheck: Your Trusted Partner for Government Watchlist Searches

Government watch list searches help companies screen out potentially dangerous individuals and those who have been debarred from working in certain industries.

Including these types of checks in your background screening process can help to protect the safety of your company and the clients you serve.

At iprospectcheck, we conduct government watch list searches for employers in all 50 states.

Contact us today to learn about our background check services and to receive a free quote: (888) 509-1979

DISCLAIMER: The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. Consult your counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

Know Before You Hire

About the Author
Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers

Matthew J. Rodgers is a highly accomplished business executive with over 30 years of experience providing strategic vision and leadership to companies ranging from the fortune 500 to iprospectcheck, a company which he co-founded over a decade ago. Matthew is a valued consultant who is dedicated to helping companies create and implement efficient, cost effective and compliant employment screening programs. Matt has been a member of the Professional Background Screeners Association since 2009 . When not focused on iprospectcheck, he can be found spending time with his family, fly fishing, or occasionally running the wild rivers of the American west. A lifetime member of American Whitewater, Matt is passionate about protecting and restoring America’s whitewater rivers.