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All About Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS)

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What is it?

The Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, more commonly known as IAFIS, is a national fingerprint and criminal history system maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division. The IAFIS provides automated fingerprint search capabilities, latent searching capability, electronic image storage, and electronic exchange of fingerprints and responses, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. As a result of submitting fingerprints electronically, agencies receive electronic responses to criminal ten-print fingerprint submissions within two hours and within 24 hours for civil fingerprint submissions.

The IAFIS maintains the largest biometric database in the world, containing the fingerprints and corresponding criminal history information for more than 55 million subjects in the Criminal Master File. The fingerprints and corresponding criminal history information are submitted voluntarily by state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies.

Just a few years ago, substantial delays were a normal part of the fingerprint identification process, because fingerprint cards had to be physically transported and processed. A fingerprint check could often take three months to complete. The FBI formed a partnership with the law enforcement community to revitalize the fingerprint identification process, leading to the development of the IAFIS. The IAFIS became operational in July 1999.

Photograph of Technician analyzing fingerprints
” The rapid response of fingerprint identification through IAFIS makes it possible to identify fugitives while they are still in police custody.”

What are the IAFIS Services?

The five key IAFIS services are:

1. Ten-Print Based Fingerprint Identification Services

A ten-print fingerprint submission contains ten-rolled fingerprint impressions and corresponding flat fingerprint impressions.

Criminal Ten-Print Fingerprint Submission

Fingerprints are acquired as a result of an arrest at the city, county, state or federal level. The fingerprints are processed locally and then electronically forwarded to a state or other federal agency system for processing. The fingerprints are then electronically forwarded through the CJIS Wide Area Network (WAN) to the FBI’s IAFIS for processing. Mailed ten-print fingerprint cards are converted to an electronic format for processing in the IAFIS environment.

Civil Ten-Print Fingerprint Submission

Fingerprints are acquired related to a background check for employment, licensing, and other non-criminal justice purposes where authorized by federal and state law and in compliance with appropriate regulations. (To determine what occupations are authorized within your state, contact your state police or your state criminal history repository). Like criminal fingerprints, civil fingerprints are processed by local, state or other federal agencies prior to being submitted to the IAFIS for processing.

For information regarding taking legible fingerprints for ten-print fingerprint submissions, click on the link, “Taking Legible Fingerprints.”

2. Fingerprint Services

The IAFIS supports both electronic and hard copy submissions of latent fingerprints. The IAFIS provides the FBI’s Laboratory with enhanced search capabilities using databases specially designed for matching latent fingerprints. Latent fingerprint specialists return decisions to the requestor and add any unidentified latent fingerprints and their features to the unsolved latent fingerprint file.

3. Subject Search and Criminal History Services

The Interstate Identification Index (III) segment of IAFIS is the national system designed to provide automated Criminal History Record Information (CHRI). The III stores the CHRI of federal offenders and those offenders established by participating and non-participating III states. Each III record is created through the submission of fingerprint images to IAFIS. The III participating states establish and update records within III through the submission of first and subsequent fingerprint images of arrested subjects. Once these records are established, the III participating states provide requested criminal history records when an electronic inquiry for a state-maintained record is processed by the III system. States participating in the final stage of III as National Fingerprint File (NFF) participants, submit only the first arrest fingerprint images on a subject to establish a pointer record within the III segment. Any subsequent activity related to this NFF pointer record will be the sole responsibility of the NFF participating state. If a direct terminal inquiry or an IAFIS fingerprint inquiry identifies a person with a criminal history in one or more NFF participating states, a Criminal History Request is forwarded to the participating NFF state’s criminal history system for the appropriate response.

4. Document and Imaging Services

Document Services - The IAFIS processes documents associated with criminal history records received by electronic input, hard copy, or Machine Readable Data format. These documents include arrest dispositions, expungements, and other miscellaneous updates. For more information on criminal history document submission click on the link, “Arrest Disposition Submission.”

Fingerprint Image Services - The IAFIS supplies electronic images of fingerprints to authorized agencies upon request. See the Electronic Fingerprint Transmission Specification (EFTS), Section 3.6-3.7 for more information.

Photo Services - The IAFIS has the capability to accept, store, and distribute photos. See the EFTS, Appendix K for information regarding photo submission and Section 3.10 for photo retrieval.

5. Remote Ten-Print and Latent Fingerprint Search Services

The IAFIS supports remote ten-print and latent fingerprint searches by law enforcement agencies. The results of remote ten-print and latent searches are returned electronically and include a list of potential matching candidates and their corresponding fingerprints for comparison and identification by the requesting agency.

The FBI will provide the following remote search software packages to criminal justice agencies upon request, free of charge.

Remote Fingerprint Editing Software - The Remote Fingerprint Editing Software (RFES) is a complete software package that will perform remote searches of the IAFIS. RFES supports remote IAFIS transactions to include images and feature-based searches for both latent and ten-print fingerprints. RFES editing and human interface were developed based on use and advice of both local law enforcement and FBI latent specialists.

Additional information regarding RFES in PDF format

Universal Latent Workstation Software - The Universal Latent Workstation (ULW) is a latent software package that will perform remote latent searches of the IAFIS.

Additional information regarding ULW in PDF format

IAFIS Interface Specifications

The Electronic Fingerprint Transmission Specification or EFTS defines the interface between the IAFIS and other agencies’ systems. The EFTS contains a description of operational concepts, descriptors, field edit specifications, image quality specifications, and other information related to IAFIS services. The Electronic Biometric Transmission Specification (EBTS) is the latest upgrade to the FBI fingerprint specification and replaces EFTS Version 7.1. The scope of the EBTS has been expanded over previous versions to include additional biometric modalities (e.g., palmprint, facial, and iris) in recognition of the rapidly developing biometric identification industry. The most recent update to the American National Standards Institute /National Institute of Standards and Technology-Information Technology Laboratory 1-2007 (ANSI/NIST-ITL 1-2007) standard includes new record types to facilitate data sharing for new biometric modalities. Integrating biometric data in accordance with the ANSI/NIST standard, the FBI EBTS provides a description of all requests and responses associated with electronic fingerprint and other biometric identification services. The most current EBTS, as well as all archived versions and other biometric standards information, can be found on the following Web site: