Abstract The extensive use of criminal background checks—the request for information on prior convictions for non-judicial purposes—creates obstacles to a fair reentry of individuals with criminal records. Previous research has documented the growth in the use of criminal background checks in Western jurisdictions. However, much less is known about the evolution of criminal background checks in other parts of the world. In this study, I present and analyse an original dataset with information on requests for official criminal record certificates for non-judicial purposes in 52 countries. The results show that the reported use of criminal background checks for non-judicial purposes is rising in nearly every country measured. These findings advance our knowledge about the international character of a previously-ignored dimension of the globalisation of punitiveness.