Your fingerprints are unique identifiers – no two people have the exact same fingerprints. That’s the premise behind all biometrics, whether you’re unlocking your phone with your thumbprint or you’re getting your fingerprints taken to obtain a criminal record check.

Unfortunately, various activities can cause wear, calluses, and other distortions to your fingerprints. When these distortions occur, your fingerprints may be rejected.

In this article, we’ll discuss what happens when your fingerprints get rejected, the most common causes of rejected fingerprints, and what you can do to reduce the risk that your fingerprints get rejected.

What happens when fingerprints are rejected?

There are two fail cases for fingerprints. The first (and most common) scenario is that you visit a fingerprinting agency like FASTCHECK to get your fingerprints taken. When fingerprints aren’t clear enough, our highly trained staff will be able to tell. We’ll ask you to try to scan your fingerprints again. If we can’t get a clear imprint of your fingerprints, we’ll send you home and give you instructions on how to rectify any issues that may be causing unclear prints.

The second fail case occurs when your prints are deemed acceptable by the fingerprinting agency but unacceptable by whatever government agency you’re sending the fingerprints to. In these cases, applications can be seriously delayed. This is the worst-case scenario, and though it happens very rarely, it’s a good idea to take steps to prevent it from happening at all.

That brings us to our next question: What are the risk factors for unclear fingerprints? Let’s find out.

Common causes of low-quality fingerprints

Any activities that build calluses, smooth your skin, or otherwise distort your fingerprints can increase the chances that your fingerprints get rejected. Here are a few of the most common causes of low-quality fingerprints:

  • Frequent hand washing/frequently using hand sanitizer
  • Activities that create calluses (playing certain instruments, rock climbing, weight-lifting, manual labour, etc.)
  • Certain kinds of office work (typing, mailroom work, etc.)
  • Exposure to certain chemicals (bleach, chlorine, etc.)
  • Age – as you get older, fingerprints are harder to capture
  • Genetic factors

Some of the factors can be controlled, while others cannot. And while we’re not going to tell you to use anti-aging cream on your fingertips 5 times a day for a week before your appointment, we will give you some tips that can help anyone improve their chances of recording high-quality fingerprints.

How to improve the quality of your fingerprints


We said we wouldn’t tell you to use anti-aging cream. That’s true, but you do need to use a moisturizing lotion. A lot of it. We recommend using moisturizing lotion at least 3 times a day before your appointment. If you can, use lotion every time you wash your hands – after you dry them, of course!

Do not, however, use moisturizer the day of your appointment, as it can distort your fingerprints.

Plan ahead

Give your fingerprints as much of a break as you can before your appointment, especially if you’re at high risk of having low-quality fingerprints. If you love rock climbing or gardening, take a break for at least 5 days – a week if you can manage it. Does your work expose you to common risk factors? Schedule your fingerprinting appointment after a weekend, before you go to work. Better yet, schedule it after a long weekend. 

Start using lotion 5-7 days before your appointment. And let your hands rest for as long as possible – over a weekend is fine, over the course of a week is better still.

Find a fingerprinting agency with a great reputation

If your fingerprinting agency is still taking most of their fingerprints on ink pads, turn and run in the other direction. The most accurate fingerprinting services use digital scanning. Fingerprinting services that can’t detect low-quality fingerprints before sending them off tend to get bad reviews pretty quickly, so be sure to check reviews!

High-quality fingerprints can save you time and money

The steps we outlined above take some time – but not nearly as much time as having to reapply for a criminal record check. And when fingerprints are tied to immigration applications, getting them right can save you time, money, and headaches. We highly recommend following this guide! We hope it helps.