It may take a check a few business days to clear, depending upon how long it takes the payee to deposit the check and how long it takes the payor's bank to process and remove the funds from the account. A check is considering outstanding until it is cleared.
Bank processing time has been greatly reduced with the enactment of the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act on Oct. 28, 2004. This law enables payees to submit digital images of checks to banks for payment. The "Check 21" act was a direct result of problems transporting and clearing checks after the events of the September 11 terrorist attack.