Police clearance certificates also called police checks, or criminal record checks may be requested if you apply for a visa, or for employment, even volunteering, in many countries. These certificates are typically issued by national police departments or justice departments depending on the country of issue. It is important to find out if you need a police clearance certificate whenever you apply to move to another country or if you are applying for a job. Occasionally, you may need a fingerprint check (e.g. when registering as a teacher in New Zealand and you have worked in Australia previously), but usually, the certificate just lists any criminal records or not you have had.

How do I get a police clearance certificate?

Every country is different and in some cases, there are differences between states, provinces, or other regional police or justice administrations. It is normally easy to find out where to get a police clearance certificate by Googling it. You probably have a choice between applying for a police check yourself or using an agency to do it for you. The obvious advantage of doing it yourself is that it is cheaper, but there are also advantages of using an agency. The agency knows exactly what documents you need to fill in and what the requirements are to get the clearance certificate and will typically be faster but will expect you to pay for it.

How long is a police clearance valid for?

Normally, the police clearance just lists any criminal records they have up to the point you applied for the clearance. Most commonly, there won’t be any and this will be indicated on the clearance certificate. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, but this has not yet got to the stage of a conviction, then it would not show up on the clearance certificate. 

As far as how long the police clearance is valid for this depends entirely on the organization requesting it. It may be sufficient to submit a police clearance that is 3 months, or 6 months old or you may be asked to provide a more recent one. This can be a frustrating experience as often applications, especially for immigration purposes, may take several months and the police clearance may be the last document asked for. If you submitted a fresh police clearance certificate at the beginning of the whole process, you may still have to get a new one later on!

How long does it take to get a police clearance certificate?

This depends on the efficiency of the issuing authority and often just how many other clearance checks there are needed to be done. It is quite a burden on many police departments to have to deal with police clearance certificates and it can take anything from a couple of weeks to several months to get a certificate. In some countries with well-established bureaucracies, the time to get a police clearance will be stated in the number of business days from the date of receipt of the form. Agencies will often state that they can get your certificate faster than you can, but this may be just because they know what has to be done better than you do.

What if my police clearance certificate is not written in English?

If you had to obtain police clearance certificates from countries that you have lived in previously and they are not in English (or in the same language as the country in which the request has been made) you will be almost definitely asked to provide a translation from an accredited or approved professional police clearance translation service.