Most of us are aware of things like CRB checks and DBS checks. We’ve maybe even applied for a check to take up a new job, or voluntary position. But have you heard of the police clearance certificate? This is another type of background check which some people need. The circumstances are fairly specific, but it’s important to understand the system to avoid confusion at a later date.
ACRO and Police Clearance Certificates
ACRO is the Criminal Records Office in England and Wales. It does a similar job to the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) but has important differences too. DBS checks are usually done when you are applying for a new job. The type of job determines the type of DBS check which is needed. However, this type of check is only valid within the UK. If you are moving to take up a job overseas, you will need another type of certificate. Similarly, if you are trying to pull together documents to allow you to emigrate to another country, you’ll need a police clearance certificate rather than a DBS check.
The ACRO checks are also known as certificates of good character, or international checks. ACRO also produces International Child Protection Certificates (ICPCs) for people wanting to work with children and young people overseas. If you’re in Scotland, ACRO doesn’t apply. Approach Police Scotland for a copy of your conviction history, which you can then show an employer or immigration office. You can’t use this sort of certificate when applying for work in the UK. You can only use it to work overseas, or for a visa application.
Getting a Police Certificate
There’s lots of guidance on the ACRO website about the process for getting your certificate. Each foreign country has its own requirements about the type of statement they need. Don’t assume you know what an overseas embassy wants to see. Make absolutely sure that you’re getting the right sort of certificate, as you’ll only waste time and money otherwise. The ACRO police certificate lists your criminal record. However, it might not show all your past convictions or cautions. ACRO uses “filtering” when preparing certificates. This means that very old or minor convictions won’t usually be listed. (If you’re interested, there’s a 208 page document on the ACRO website explaining exactly how they do this). In situations where there is information on the police national computer about overseas convictions, then these might appear on your certificate too.
When taking up a job overseas, your employer might be willing to foot the bill for your ACRO certificate. If not, it’s down to you. A police certificate is just one of the dozens of pieces of paper you will be asked for when thinking about emigrating, but one of the most important. It’s best to try to organise the ACRO certificate as soon as possible. If there are any issues, you can clear those up before spending more money on health checks or other documents you might need. There is full guidance on the website, including information about how to upload your identity documents.