All About ACRO and Police Check UK
Most of us will have heard about the process for running criminal records checks on applicants for certain jobs within the UK. This process is run by the Disclosure and Barring Service in England and Wales, and similar sister bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Perhaps less well-known, is ACRO, or the Criminal Records Office. This body offers a similar service, but with a few key differences.
Emigration and Overseas Jobs
The main group of people who have to deal with ACRO are people from the UK who are moving overseas to take up a job or work permanently. Just as we in the UK have rules about criminal records checks for people arriving to work in education or in the healthcare sector, companies, and organisations in other parts of the world have similar checks. If you’re planning on leaving the UK permanently and apply for a residence visa in Canada, New Zealand, Australia or many other countries, they want evidence of your good character and lack of criminal record first. ACRO can supply this sort of information to private individuals, rather than their employer or overseas government.
ACRO is also the “international” arm of the Police in the UK and deals with all other police forces around the globe. It will inform offenders’ home countries if they’re convicted of crimes in the UK and collate similar information about UK nationals who commit crimes overseas. Information is currently exchanged with all countries inside the European Union, and several other large countries such as Australia, Japan, or the United States.
Police Check UK
The ACRO equivalent of the disclosure check is called a police certificate. This is the piece of paper which is needed for your visa application for most countries, but not all. Each country around the world applies its on laws to visa applications, and rules change regularly. Many applicants choose to use the services of an agent to help them with their application, as the fee they pay for the services could save months of time, and additional expense in paying for the wrong pieces of paper.
A Police Check UK obtained through ACRO will show the details of an individual’s criminal convictions and cautions. If there are currently open cases against you going through the process of prosecution, these will be disclosed too. Finally, due to information sharing by many police services around the world, ACRO will include any details which it has about crimes committed overseas which it has been notified about. You can’t use an ACRO police certificate in place of a DBS check to secure a job within the UK, and you can’t use it if you are trying to get a visa to enter the UK from any other country. Not all offences will be disclosed, as the police will use a filtering process similar to that for a DBS check. There is also no requirement for a completely clear check as each organisation will make its own recruitment decision based on the information to hand.
International Child Protection Certificates
The other side to ACRO’s work is part of the international effort to protect children from harm or exploitation. People with an unhealthy interest in children often see those living in developing countries as easy targets and choose to volunteer or work with children overseas. The International Child Protection Certificate (ICPC) is as the name suggests a way of checking up on any adult who wants to work or volunteer with children around the world. Once a position has been secured overseas, applicants go to ACRO for a Police Check UK which gives roughly the same information as you would find on an enhanced disclosure. This system applies to workers at all levels, from a 19-year-old student on a summer trip to Asia, to an experienced teacher taking up a head teacher’s post overseas.
Application Process and Costs
After you’ve spoken to the organisation offering an overseas job or worked out exactly what paperwork a foreign government needs for your visa, go online to the ACRO website. On the homepage, you can click through to read more information about the specifics of each certificate should you wish to do so. Applications are easiest done online, but you’ll need to gather together some information before you sit down to fill in the form. In order to apply for either a Police Certificate or a ICPC you will need:
- Proof of address – driving licence, government paperwork, utility bills, bank statement
- An offer of employment, or some other paperwork stating you need an ACRO check
- Passport style photographs
- Colour copies of your passport
- National Insurance number and Driving Licence number (if you have them)
- Endorser – this is similar to the person who countersigns your passport application
Unlike other official forms you can’t start the ACRO form, then save it to complete at a later time. It has to be completed in one sitting, so that’s why it’s so important to have everything to hand before you sit down to start. You’ll also need a way of uploading your documents to the ACRO website. If you can’t do that, then there is still the option of printing off the form and sending everything through the post instead. You’ll also need access to either a debit or a credit card to pay the application fee, which is currently £75. ACRO has a target of processing applications within 12 working days, but doesn’t always hit this target at the peak period of March to June. If you need both a ICPC and a Police Certificate, you’ll have to apply twice, and pay two lots of fees. Certificates are sent out in the post by first class mail and can’t be emailed to applicants.
If you are working through an agency or using an immigration agent to help with your visa application, then they may be able to offer valuable hints and tips for applying for your paperwork. They don’t have the power to speed up the ACRO process or side-step the need for a certificate entirely but will have come across most situations before and can give guidance and advice on your specific circumstances.