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Difference Between Police Clearance and DBS Checks

Apply for a DBS Check

A Police Clearance Certificate, often referred to as a “good conduct” certificate, is an official document issued by law enforcement agencies. This sort of police check is about verifying an individual's criminal record status, telling immigration departments or employers about any criminal convictions, or pending charges. It sounds remarkably similar to applying for a DBS check but there are subtle differences. In very basic terms, a DBS check applies only to people who are currently living in England and Wales, and there are similar criminal checking processes for those in Northern Ireland or Scotland. If someone wishes to apply for a job requiring a criminal records check but is currently living overseas, or has lived overseas for extended periods over the last five years, then they might be asked to get a police clearance certificate from their home country.

Similarly, DBS checks are only valid for those who are applying to work in the UK. If you need a criminal records check because you are moving overseas to take up a position and need it to show a new employer or immigration authorities, then you will deal with a government body called ACRO rather than the DBS


Getting A Police Clearance Certificate

In the UK, Police Clearance Certificates are issued by ACRO and contain an individual's criminal record information. When you complete the application form for an ACRO certificate, you are asked to state the purpose. ACRO police certificates typically include basic personal details such as your name, date of birth, place of birth, and address history, along with a list of any unspent criminal convictions, certain cautions, reprimands, and pending prosecutions. Just as with DBS checks, any convictions or cautions which you received when you were a minor will mostly be filtered out.


Data Sources for ACRO Certificates

ACRO gets the information which it puts on Police Clearance Certificates from various sources. Standard conviction and caution information comes from the Police National Computer (PNC). Information on cautions, reprimands, and pending prosecutions is taken from court records and police force systems. Checks will also be run against the electoral register to make sure you live where you say you do. There is full guidance about what information is required on the ACRO website.


Getting an ACRO Police Clearance Certificate

If you have been asked to get an ACRO police certificate, then you must apply through the ACRO website or via a paper application form. Online is easier and quicker, as it eliminates any postal delays. The process will involve providing personal details, paying a fee, and possibly undergoing fingerprint checks depending on the requirements of the country you are dealing with. The bureaucracy and checks required for moving overseas can be considerable and you shouldn’t underestimate the time it can take to get through all the paperwork. Always leave more time than you think you are going to need, as in some cases you might not be able to get onto the plane without all the documentation already in place.