Skip to main content

Our mission is to support & advocate for people with criminal records to be able to move on positively in their lives. Find out more

Police certificate


Police certificate

Issued by

The National Police Chiefs’ Council Criminal Records Office (often referred to as ACRO)


For individuals that wish to emigrate to a number of countries, including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cayman Islands, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United States of America.

They are also used to obtain a visa for immigration purposes (e.g. travel to the US for tourism purposes)

What it contains

All convictions, reprimands, warnings and cautions recorded on UK Police systems, although it doesn’t disclose anything that is eligible to be ‘stepped down’. Read more about this below and see the guidelines that set out when things are stepped down.

How to apply

Visit the Police Certificate section of the ACRO website to view the application form and guidance notes.

Who can apply for it

Anyone who has lived in the UK for any length of time, regardless of nationality

Contact details

A: ACRO (SAO), PO Box 623, Fareham, Hampshire, PO14 9HR
T: 02380 479 920


£55 (standard service) and £95 (premium service)

How long it takes

The standard service takes 10 working days and the premium service takes 2 working days, not including dates of receipt or dispatch.

However, if you are due to travel shortly, ACRO suggest that you may want to consider the premium service. However, if you have an arrest/conviction on your record and are using a police certificate to go through an approval process (such as applying for a visa to travel to the US), it is unlikely that, at such short notice, you will be able to complete the other steps in the process.

Where it is sent

It is sent to the applicant at the address requested on the application form

A sample certificate

Click the image above to increase the size.  

How to correct inaccurate information

If you feel the information is inaccurate, you will need to contact your local Police Force outlining the inaccurate information. Each Chief Police Officer is the Data Controller for their PNC record, and has the ability to delete information. There is an exceptional case procedure, but this is normally confined to deleting local police information.

My police certificate doesn’t contain some details that it should / I’ve got a ‘No Live Trace’; what should I do?

If you have been arrested and/or convicted in the UK and your Police Certificate states “No Trace” or “No Live Trace” (or does not list in full your arrests/convictions), you might still be required to provide details (e.g. when applying for a visa). You may want to apply to the individual court to obtain a record of all convictions and any charges pending.

‘No Trace’ means that you have no convictions, reprimands, final warnings or cautions held on the Police National Computer.

‘No Live Trace’ means that there is criminal record information held on the Police National Computer but it has been ‘stepped down‘.  Anyone who sees this and understands this phrase can assume that you have a criminal record from the past, even if they can’t see the details. If this applies to you, we advise that you contact ACRO to obtain details of the conviction information that was not disclosed on your Certificate.  If you have requested a Police Certificate for travel purposes, many Embassies will require this detail in order to make a decision on whether or not they should issue you with a visa.  Once you receive the undisclosed information from ACRO you will be required to contact the relevant Embassy and disclose your previous conviction/s.

Once the Embassy has this information they will contact ACRO to verify that the conviction details you have provided them with are correct.  They will do this in the form of an email quoting what details you have provided and asking ACRO to confirm whether it is correct or not.  ACRO can only confirm or deny what has been related by the Embassy.  If the information you have provided isn’t correct, the Embassy will ask you to contact ACRO again in order to go through your conviction details so they can be re-submitted to the relevant Embassy.

The Embassies use this process to gauge honesty and integrity and whether you have presented yourself as someone of general good character.


Can I get “No Live Trace” changed to “No Trace”?

Probably not. As mentioned in the question above, people with “No Live Trace” can be concerned that others will know that this means they have a criminal records.

The step-down process is not set out in legislation – so ACRO do not legally have to operate it. For police certificates, the alternative would be a certificate that contained all convictions and cautions. Unfortunately, we think that any challenge to the fact that “No Live Trace” suggests there is a criminal record on file is unlikely to be successful.


Other information

  • Applications for other countries may be accepted subject to confirmation by the applicant of acceptance by the relevant Embassy, High Commission or requiring organisation
  • ACRO are currently piloting this initiative, which provides police certificates for visa purposes. This police certificate is issued solely for immigration purposes and shows details of arrests and convictions. It covers the whole of the United Kingdom and is sent to the address provided at the time of the application. It is different to a Subject Access Request (SAR), which can be used to find out any details held on the Police National Computer, including allegations
  • More information about Police Certificates is available here
  • ACRO still apply the principles of the step-down process when processing Police Certificates. More information on step-down is available here



Add Comment
  1. “No Live Trace” should be reformed as its self-defeating. Considering that as soon as an embassy notes “No Live Trace” they will ask for more details, they may as well list the crimes at the same time. Add to this the wicked rule of not removing entries until someone is 100 years old, this is just a slap in the face to anyone who has reformed their life.

    1. I agree completely. As someone that has been reformed over 23 years I am starting the process of getting a visa to take my wife and children on holiday to America, but it is an uphill struggle. I mean, what is the purpose of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act if not to support reform and rehabilitation.

      1. The USA does not follow the rehabilitation act. It’s so simple, dont commit a crime and you’ll get in anywhere. And yes I have a criminal record

    2. Hi. My certificate was 2 pages. States ‘No live trace’ on page 1. On page 2 it has the conviction that was stepped down in detail. Date, court / force, offence description, disposal and status. Was this printed on yours or is this a new thing? Thanks

  2. Agree entirely. I wrote to my MP, Meg Hillier, back in 2016 making exactly this point (in this case with regard to a minor caution over ten years prior). Their response was frustrating to say the least, arguing that even simple possession of drugs was a scourge on the community and, by proxy, that the law is absolutely right to stand this way. Essentially, that stepping-down of offences (and rehabilitation) might as well be discarded and that any record should be permanent. I despair! And that was from a Labour politician in a liberal area of London.

  3. I was subject to a conditional discharge in 1999 when I was 17 (24 years ago)
    Will this show on a police certificate or will it present as no live trace?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Photo of Head of Advice, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Head of Advice

Do you need help & support with an issue you’re facing?

We provide support and advice for people in England and Wales who need guidance with either their own, or someone else’s, criminal record.

Please use the search box to start typing your issue. If you cannot find an answer to your problem then you’ll be given options to contact us directly.

Find out more about the helpline

We want to make sure that our website is as helpful as possible.

Letting us know if you easily found what you were looking for or not enables us to continue to improve our service for you and others.

Was it easy to find what you were looking for?

Thank you for your feedback.

12 million people have criminal records in the UK. We need your help to help them.

Help support us now