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Step-by-step guide to applying for a basic DBS check

Aim of this page

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) started carrying out basic criminal record checks in early 2018.  We have a dedicated landing page about basic DBS checks and also some specific information about basic disclosures.

There are two ways of getting a basic check from the DBS:

  • Option 1 – Applicants can apply directly to the DBS using their online self-service channel.
  • Option 2 – Applicants can apply via their employer or other registered organisation.

This guidance is a step-by-step process if you’re applying for a basic DBS check using option 1. It has been produced following an application made by a member of the Unlock team (referred to here as “our test application”).

Verifying your identity

The DBS use GOV.UK Verify as a secure way to prove who you are online. The site states that it will take between 5 and 15 minutes to verify your identity, although in our test application it took longer than that. If you know that you’ll need to apply for a basic DBS check, it may be worth verifying your identity in advance.

To verify your identity for a basic DBS check you’ll need:

  1. All your addresses for the last 5 years and the dates you lived there
  2. Your National Insurance number
  3. A debit or credit card
  4. Proof of your identity, for example a passport, valid driving licence or birth certificate.

Based on your age, where you’ve been living in the last 12 months and the type of ID that you have available, you’ll be given a choice of companies who will be able to verify your identity (you don’t have to be an existing customer with these companies).

  • Royal Mail
  • Experian
  • Barclays
  • Citizen Safe
  • Post Office
  • Digidentity
  • Secure Identity

Important: Keep a note of the company you’ve selected together with the email and password you’ve used to register. You’ll need these if you want to apply for further checks in the future.

Once your identity has been verified you’ll receive an email confirmation from the company you’ve chosen.

The DBS online application form

The online form will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Amongst the questions asked you’ll need to give:

  • Details of your previous addresses over the last five years and the dates you lived there
  • Your full name and any other names that you have been known by.

You will not be asked to provide any details about your criminal record.

Once you’ve completed all the questions, you can chose where you would like the certificate to be sent. This can be either your home address or ‘another address’ which could be your employer.

Make sure you’re clear about where you want your certificate to be sent. If you have a criminal record and you’re not sure whether it’s spent or not, you should consider putting your address down so that it comes to you first.

Even if you’re pretty confident that your criminal record is spent, we’d still advise that you request the check is sent to you, so that you can be confident that it’s blank before passing it onto your employer.

 In our test application, we put the details of the employer (in this case, Unlock) as we understood, because we knew the person who was asking for the basic check had an unspent criminal record, that permission to send to a third party would be revoked. However, the check was still sent to the third party. We have raised this with the DBS.

At the end of the application process the DBS state that an email will be sent to you with your application reference number.

Although it’s stated that the email may take up to three days, in our test application we received one within a couple of hours of completing the online form.

Tracking your application

It’s possible to track your application using your application reference number, date of birth and your surname.

You won’t be able to find out what’s on the certificate, just the status of it.

We do have some concerns that with just the above information, employers could check the status of your certificate. Although they wouldn’t be able to see any information relating to your criminal record, if you needed to raise a query with the DBS regarding the content of your certificate, your employer could question why you’ve not handed it over if they know that the certificate has been issued.

Once the certificate is ready

As soon as your certificate is ready, you’ll receive a letter from the DBS stating that a paper version will be posted to you separately. They will also include an authorisation code for you to use to view your certificate online. The certificate will be available to view online for approximately 28 days.

To view your certificate online you will need to create an online account by visiting Once you’ve created your online account you can use the authorisation code to link to your DBS profile.

When we were working through the process, we tried setting up our online account immediately after completing the online application form which we found to be quite problematic. It may have been because at that stage, we didn’t have the authorisation code to link to our profile. We’d therefore advise that you wait until you receive the letter from the DBS with your authorisation code before trying to set up your online account.


Sharing your certificate with your employer

The majority of employers will want to see the paper version of your certificate. However, once you’ve set up your online account it’s possible to give consent to your employer to view it online by going to the ‘manage consent’ page.

If your employer doesn’t already have a DBS account, the DBS will generate a one-off code which will allow them to view the certificate online.

The online certificate can’t be copied but it can be printed as a PDF.

The paper version of the basic check

If you have elected to receive a paper copy of your certificate this will usually be sent to you within 14 days of your application.

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • Disclosure and Barring Service – Government body established under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012 and merges functions previously carried out by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
  • GOV.UK Verify – A government site providing a secure way to prove who you are online.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information basic DBS disclosures (disclosing unspent convictions), what will be disclosed on a basic DBS check? and basic DBS checks
  2. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  3. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.




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