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Working abroad and the use of Police Certificates

Many people who have a criminal record consider moving abroad as a way to ‘escape’ their past and improve their chances of employment.

People looking to emigrate to countries such as Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Caymen Islands, New Zealand, South Africa and the USA have always needed to apply to the National Police Chiefs’ Council Criminal Records Office (ACRO) to get a copy of their Police Certificate as part of their visa process.

Police Certificates contain details of all convictions, reprimands, warnings and cautions which have been recorded on the Police National Computer (PNC) although it doesn’t disclose anything that is eligible to be ‘stepped down’. Read more about the step down model here.

If your criminal record has been ‘stepped down’ then your Police Certificate will come back with ‘No Live Trace’ recorded. Anyone who sees this, and understands the phase, can assume that you have a criminal record from the past, even if they can’t see the details.

If this applies to you, then we advise that you contact ACRO to obtain details of the conviction information which was not disclosed on the certificate. The country concerned will probably want you to disclose everything, and they’ll know from your Police Certificate that there’s something on your record. By getting these further details from ACRO, you’ll be clear about what’s been recorded on the PNC and you’ll be able to contact the relevant Embassy and disclose the information.

A recent case

We have recently heard from somebody who has been working successfully in the Middle East for many years without needing to disclose a very old conviction. A couple of months ago, they were offered a well-paid job in Saudi Arabia for a company they’ve worked with in the past. However, as a result of a new work residence visa process, they were asked to provide their employer with a copy of their Police Certificate.

Their conviction was spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act and is eligible for filtering from DBS Certificates. As a result, they wouldn’t have to disclose it to employers in the UK that require basic, standard or enhanced checks. However, because of the statement ‘No Live Trace’ their new employers may be aware that there is something ‘lurking in the background’.

They told us:

After a lot of soul searching and stress, I’ve decided that rather than risk damaging my previous good character and reputation, I would turn down this great job due to “personal reasons”. I count my blessings that this is a fairly new requirement and I’ve been able to work in the Middle East for many years. However, I do wonder whether his really is an acceptable rehabilitation.

Although ACRO state on their website that a Police Certificate should not be used for employment purposes, in the case of a work visa, it does become directly related.

The lesson here is that if you are thinking of living or working abroad, be clear what the entry/work visa requirements are for the country you’ll be moving to. If it’s somewhere that requires a Police Certificate, then it may be in your best interest to be upfront and honest about your criminal record to your potential employer as it’s possible that they’ll become aware of it even if they haven’t asked you during the application process. This could potentially save you money as well as a lot of unnecessary worry.

For more information

  1. For practical self-help information – More information on Police Certificates 
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about working abroad and Police Certificates posted on theRecord, our online magazine, under the category/tag of travelling to the USA 
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline.


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Photo of Helpline lead, Debbie Sadler
Debbie Sadler
Helpline lead

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