Can I Use my National Police Check for Visa/ Immigration Purposes?
A travel visa is a conditional authorisation that allows the holder to enter, stay, or leave a specific territory. Any Australian seeking to enter another country to visit, study or work will likely need a valid visa. This is also true for immigrants entering Australia.
Visa entry requirements can be very rigorous and they vary from country to country. Some of the most common requirements include a valid passport, proof of identity, and proof of financial means. In many cases, visa applicants may be asked to provide Police Clearance from previous countries they have visited.
If you’re looking to immigrate, understanding the visa application process is crucial. By learning about the required documentation, including Police Checks, you can hasten the registration process and move abroad much quicker.
Can I use my National Police Check for Visa or Immigration Purposes?
No, National Police Checks cannot be used for visa or immigration purposes. In the case of Australia, only AFP Police Checks issued by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) are suitable for visa or immigration purposes.
Whilst Police Clearance is required as part of most visa applications, it must be issued by official government authorities and be purposed explicitly for immigration or visa.
Why Can’t I Use a National Police Check for Visa or Immigration Purposes?
National Police Checks provided by state or territory police services and accredited agencies or generally aren’t purposed for visa or immigration applications. Instead, this falls under the jurisdiction of the national Government.
National Police Checks are only able to serve the following purposes:
- Educational placements
- Occupational licensing
Only Police Checks issued by the AFP are valid for visa or immigration purposes.
What is an AFP Police Check?
An AFP Police Check is a form of Police Clearance issued by the Australian Federal Police, Australia’s national law enforcement agency. It serves a different range of purposes to National Police Checks carried out by state or territory police services and accredited agencies.
An Australian Federal Police Check is required for but not limited to the following purposes:
- Visa and immigration
- Overseas or commonwealth employment
- Overseas adoption
- Certain forms of licensing or accreditation
AFP Police Checks are usually the only valid form of Police Clearance for these purposes. This is because the Australian Government—not accredited Police Check providers or state police agencies—has jurisdiction over the aforementioned purposes.
What is the Difference Between an AFP Police Check and a National Police Check?
Whilst AFP Police Checks and National Police Checks serve different purposes, they display the exact same information about a person’s criminal background. This is because all Criminal Record Checks are sourced from the same national government database.
As such, AFP Police Checks are no more thorough or esteemed than National Police Checks. Most organisations will have no preference on the type of check that you provide. In some cases, though, validity does vary. This depends on the reason for the check.
For example, overseas governments, employers, adoption and licensing agencies will usually only accept an AFP Police Check. This is because only the AFP has legal powers to provide checks for international purposes.
Where can I get an AFP Police Check?
AFP Police Checks can be obtained from two sources. Firstly, direct from the AFP. Secondly, from accredited providers that apply to the AFP on your behalf.
Applying Through the AFP
If you are requested to provide an AFP Police Check, this can be done online via the AFP website. Applicants have two options when submitting an AFP Police Check directly through the AFP:
- Complete the online application form
- Download the form for manual completion and submit it by post
Applying Through Third Party Providers
Alternatively, applicants can obtain an AFP Police Check through Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) accredited providers such as Crime Check Australia. The Department for Home Affairs states that it accepts AFP Police Checks from third party providers under the condition that the check has been issued by the AFP to that provider.
Because ACIC accredited bodies also process large amounts of National Police Checks for other purposes such as employment, persons applying for an AFP Police Check through a third party must be careful to stipulate this in their application. When filling out your AFP Police Check application form, ensure that:
- The purpose of the Police Check is clearly stated. For example, ‘visa’ or ‘immigration’
- Code 33 (‘Immigration/Citizenship’) for the supply to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection is utilised. This ensures that the check discloses all convictions, which is a requirement of valid AFP Police Checks
What do I Need to Complete an AFP Police Check?
The application process for a National AFP Police Check is similar to that of a standard National Police Check. Some of the requirements for the AFP Police Check stipulated on the AFP website are as follows:
- Name, including all other names by which you are known or have previously been known
- Other personal information such as contact details and residential addresses
- Copies of identification documents totalling 100 identification points
- Parental consent if the applicant is under 18 years of age
Under very limited circumstances, a fingerprint check may also be required as part of the AFP Police Check. This incurs an additional cost to the application and adds time to the processing period.
What is Shown on an AFP Police Check?
Whilst National Police Checks and AFP Police Checks are both examples of Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Checks that consult the same central government database, the information they duly disclose in the certificate may differ.
AFP Police Checks that have been issued for visa or immigration purposes disclose all prior convictions, including spent convictions. National Police Checks, on the other hand, may omit any convictions not deemed relevant to the purpose of the check and also convictions that are considered spent.
Convictions that would appear on both an AFP Police Check and a National Police Checks are:
- All sentences and convictions
- Pending court charges
- Sexually related offences
- Traffic offences resulting in a conviction
- Charges against corporate organisations
Other convictions that may appear on an AFP Police Check for immigration or visa purposes but not necessarily on a National Police Check issued for other purposes are:
- Spent convictions where a certain amount of time has elapsed since the person was convicted and they have not reoffended since
- Lesser charges not deemed relevant to certain purposes of a National Police Check
How Long is an AFP Police Check Valid?
According to the Australian Department for Home Affairs, all AFP Police Checks issued for migration purposes are valid for 12 months from the date of issue. This is irrespective of the time period specified by the issuing country.
If the applicant returns to the issuing country during the validity period, this will generally not affect validity. However, once the applicant has returned to the issuing country for more than two months since the original certificate expired, a new Police Check will need to be provided.
Where is an AFP Police Check Valid?
Once your AFP Police Check is returned, it is valid for use nationally and internationally.
Like National Criminal History Checks, AFP Police Checks can therefore be used across all Australian states and territories. In addition, AFP Police Checks can be used anywhere overseas for immigration or visa purposes. This is provided that they are still within the validity period.
Do all Countries require Police Checks for Visa or Immigration Purposes?
Some countries require visa applicants to provide Police Checks from countries they have previously stayed in. This is done to evaluate their criminal background.
Whether a country requires National Police Clearance from the applicant as well as how they choose to accept it varies. For specific guidelines, see below.
Immigration to Australia
Any person entering Australia must first pass specific character requirements as part of the visa process. This consists of a declaration of all criminal offences in the form of a National Police Check.
If requested, applicants must provide Police Clearance from each country where they have lived for at least 12 months in the last 10 years, but only since turning 16 years of age. Most applicants under 16 are not generally required to provide Police Clearance.
Details about the specific means of obtaining a valid National Police Check can usually be found on the relevant government website. Before applying for a Police Check, please note that only Police Checks from specific providers may be accepted in this instance.
For example, if you have formerly lived in Australia under the above conditions, only Police Checks issued by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) will be accepted when applying for an Australian visa.
Immigration to Other Countries
The visa requirements for different countries vary. Some countries require a valid visa before travel or on arrival. Other countries permit visa-free stays up to a certain period. In most cases, this will not exceed 90 days.
Similarly, the entry requirements for immigration vary. In many cases, applicants must provide a Background Check for each country they have lived in previously.
The validity of different types of Police Checks will depend on the specific country. In the case of Australia, Police Checks are only valid for immigration abroad if they have been issued by the AFP.
Does a Failed Police Check Prevent me From Travelling?
Having convictions on your Criminal Background Check does not necessarily prevent you from travelling. Visa eligibility varies from country to country, with some governments being more lenient than others in regard to criminal history.
It should be noted, though, that some countries routinely deny visa applications if the applicant has any convictions on their criminal record. Some of the countries with less tolerance to non-citizens with convictions include but are not limited to:
- New Zealand
Ultimately, immigration officers will take into account the nature and severity of any convictions disclosed on a Criminal History Check. Convictions that are only viewed as lesser offences shouldn’t be a barrier to overseas travel.
Police Checks are an integral part of visa processes for many countries around the world. By checking the criminal backgrounds of immigrants, governments can regulate potential threats entering the country.
In Australia, Police Clearance for visa or immigration purposes is only valid in the form of an AFP Police Check. This is because only the AFP has jurisdiction over immigration Police Checks.
AFP Police Checks can be obtained from the AFP website or third party providers that apply to the AFP on the applicant’s behalf. The validity period for an AFP Check is 12 months. Once expired, any Australian national wishing to obtain an overseas must consent to another AFP Police Check.
Other countries have their own policies in place regarding Police Checks and visas. You should always consult official guidelines found on the relevant government website before applying for an immigration or visa-related Police Check.