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What is a Police Clearance?

By Christina Edwards
Updated May 16, 2024
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A police clearance certificate is a letter or certificate that contains the details of an individual's criminal history, which can include past arrests. Depending on which country an individual resides in, the methods of obtaining a police clearance can vary. Many individuals who wish to travel to a foreign country for an extended period of time, whether permanently or temporarily, will often need to get one of these certificates.

Usually, government agencies or law enforcement officials will issue a clearance letter on request. It is often printed on official paper, usually with a watermark or official seal. This certificate will usually contain information such as any arrests or convictions. If an individual has never been in trouble with the law, his police clearance certificate will state this instead.

The exact process that an individual must go through to get a police clearance will usually vary from one country to another. Most countries, however, require an individual to fill out a form and send it to a specific address. Some may require fingerprints and a fee.

Residents of United States who wish to get a police clearance certificate must first obtain a form from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This will also contain a card for fingerprints, and the applicant must be fingerprinted at a specified location, such as a police station. These forms, along with a copy of the person's identification and a fee, should then be sent to the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

An individual may need to obtain a police clearance for several reasons. One of the most common is if he wishes to immigrate to, or establish residence, in another country. Most countries around the world require a police clearance from a person before he becomes a permanent resident.

People who work abroad, such as teachers, need to obtain a police clearance as well. Students who are interested in studying abroad will also usually need to get this clearance. Some countries may even require police clearances for certain vacationers.

Countries may require a police clearance certificate from people who wish to become new residents to keep the citizens of that country safe. Individuals who have been convicted of a violent crime will often be denied entry to certain countries. Additionally, arresting foreign individuals for a crime also puts a financial burden on the host country, since the arrest and conviction of an individual takes time as well as money.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon348314 — On Sep 15, 2013

What are the legal basis for a valid police clearance? What is the validity period?

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