EP38: How To Get A Police Clearance Certificate

Getting a police clearance certificate is a must when applying for your K1 or CR1 visa. You’ll be asked to submit a police clearance certificate for all the countries you’ve lived in for more than 6 months after the age of 18.

Are you now wishing you didn’t do so much traveling? (Um, of course not!)

In this podcast episode, we’re exploring the process of requesting a police clearance certificate and what you can expect.

I remember when I was applying for the K1 fiance visa in Canada, I had to go to my local police department and request a police clearance report.

I’ve never been arrested and thought the process would be simple.

Thankfully, it was because it was as easy as taking my fingerprints, some personal information and then waiting for the results on their computer.

image of PCC Philippines

After the report was available, I paid the small fee and I left the police department.

Your experience will likely be similar, but, if you’ve lived abroad for more than 6 months it may be a little more difficult to get a police clearance report from abroad.

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What Is A Police Clearance Certificate?

A police clearance certificate is a document that shows any arrests and the outcome of that arrest. Since NVC doesn’t have access to foreign police department data, they need you to get it for them!

If you’ve never been arrested, then the police authority will not find anything when they pull up your name and fingerprints.

However, if you do have a criminal history, those details will be included in the report. You may want to write a more detailed explanation about those events to include with the certificate.

Getting police certificates from multiple countries:

If you’ve done a lot of traveling, congratulations! (so jealous of you right now!)

But, here’s the bad news… you will likely need to submit police certificates from all the countries that you’ve lived in for at least 6 months after the age of 16. (bummer, right?)

Apparently NVC and DOS believe that it takes someone living in a country for 6 months to commit a crime.

But, here’s another kicker…

If you’ve ever been arrested in ANY country, you’ll need to get a police clearance certificate even if you only visited for one week!

Try to get the police clearance certificates in advance because it may take some time for them to process your request. The last thing you want is your visa to be delayed because you can’t get the police certificate quick enough.

Who Is Required To Submit A Police Certificate?

DOS requirements for PCC

Spouses and fiances of US citizens that are applying for the CR1 and K1 visa will need to submit a police clearance certificate.

This step usually happens after the initial petition is approved and it’s sent over to the National Visa Center.

The NVC then sends both of you instructions (via email and letter) on the next steps and what documents they will need to continue processing your application.

Even if you’ve never been arrested or charged with a crime, you will still need to get your police clearance certificate. In this case, nothing will be found which is a good thing!

Learn more about the requirements by visiting the Department of State website.

Related Podcast: Applying For A K1 Visa or CR1 Visa With A Criminal Record.

How Much Does A Police Certificate Cost?

police clearance certificate costs

How much a police clearance certificate will cost varies by country. You will need to contact your local police authority (or whoever handles PCC) and ask what the fee is.

I’ve put together a list of popular countries and what their current fee is at the time of this writing.

  • Philippines: 100₱
  • Canada: $65
  • UK: £45
  • Brazil: R$100

This fee is usually nonrefundable after you’ve submitted your application.

The wait time to receive your police clearance certificate varies by country but it could be the same day up to several weeks.

You may be required to submit your fingerprints for an additional fee. Always double-check with the police authority that will be running your fingerprints about all the requirements.

Related Post: I-130 Petitioner Has A Criminal Record and How It Affects Your Case

How Long Do Police Certificates Last?

Nothing lasts forever, right? It’s the same deal with the police clearance certificates.

Thankfully, these certificates are good for up to one year. This means that if you received your police certificate today, you will have up to one year from today to use it.

Obviously, you want to submit the police certificate as soon as possible to NVC.

  • All police clearance certificates must be less than 1 year old
  • If it’s older than 1 year, you must get a new police clearance certificate

So, should you begin requesting your police certificate as soon as you submit your petition?

The answer isn’t so simple but I recommend waiting a few months after submitting your I-129F or I-130 petition. Why? Because you want to account for some delays in USCIS processing.

Should I Translate The Police Certificate?

Translating foreign language documents is a must for USCIS processing as well as NVC and Consulate processing.

This is because English is the only official language in America so all documents must be translated so that adjudicators and immigration officers are able to read them.

The good news is that you don’t need to hire an expensive translation service to do this.

USCIS allows anyone who is fluent in both languages to translate the document you intend to submit. The only requirement is that they sign a certificate of translation letter certifying that it’s an accurate translation and that they are fluent in both languages.

Heck, you can even translate the document yourself and submit your own certificate of translation!

Related Post: K1 Fiancé Has A Criminal Record, Can We Still Get Approved?

What If A Police Certificate Is Unavailable?

Not all countries will have police certificates available. NVC and DOS know this and allow an exception in this case.

But, you must still attempt to get a police clearance certificate from that country even if they don’t issue one. This way you will have proof that you tried to get one but weren’t able to.

You’ll need to submit a personal affidavit explaining why you couldn’t get a police certificate from that specific country. In the affidavit, you should include the country, the police authority you contacted and what their response was.

An example of a country that doesn’t provide a police clearance certificate is Indonesia. A student of mine in the Migrant Academy tried to get their police certificate from Indonesia but he was told that it was not available.

Related Post: How A Criminal Record Can Negatively Affect Your Visa Application!

Can The Police Authorities Send It Directly To Consulate?

Yes, some police authorities can and do send the police certificate directly to the consulate.

In this case, you wouldn’t see the actual report since it would be routed to the immigration officer and they will ask questions about it if anything came up.

An example of a country that does this is South Korea. So, if you’re going to be requesting a police certificate from South Korea, it is perfectly normal for them not to give it to you.

Simply follow up with the consulate (or NVC) to be sure that they’ve received it on time.

How To Get A Police Clearance Certificate?

PCC request form

Many police authorities require that you submit your request in writing by completing one of their forms.

The forms usually ask for personal information such as name, address, phone number, place of birth, passport number, etc. With these details, they will be able to run a criminal background check to find out if you’ve ever been arrested.

In many cases, you’ll be asked to appear in person so that fingerprints can be taken.

The exact process will vary depending on the country you are requesting it from. Every country has a unique way of processing requests for police certificates so try to play by their rules.

For example: In Mexico, there are two different processes if you are local vs foreign national.

  • Mexico (locals) – police certificates are only available after age 18.
    • You must contact State Police
    • Must show valid local ID
    • Must bring birth certificate (original and copy)
    • Provide proof of residence in Mexico
  • Mexico (Foreign Nationals)
    • You’ll need to contact State Police
    • Bring your passport (original and copy)
    • Must bring a birth certificate and Spanish translation (original and copy)
    • Proof of residence in Mexico
If you can’t request in person – you can have family member with power of attorney request for you.
For more information on the process for each country, check out the Department of State (DOS) website for details.

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