Police Clearance Certificate For An Immigrant Visa
When you apply for a U.S. immigrant visa, you’ll be asked to provide a police clearance certificate from all countries that you have lived in since the age of 16.
Here’s where things get a bit confusing. USCIS only requires that you submit a police clearance certificate in the countries that you’ve LIVED in. This means that you don’t need to worry about placed that you visited.
So, how do you know if you’ve visited or lived in a foreign country? Based on USCIS manual, if you’ve been in a country for at least 6 months, you would be considered to have lived there. Even if the stay was temporary.
Having a criminal record in multiple countries could make getting an immigrant visa more difficult but it’s best to be honest about all the countries that you’ve lived in.
Sebastian is applying for the CR1 spouse visa from Russia. He lived in Germany for 2 years on an employment contract. Since he has lived in another country for more than 6 months, he is required to get police clearance certificates from both Russia and Germany.
Requesting police clearance from multiple countries will delay the visa process by a few weeks or months but it’s important to keep track of all the placed that you’ve lived since you were 16 years old.
Visiting a country is different than living in one. If you are in doubt, it’s best to request the police clearance certificate to be on the safe side.
When Is A Police Clearance Certificate Required?
Not all US visas require a police clearance certificate. But, if you’re applying for an immigrant visa such as the CR1 or IR1 spouse visa, it will be required.
Other visa types that are not considered immigrant visas but still do need police clearance certificates are the K1 fiance visa and V visas. These still have an intention of immigrating to the United States and becoming permanent residents.
So, what doesn’t require a police clearance certificate?
Adjustment of status doesn’t require it. So for those of you that are already in the U.S. you won’t need to worry about getting police certificates from countries you’ve lived in for more than 6 months.
When you request the police clearance certificate, it must cover the entire length of time that you stayed in a particular country. So, if you were in Italy for 244 days, the police records search must cover this entire time.
What does a police clearance certificate include?
- All arrests
- Reasons for the arrests
- Disposition of each case
If you were arrested in another country but there is no record of it, it probably won’t show up in the police certificate. Also, in some countries, it’s impossible to get a police certificate.
How To Get A Police Clearance Certificate
Now that you know you are required to get a police clearance certificate, how exactly do you do this? Well, thankfully it’s pretty easy in many countries.
Local Police Station
For me personally, I just went to the local Canadian RCMP (police station) and asked for my police clearance certificate showing that had no criminal record. They asked for some ID and the reason I was requesting it.
I was able to get the police certificate same day while I was there. They stamped it to show that it was an original copy and I was on my way.
In some cases, it may take you much longer to get yours. Especially if you are trying to get police certificates for countries that you don’t currently live in.
To be sure you’re including all of the records required by the U.S. consulate, take a look at your passport stamps. For those of you who do a lot of traveling this will be a difficult process but it’s really important to not miss a country of residence.
Local Passport Office
Some countries allow you to request your police clearance certificate from the passport office. Sometimes this is seen as being more reliable than one from a local police department.
You may be required to bring the interview letter to show why you are requesting the certificate.
Fingerprint vs Name Based Police Certificate
Some countries have two options available when requesting the police clearance certificate. The fingerprint based search is more thorough if your fingerprints were actually taken during an arrest.
But for the purpose of U.S. immigration, only the name based search is required. This will pull up any criminal history under your full legal name.
How much does it cost?
I’m sure you are tired of spending so much on the immigration process already but the police certificate is pretty cheap. It can cost anything from $10 – $50.
Not Submitting All Police Clearance Certificates
Forgetting to submit ALL police clearance certificates from ALL countries you’ve lived in since the age of 16 could delay your visa approval.
But, here’s the interesting thing. It may not affect your case if the country doesn’t have any records for you. What I mean is that if the country you lived in doesn’t keep track of minor arrests then it’s likely that you won’t need to worry about it.
If you realize after you’ve submitted all the documents to the National Visa Center (NVC), you have the option to call their customer service number and let them know.
You will either be required to send the additional certificates to the NVC or bring it to your visa interview. Remember, it’s always best to be completely honest about your past so that it doesn’t come back to haunt you later.
Asana is applying for K1 visa from her home country of South Africa. In her 20s, she traveled all over Africa and has lived in Kenya and the Congo.
She requested police clearance certificates for both South Africa and Kenya but realized that after she submitted the documents to NVC, she forgot about the Congo.
She decides not to request it since the Congo didn’t have any records of an arrest and she would explain the reason it wasn’t submitted if it ever came up.
In the above example, Asana is choosing not to include the police certificate for the Congo since she has already submitted the documents and evidence to NVC. She is taking a chance because they may find out she lived there for more than 6 months.
This can result in a delay of her visa processing but if she knows she was never arrested there, it may be a chance she can safely take.
Final Thoughts On Police Clearance Certificate
The most important thing to do when submitting your police clearance certificate is to obtain it from all countries that you’ve lived in since the age of 16.
After you get the police certificate and it shows that you have several criminal arrests and convictions, it’s time to talk to a immigration attorney. You’ll want to know how a criminal record can negatively affect your case and what you can do about it.
If you have a clean record from all the countries that you’ve lived in, you can sit back and relax. This is just a formality you have to go through but it won’t negatively affect your visa case.
Once you submit the police clearance certificate to the National Visa Center (NVC), they will continue processing your case and transfer it to the U.S. consulate abroad.
The information in the police certificate will likely come up at your visa interview. Try to prepare yourself on how you will answer those questions. I always recommend being completely open and honest with the consular officers because they have a way of digging up dirt that you wanted to stay hidden.
Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.