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Overseas Criminal Record Certificates for UK Visas

If you are applying for a UK visa from overseas then as part of your immigration application you may be required to provide the Home Office with an overseas criminal record certificate.  Failing to provide an overseas criminal record certificate, or a reasonable explanation for not doing so, may result in your visa application being refused.

In this guide we ask: What is the immigration overseas criminal record certificate requirement?  Who needs to provide an overseas criminal record certificate when making an immigration application? Why does the Home Office require an overseas criminal record certificate? How can overseas criminal record certificates be obtained?  What should you do if you cannot obtain an overseas criminal record certificate? And, what happens if an overseas criminal record certificate is not provided?

What is the UK visa overseas criminal record certificate requirement?  

The overseas criminal record certificate requirement applies to applications for entry clearance in certain specific visa routes (see below).

Where the requirement applies, applicants must provide a criminal record certificate for any country (excluding the UK) that they have been present in for 12 months or more (whether continuously or in total), in the 10 years prior to the date of their application, while aged 18 or over.

It is important to note that all types of stay and of any duration in a country will count towards the 12-month qualifying period for submission of a certificate, not just ordinary residence or settlement.

A criminal record certificate should be not more than 6 months old at the date of the visa application.

Where the requirement applies, an applicant must provide a scanned copy of a criminal record certificate.  If the certificate is not in English, a translated copy of the certificate must be provided.  The translation should be a certified translation by a professional translator, confirming the translator’s credentials and confirmation that it is an accurate translation of the original document. It should also be dated and include the original signature of the translator.

Who needs to provide an overseas criminal record certificate?

The following immigration routes contain an overseas criminal record certificate requirement when applying for a UK visa from overseas:

If you are applying to enter the UK on any other immigration route then, at the time of writing, you are not required to satisfy an overseas criminal record requirement.

If you are in the UK and are applying to switch into, or extend permission in, any of the above immigration categories then you also do not need to satisfy an overseas criminal record requirement.

Education, health and social care sectors

If you apply for a Skilled Worker visa from overseas in order to take up employment in one of the roles in the following SOC codes then you will need to provide an overseas criminal record certificate:

1181 – Health services and public health managers and directors

1184 – Social services managers and directors

1241 – Health care practice managers

1242 – Residential, day and domiciliary care managers and proprietors

2211 – Medical practitioners

2212 – Psychologists

2213 – Pharmacists

2214 – Ophthalmic opticians

2215 – Dental practitioners

2217 – Medical radiographers

2218 – Podiatrists

2219 – Health professionals not elsewhere classified

2221 – Physiotherapists

2222 – Occupational therapists

2223 – Speech and language therapists

2229 – Therapy professionals not elsewhere classified

2231 – Nurses

2232 – Midwives

2312 – Further education teaching professionals

2314 – Secondary education teaching professionals

2315 – Primary and nursery education teaching professionals

2316 – Special needs education teaching professionals

2317 – Senior professionals of educational establishments

2318 – Education advisers and school inspectors

2319 – Teaching and other educational professionals not elsewhere classified

2442 – Social workers

2443 – Probation officers

2449 – Welfare professionals not elsewhere classified

3213 – Paramedics

3216 – Dispensing opticians

3217 – Pharmaceutical technicians

3218 – Medical and dental technicians

3219 – Health associate professionals not elsewhere classified

3231 – Youth and community workers

3234 – Housing officers

3235 – Counsellors

3239 – Welfare and housing associate professionals not elsewhere classified

3443 – Fitness instructors

3562 – Human resources and industrial relations officers

6121 – Nursery nurses and assistants

6122 – Childminders and related occupations

6123 – Playworkers

6125 – Teaching assistants

6126 – Educational support assistants

6141 – Nursing auxiliaries and assistants

6143 – Dental nurses

6144 – Houseparents and residential wardens

6146 – Senior care workers

Why does the Home Office require an overseas criminal record certificate?

All UK visa applicants are required to disclose previous offending on their visa or immigration application form and Part 9 of the Immigration Rules and the equivalent suitability requirements in Appendix Armed Forces, Appending FM, Appendix V, part 11 and part 14 provide a basis for refusal of entry clearance, leave to enter or leave to remain in the UK on grounds of a person’s prior convictions, offending or criminal behaviour.  

However, since 1 September 2015, Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) and Tier 1 (Investor) entry clearance applicants and their partners have been required to provide evidence of their criminal record, or that they have none, in the form of an overseas criminal record certificate.  The requirement for main applicants is now found in paragraph 245DB (entry clearance as a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) migrant and paragraph 245EB (entry clearance as a Tier 1 (Investor) migrant) of the Immigration Rules.  The requirement for dependent partners is found in paragraph 319C of the Immigration Rules.

According to Home Office guidance: 

“The requirement for applicants to evidence their criminal record strengthens the existing process enabling us to establish whether the person has committed any offences overseas.”

From 6 April 2017, the requirement to provide an overseas criminal record certificate was extended to Tier 2 (General) (now Skilled Worker) entry clearance applicants (and their partners) coming to the UK to work in the health, education and social sectors.  Initially found in paragraph 245HB of the Immigration Rules, the requirement for main applicants is now found in paragraph SW16.1 of Appendix Skilled Worker. The requirement for dependent partners is found in paragraph 319C of the Immigration Rules.

According to Home Office guidance: 

“This will provide additional safeguards where a migrant’s job involves working closely with children and vulnerable people.”

Where a criminal record certificate discloses that an applicant has a criminal history then the Home Office will consider whether there are grounds to refuse the application under the general grounds for refusal in part 9 of the Immigration Rules.

If a criminal record certificate discloses that an applicant has been arrested and charged and is awaiting prosecution or a court hearing, then consideration of the application will be put on hold pending the outcome of proceedings.

How to apply for an overseas criminal record certificate

A certificate confirming an individual’s overseas criminal record can usually be obtained from the local police or other appropriate law enforcement agency in the country.

Details of how to obtain a check from the relevant authorities abroad are available on the GOV.UK website.  This guidance includes information about the process, cost and service standards for obtaining a certificate.   However, we recommend that applicants check with the relevant authorities directly as the information in the guidance may not reflect the current position.

If you cannot obtain an overseas criminal record certificate

If you are unable to obtain a criminal record certificate, perhaps because the country that would ordinarily issue a certificate has no functioning criminal record regime or because it refuses to provide criminal record certificates to non-citizens, then you should provide an explanation with your UK visa application.

Your explanation should detail your attempts to obtain a criminal record certificate and an explanation as to why a criminal record certificate has not been forthcoming.

UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) will consider your explanation against the situation in the relevant country or countries.  If UKVI is satisfied that you have provided a satisfactory explanation as to why it is not reasonably practicable to obtain a criminal record certificate from any or all of the relevant authorities then they should waive the requirement.

Failure to obtain an overseas criminal record certificate 

If the Immigration Rules require an overseas criminal record certificate to be provided and you fail to provide one (or a reasonable explanation for not providing one) then your application will fall to be refused.

However, under the terms of its guidance to caseworkers, if the Home Office considers that it is possible to obtain a certificate (or to provide a reasonable explanation for not providing one) then it should contact you or your representative in writing and allow 28 working days for the document or explanation to be provided. 

Contact our Immigration Barristers

For expert advice and assistance with a UK visa application, contact our immigration barristers in London on 0203 617 9173 or complete our enquiry form below.

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