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  • Home Resources & Technical Articles Pre-Employment Screening Topics National Police Checks What is the difference between a police check and a criminal history check?

    What is the difference between a police check and a criminal history check?

    Applicants for various roles/licenses get many requirements that they must satisfy/meet; one of them is the Criminal History Check. Uncommon terms for background checks such as these usually throw off applicants, and some of the time, ignorance costs them to spend more.

    If you are requested to provide a Criminal History Check, know that the agency or employer is requesting a National Police Check from you. However, it may not stop here, as the Police Check has many other terms and names used to refer to it.

    So, if you see these as application requirements, they refer to the National Police Check;

    • Police Record Check
    • Police Background Check
    • Police Clearance Check
    • Crime Check
    • Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check in Australia
    • Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check

    The difference in the location in the different States or Territories sometimes determines what the Police Check is called. However, the requesting party must also include many accurate descriptions to help the applicant understand the kind of background check the decision-makers refer to.

    The terms police check and criminal history checks are used interchangeably by applicants and decision makers all over Australia. If the purpose of the Check is for employment, volunteering, licensing or accreditation, the terms ‘police check’ and ‘criminal history check’ refer to the same kind of check.

    A Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check can be obtained online via the Australian National Character Check (ANCC) website.

    Most Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Checks are dispatched to applicants within 24 to 48 hours, with the remainder that get referred for manual processing taking longer.

    Applicants can obtain a check online for a base price of $48.90. Payment options include debit card, credit card or PayPal.

    What is the Police Check (Criminal History Check)?

    The Police Check is a background check that seeks all the releasable details about a person’s conviction records in Australia.

    Although the Police Check is not the only background check in Australia, it has become one of the most important checks for candidates in Australia. One of the reasons it has become popular is its wide range and scope (even to the holder).

    The Police Check is not just a document of Check-in Australia; it has grown to distinguish eligible candidates depending on the role requirements.

    Are the details different for any of the background checks?

    The Police Checks all run on the same scope, and the same central government agency in Australia conducts all of them nationally. Whether you apply for the NCCHC or the PRC, you will receive the same information on the result as long as it is for the same purpose.

    All the details from a candidate’s criminal records that can be released in Australia are called the Disclosable Court Outcome (DCO).

    The details of the Disclosable Court outcomes cover all the records, convictions and sentences issued by an Australian court. Minor traffic violations (without a court conviction) and all your other non-conviction sentencing in Australia are not part of your Police Check or the criminal record.

    Disclosable Court Outcomes will disclose records like;

    All court given convictions in Australia; expect all convictions not spent to appear on your Police Check in Australia. Some of these include;

    What makes the Police Check results different?

    Although all Police Checks produce the same results since they are conducted nationally, they may vary depending on the "Purpose" you select. There are various "Purpose" for the Police Check, as you will find in the Informed Consent Forms; the one you choose should reflect and cover the "Purpose" of the role/position you are applying for.

    • Employment Police Check

    Most employers in Australia now request a Police Check from the candidates who seek roles with them. When applying for such a Police Check, the candidate must select the "For Employment" option in the informed consent form.

    The Employment Police Check helps organisations and decision makers properly evaluate and assess their records, especially relating to corporate bodies. You can apply for the Employment Police Checks through any traditional mediums or the online portals of approved agencies like Australian National Character Check (ANCC).

    When employers list the requirements for the recruitments, they usually include the Police Check in any of those terms early mentioned.

    • Volunteering Police Checks

    If you want to become a Volunteer in Australia, you must have the Police Check certificate. Volunteer organisations and other NGOs take the background checks requirement seriously, especially involving vulnerable roles.

    The Police Check result for a volunteer may be somewhat different from an employment role, even for the same person. A criminal history check conducted for the purpose of volunteering may prioritise the candidate's records regarding society and community, including their history with corporate systems.

    • Licensing Police Checks

    The background Checks for licensing are different from the other Purposes for the Police Check. An applicant must get a Criminal History Check when applying for a number of regulated licenses in Australia.

    For example, a public vehicle driver license stipulates that the applicant must provide a valid background check that shows their criminal history. Of course, public behaviours, assault, violence, Robbery are some of the records that can affect a person getting a public vehicle driver license or not.

    Other types of licenses that require the Criminal History certificate of the applicant may include;

    • Liquor license
    • Real Estate License
    • Mining license
    • License to trade certain sensitive commodities.

    Accreditation and Admission into professional bodies

    Most professional bodies now request a Police Check before any candidate can gain Admission. A focus of the evaluation is if the candidate has not gotten a compromising offence that may put the association in negative PR.

    Professional bodies are more cautious of the people they admit into their system during these periods, especially with strict laws regulating these bodies. Also, it is common for professional bodies to request updated Probity Police Checks from their members within respectable periods.

    What are the main types of Police checks in Australia?

    The Police Check is like every other background check, but it is always conducted based on the role or application.

    Following the various kinds of application or the peculiarities of the role, the decision-maker may request different types of Police checks. Some examples of the various types of Police Check are;

    1. Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check or NCCHC

    This typical check is mainly used for;

    • Employment,
    • Volunteering,
    • License application,
    • Accreditation and registration into professional bodies,
    • Individual applications.

    1. Fingerprint Police Check

    Some Police Checks include a fingerprint Check depending on the circumstance or the scope of the Check. The applicant must submit their fingerprint to be compared with an extensive Australian Criminal and Police records database.

    Only a State or Territory Police Force can conduct the Fingerprint Police Check. They conduct it through the local Police office in the jurisdiction.

    1. Ammonium Nitrate Check

    Supplying or using Ammonium Nitrate in large quantities requires a permit in Australia. It can become an offence or illicit practice for a person to use this chemical without a special license or permit from the law.

    The check procedure includes a dual vetting process by the ASIO and the Australian Federal Police. The Check result determines if the person is "eligible" to handle such chemicals or in a position that gives them access to it.

    Candidates may need this Check if they are applying to any of these establishments;

    • Quarry Company using explosives,
    • Deep land/sea construction company,
    • Mining Companies,
    • Fertilizer companies using Ammonium Nitrate.

    1. Australian Federal Police Check

    There are various uses for an AFP police check that makes it different to a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check. A Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check and AFP police check have different purposes.

    Is the AFP Check more critical than the NPC?

    There are no hierarchies to the importance of the Police Check since they all reveal the same records under the Australian laws. It is a case of different Police Checks for their separate uses.

    The Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check is usually the matter of preference between the candidate and the decision-makers unless it is stipulated in the law.

    An AFP Police Check on the other hand is commonly used for purposes like immigration, Visa or working in Commonwealth related roles.

    Where is a Police Check valid in Australia?

    The Police Check is not limited by States or Territories within Australia; it is a nationally coordinated check. Unlike some other background Checks in Australia, you can use the Police Check if you move to another State or Territory, as long as the purpose of the check remains the same.

    Which type of check lasts longer?

    All Police Background Checks in Australia are point in time checks; they remain valid from the point of issue to any period. The Police background check in Australia does not technically have an expiry date; it remains valid until the records are obsolete for the purpose they applied for the Check.

    Most organisations do not accept the Police background check past the three months of its issue. Therefore, you may need another Police background check after three months of conducting the previous one; however this timeframe will depend on the requirements of the requesting organisation.

    Why do organisations put a limit on the age of Police background checks?

    Since the Police Check is obtained from regularly updated records like the Australian National Criminal Database, it is difficult to keep track of the applicant's history if the results are not current. Many organisations believe three months is a good threshold until the candidate requires an updated Police background Check in Australia. Other organisations may extend the timeframe past six months however this will depend on each organisation’s risk mitigation policies.

    Why do Most Organisations refer to the Police Check as an NCCHC?

    In July of 2018, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC), responsible for the handling and issuing of criminal checks, adopted a new term for the Police Check. The Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check (NCCHC) is a more suitable name for the Police Check, considering the national scope and varied use of the check.

    However, the official name may sound complex to the novice or the public, so many still revert to the older and more popular ‘Police Check’ or the ‘Criminal History Check’.

    How do I apply for a Criminal History Check?

    The application process for a criminal history check is easier and straightforward, mainly when you apply online through services like Australian National Character Check (ANCC).

    • Online application

    The online application involves a quick and straightforward interaction with the online platform.

    The informed consent form on the online portal can be completed within 15 minutes and the criminal history check process enables online payment.

    The applicant will also have to include copies or photographs of the required ID as proof of the document they provide.

    • Applying through a State or Territory Police Force

    The State or Territory Police Forces issue the Police Check certificate to all applicants through the Local Police office or their website. The AFP is also the official source for Police Check certificates used for Visa or immigration in Australia.

    Applicants who want to complete a Police Check with a State or Territory police force must apply through their local Police office or visit their website.

    • Applying through the Local Post Office

    The Local Post office also moves Police Check applications and the corresponding results between the candidate and the National Police Checking Service.

    How can I obtain a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check?


    If you are an individual, you can obtain a national criminal record check certificate online via Australian National Character Check’s police check application and informed consent form. The results are dispatched via email.

    Business and Enterprise Customers

    Business and Enterprise customers are able to sign up to ANCC’s business portal where they can order, manage, track and view candidates’ criminal history check results on their business portal.

    Organisations will undergo a process of approval prior to being granted access to ANCC’s business portal for the purpose of criminal history checks.

    ANCC sends an invite to the applicant to complete their criminal record check online and handles the application and informed consent form. Contact ANCC’s business and enterprise partnerships team today to enquire about setting up a business portal for your organisation.

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