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  • Why is my police check taking so long?

    One of the best things about applying for a Police Check online is that in most cases, a result comes out within 24 hours or so. It is helpful for most applicants, as sometimes, they have to submit their certificate as soon as possible.

    However, even online Police Check applications get delayed. And This is not the service provider/bureau's fault; it just means that it would be hard to get the results in the expected time due to other factors that are involved in the checking process to strengthen the safety of our Australian community.

    What can make a Police Check take so long?

    If your Police Check application is taking long, then there are a lot of potential causes for that. However, the commonest of these is that the application was marked for a manual review.

    However, not all delays are caused by a manual review. Your application can be delayed if the central government agency or State or Territory Australian police agencies are making some verifications on your criminal records. For example, the checking agency may verify the previous area where a person resides to verify some outstanding records on the Police Check.

    Furthermore, your application will also be delayed if you have complex criminal records. Having records in multiple States or Territories (crossing over various legislations) can be time consuming for the checking agency. Therefore, they will apply to the Criminal Database and the Police departments of each of these States or Territories to confirm;

    • If any special programs apply for the offence based on the State’s legislation,
    • If there are modifications to such offences based on their laws (decriminalization),
    • Other complex parts of a conviction that depend on the legislation.

    Also, apart from these, there are some other reasons why a nationally coordinated criminal history check application will be delayed. But these listed here are the most typical reasons applicants may wait extra days before getting their certificates.

    How does a Police Check process run?

    All Police Check applications, including forms, verification IDs, and other personal details, are compiled and submitted to a central Australian government agency. At the central government agency, they compare the applicant's record with those on the Australian criminal database.

    Before sending your details to the central government agency, the approved service provider (for example, Australian National Character Check or a Post Office) will review your application to confirm that you submitted the correct documents and your application is compliant with the government’s requirements.

    The applicant must also affirm their consent to having their information shared with the National Police Checking Service and Australian police agencies.

    The Comparison is completed by a computer check algorithm supervised by various officials. The algorithm achieves a check by comparing the applicant's details with the details on the Australian Criminal Database and other relevant records.

    If there is a match in the details;

    1. The computer supervisor forwards the complete check to the hierarchies, and
    2. To the relevant State or Territory Australian Police Forces for a review on the Police History information records, then
    3. Confirms that only the Disclosable Court Outcomes (per State or Territory legislation) is on the final criminal history check certificate.

    What is Manual Processing?

    It is not uncommon (around 30% of total applications), that the computer algorithm becomes "stuck" while processing some applications. It does not necessarily mean the applicant has a conviction record or has a failed Police Check; it just requires an official to supervise the check manually.

    When an official has to supervise or work on a criminal history check manually, it is known as manual processing. After the manual supervision is complete, the application will continue with the regular procedure until the agency issues the certificate to the applicant.

    The manual processing does not affect the Police Check certificate in any way; it will only push forward the time of issuance. When an application undergoes manual processing, it will generally (but not always) take an extra 5 to 15 days (sometimes more) for the applicant to get their Police Check.

    What are the common causes for manual processing?

    When manual processing is ongoing, we know that a Police Checking process is underway. There are lots of reasons that can cause an application to need manual supervision. However, the common reasons are;

    • Similar records on the database

    It is possible that an applicant will share data with another on the criminal database. The algorithm can be "confused" by the common data and find a potential match between two records. Where there is such an irregular "match", the computer will signal manual processing.

    For example, John Bradley Citizen, date of birth: 20 February 1998 will undergo manual processing if Bradley Jonathon Citizens, date of birth: 14 June 1998 has a criminal record. In this example, manual processing is necessary since both individuals have a similar name and a similar date of birth. The check algorithm may even get a potential match if there is other matching data like similar or shared addresses or a similar previous name like an alias.

    Clearing such complications can be challenging for the official supervising the check depending on factors like;

    • ✔ The degree of similarities between the applicant’s detail and that in the criminal record,
    • ✔ The presence of factors relating to the offence that could indict the applicant,
    • ✔ Where the offence occurred.

    • Classifying the conviction records

    Where the applicant has a conviction record, the next issue is deciding where those records fall. All convictions in a criminal record are considered either;

    Disclosable Court Outcomes (DCO), or

    No Disclosable court outcome (NDCO).

    Whether an offence (if any) is disclosed or not depends on the State or Territory’s legislation regarding spent convictions. It is only the DCOs that appear on the Police Check certificate.

    Determining whether a record is Disclosable or not can lead to delays, especially where the applicant has a conviction record under various State or Territory laws.

    • When the offences occurred

    The period a conviction happens can delay the Police Checking process. The older a sentence is, the more difficult it may be to retrieve such records for proper checking.

    It is visibly difficult to extract old convictions from the various State’s criminal databases across Australia. Even after extraction, the agency will have to verify whether such offences qualify for the Spent Convictions Scheme in Australia.

    • Where a Manual process is essential

    Some old Police records may need to be vetted and concluded manually. These records may be in hard copies and can only be reviewed by an official manually.

    • Incomplete or inaccurate records

    Approved service providers carefully check all applications for compliance, however small details in the check may in some cases go unnoticed. If the computer check algorithm at the central government agency cannot process an application due to inconsistencies, an official may have to process such checks manually.

    • The workloads in the agency

    Some periods have a sudden surge in the number of people applying for a Police Check. In a surge of applications, the National Checking Service may not complete the Police Check in regular time.

    • Lots of addresses or movement

    The matching algorithm can also get "confused", linking the various convictions and States where the applicant has lived. Having multiple past addresses can also cause a problem when transferring the conviction records among the various legislations in the State.

    Is the delay because I ordered through an accredited agency?

    No, the delays in a Police Check application are as irregular as they are spontaneous. These things can happen to anybody and at any time, though they are relatively scarce.

    The delay you experience from the Police Check process has nothing to do with the service provider or agency. Approved services providers make the process smoother by keeping applicants up to date and using modern technology to enable applicants to submit their checks online. Approved services providers aim to provide criminal history check results in a timely manner to applicants, as we understand that such requests are generally urgent.

    How does the National Police Checking Service work?

    The process for completing a check in the central government agency is through a computer algorithm. It ensures that the process is more accurate and faster than a completely manual process. The process can be broken into steps explained below for every potential applicant.

    The approved service provider submits all details and personal information collected from the applicant to the central government agency’s system.

    1. The matching algorithm then compares the applicant's data with those on the criminal database based on data like;
    • Name,
    • Sex,
    • Date of birth,
    • Addresses.

    1. The applicant’s data is also used to conduct an initial search for a potential Person of Interest (POI) match.

    1. If there is no match for the applicant details based on their records, the Police Check will return with a No Disclosable Court Outcomes (NDCO).

    1. However, if the search shows a match on the database, the central government agency will refer such information to the relevant State or Territory Police agency. The Police agency will confirm if such match (finding) is the same as the person on the POI.

    1. If the Police cannot ascertain such a match or considers the information inadequate, it will request more information to make such decisions. Further information can be obtained from the additional details like;
    • Previous addresses,
    • Photo ID,
    • Fingerprints (the applicant may have to submit this at a Police station).

    1. The Police can declare that the person is “not a match” with the POI after the verification.

    1. However, if the Police authority confirms such a person of interest, they will apply the relevant legislation (on criminal record disclosure) to the conviction records.

    1. The Police may also forward the "match records" to the Police agencies in other States or Territories where the offender has a conviction. These related Police agencies will apply the relevant State or Territory legislation on disclosure of the sentence.

    1. The Police then finally releases the results to the central government agency to complete the checking process.

    1. The central government agency thereby issues the result to the applicant through the approved service provider. The results can either appear as;
    • Disclosable Court Outcome (DCO), or
    • No Disclosable Court Outcome (NDCO).

    What if I need my Police Check result urgently?

    It is advised that applicants always apply for a criminal history check at least a month before they need it. The National Check agency processes tens of thousands of checks (including renewals) each day. They can get overwhelmed, especially if the offences are complex.

    There is little anyone can do for a delayed Police Check application. However, applicants that apply via Australian National Character Check (ANCC) can get real-time updates on the status of their Police Check via the track a check option on the ANCC website.

    Also, if your Police Check is delayed, communicate the issue to the requesting party (your employer). If they prefer, you can offer them proof through the “Track a check” option (only if you apply with ANCC).

    How long should a Police Check take?

    For the majority of applicants that apply online, their Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check results are routinely available within 24 to 48 hours. And this is the case for over 70% of people.

    Applicants whose applications are not completed within this period may have some complex factors in their application. The other 30% of applicants may have to wait up to 15 business days or more in some circumstances.

    Can I speed up the Police Checking process?

    Community safety is at the forefront for police checks. The Police checking process is an independent function of the National Checking service. No external force or party can influence the Police Check process.

    While it is frustrating to have your application delayed, it is regrettable that nothing can speed it up. However, applicants can continue to track and monitor their applications.

    Before you submit your application form, check through the details and identification documents and make sure that your information is correct and up to date. Your name as displayed on all identification documents for the police check must match your legal name that is listed on the application form.

    How can I obtain a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check for Employment purposes?


    If you are an individual, you can obtain a national criminal record check certificate online via Australian National Character Check’s police check application 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 for approval prior to being granted access to ANCC’s business portal.

    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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