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  • Difference between national and federal police check

    In most cases it is now nearly inevitable for an individual to apply for a position or get a license and also be requested for a Police Check. While the interpretations of Police Check may depend on the purpose or organisation you are applying to, it is important to know the type of check you need.

    Police Checks are not absolute, but it offers a sound assessment possible for an individual's suitability for a role. It contains a record of convictions, pending charges and sentences of an individual (if available), up to date.

    Which criminal history check certificate do I need?

    If you are applying for a license, employment position, volunteering or others, you must provide a national criminal history check document which is also referred to as a Police Check. However, it can be unclear which Check to apply for, whether a National Police Check (NCCHC) or an Australian Federal Police Check which is conducted via the AFP.

    There is little difference between a Federal Police Check and a National Police Check at least in content. Here are some similarities these documents carry.

    What is disclosed in the certificate?

    Like all Police checks, both the National Police Check and the Australian Federal Police Check:

    1. Discloses records of all an individual disclosable convictions, It includes;
      • Court outcomes
      • Pending charges
      • Traffic offences that lead to convictions
      • Findings of guilt without sentencing
      • Other offences not under the Spent Convictions Scheme
    2. Sourced from the databases of all Australian Police jurisdiction
    3. All applicants' data submitted for a Police Check certificate is compared with the data available in the Police records and Criminal database. The checking process extends to all the States and Territories where the individual has ever lived.

    How do both Police Checks differ?

    1. Offences disclosed in both Police Checks?
    2. While the National Police Check provides a point-in-time assessment of the individual’s Police records or criminal history, it may not release all offences depending on the purpose stated on the check and the spent convictions legislation.

      • For National Police Checks;
      • Convictions or offences on an applicant's Police Check are only released under the State legislation in the various Police jurisdiction. Also, offences that qualify for the Spent convictions scheme (juvenile) may not be disclosed following the Spent convictions scheme

      • For Australian Federal Police Checks;
      • The only convictions not released on the applicant's certificate fall under the Spent convictions scheme. Mostly, the offences that are released are not dependent on the State/territory legislation. In some cases (e.g. immigration checks), spent convictions will be released on federal police checks too.

    3. Who provides the Police Check?,
    4. Federal Police Checks for the purpose of immigration or commonwealth employment can only be issued by the AFP.

      Therefore, if asked to present a Federal issued Police Check, the National Police Check may not be accepted. The preference usually comes from the requesting organisation.

      Accredited bodies like the Australian National Character Check provide National Police Checks to applicants for the purposes of employment or volunteering. These agencies make it easier and faster for applicants to get a Police Check compared to the local Police stations where identification documents may need to be attested or certified prior to the check being released.

      If they request a Federal Police Check of you, please apply for one through the Federal Police authorities, else visit the application portal of Australian National Character Check.

    5. Purpose of the Police Check
    6. Another difference in both of these police background check documents could be the purpose of the Police Check.

      A Check issued by the Australian Federal Police is usually required for;

      • People seeking Commonwealth/Government employment
      • Immigration and Visa requirements
      • Industry-specific standards (Banking and financial services)
      • People living overseas
      • Overseas employments/engagements or contracts
      • Commonwealth territories, ACT or the Jervis Bay territory

      However, aside from these specifications or Special requests, a National Police Check (Nationally coordinated criminal history check) is just as relevant, valid and competent as a Federal Police Check.

      Therefore, your National Police Check within Australia can be used for:

    What are Spent Convictions and Offences?

    When expecting results of a Police Checks, applicants usually worry about the results of their Police Checks. However, not all convictions in your Police records will appear in Police Checks. Some offences are considered "less serious" to be included in the applicant's Police Check certificate.

    Furthermore, the court may give orders/conditions that if satisfied, can make the conviction spent. Some of these conditions are;

    • Ten (10) consecutive years of the waiting period has elapsed since the person was convicted of the crime (in an adult court).
    • Five (5) consecutive years of the waiting period has elapsed since the person was convicted of the crime (in a youth court/as a juvenile).

    It also follows that;

    • The individual must not receive another conviction during this waiting period, or the period restarts
    • If a jail term is imposed, the crime-free period begins after the jail term
    • Convictions stipulated by the court to be considered as Spent if the individual meets Special conditions (community works, therapy, self-quarantine, and co.)

    However, some offences can never be classified as “spent” no matter the period elapsed. These offences are considered “Serious” and always appear in an individual’s crime record check in Australia. Some of these offences are;

    • Sexually related convictions
    • Convictions against corporate organisations and institutions
    • Convictions stated by the regulations/Court sentencing
    • Convictions for which a prison sentence of six or more months is imposed

    Offences that qualify under the spent convictions scheme are expunged from an individual’s Police Check certificates.

    Further information about spent convictions guidelines can be found using this link.

    Documents you need to apply for a Police Check;

    For a National Police Check; an applicant must upload a self-capture photo and provide four ID documents to obtain a criminal history check including;

      ✔ One (1) Commencement of ID document

      ✔ One (1) Primary Use in Community Document

      ✔ Two (2) Secondary Use in Community Document

    For an Australian Federal Police Check; applicants must provide whatever documents are stipulated by the federal police. Details of this can be found on the online portal of the Australian Federal Police.

    When will I get the results of my Police Check?

    70% of National Police Check applications (NCCHC) submitted through the Australian National Character Check portal are returned to the applicants within 48 hours. The remaining that get referred for manual processing take up to 15 business days.

    Applications for a Federal Police Check can take anywhere between 5 and 15 days.

    Wrapping Up

    When you are requested for a police check, always confirm with the requesting party their preference of the provider or the purpose of the check you are required to submit. That will determine whether you need a national police check (nationally coordinated criminal history check) or a federal police check.

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