Police Clearance Certificate

A guide to obtaining Police Clearance Certificates for South Africa. Image: AdobeStock

A guide to obtaining Police Clearance Certificates for South Africa

Police Clearance Certificates are vital documents that indicate if a criminal conviction has been recorded against an individual.

Police Clearance Certificate

A guide to obtaining Police Clearance Certificates for South Africa. Image: AdobeStock

South Africans applying for visas and those emigrating might be requested to submit a PCC for official purposes, and South Africans living abroad are required to submit these documents when applying for permanent residency or citizenship abroad. 

Many countries refer to the Police Clearance Certificate as a ‘certificate of good conduct,”’ but what are the basic requirements for obtaining this document, and where can you find help? We asked Cherissa Chandh from Apostil.co.za how it works.

Q: Can I submit a criminal background check when asked for a Police Clearance Certificate?

A: Unfortunately, a criminal background check is not the same as a SAPS Police Clearance Certificate. 

Background checks can only be used to verify if you have an existing criminal record and do not contain any details on the offence if you happen to have one. 

Companies like Afiswitch generally perform background checks for purposes including recruitment and loan applications where authorities want to verify that an applicant is of sound character. 

A SAPS Police Clearance Certificate, on the other hand, is a complete background check process that includes details of criminal offences (if a person has one) and/or expungements thereof. Unlike background checks, police clearance certificates are issued once the Criminal Records Center has performed several verification steps and checks.

Q: Can I submit digital fingerprints for my application?

A: No, the SAPS Criminal Records Center only accepts ink fingerprints for Police Clearance Certificate applications. 

Anyone that wants to apply for an SA police clearance certificate must start by having their fingerprints taken in ink. Although it is the norm to have your fingerprints taken at a police station, you can have them taken anywhere as long as a notary public, lawyer, or commissioner of oaths signs and stamps the set of fingerprints to verify the authenticity of the prints. 

Once submitted to the CRC, your fingerprints will be converted to digital format and stored on the CRC database. Although your prints are later converted into digital format, they must be submitted in ink when applying for your police clearance, as SAPS does not accept digital fingerprints.

Q: Where should I apply for my Police Clearance Certificate?

A: You have the option of applying for your clearance certificate at your nearest police station. 

However, this is a very timely exercise as the station will only send applications off to the CRC once their application bag is full, which can take months. 

The better option would be to make use of a South African concierge service like Apostil.co.za that handles everything on behalf of their clients. 

Apostil.co.za is registered as a courier with the Criminal Records Center, which means that they can fast-track your application and apply for corrections if a mistake was made on the original certificate. 

Q: Will my PCC display my maiden name?

A: Unless you specifically request it, your maiden name will not be displayed on your certificate. 

If you would like your maiden name to appear on your South African Police Clearance, you will have to submit a copy of your marriage certificate, indicating the name change. You also need to submit a copy of your ID or passport that displays your current surname/s. In most cases, no other document except the marriage certificate will be accepted as proof of the name change. 

The certificate will then be issued with your maiden name displayed under your current surname/s. Only one maiden name can be included on police clearance certificates, you may only use your current surname/s and one old maiden name/s. Even though some countries, like Australia in particular, request that ALL previous maiden names be indicated on Police Certificates, it is not possible to have more than one maiden name listed on your South African Police Clearance. 

Q: Can I submit my application directly to the Criminal Records Center?

A: Unfortunately, civilians are not allowed to submit their PCC applications to the CRC personally.  

Only police stations and registered couriers can submit applications. As a registered courier, Apostil.co.za can assist you with obtaining your South African Police Clearance in between 5 and 30 working days from the date of application (excluding courier times). 

They can also assist with having your documents apostilled for official use abroad.

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