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How the Service works

To help protect the Australian community, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) works with Australian police agencies and accredited bodies to deliver the National Police Checking Service (NPCS or the Service). The Service allows people to apply for a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check, commonly called a police check.

Video: Learn more about how the police checking process works.

What is a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check?

A Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check—or police check—is often required when applying for employment, Australian citizenship, appointment to positions of trust and a variety of licensing and registration schemes. It helps organisations make informed decisions about the suitability of applicants for:

  • recruitment, job applications and pre-employment screening
  • volunteer and not for profit positions
  • working with children or vulnerable people
  • immigration and citizenship
  • visa applications
  • adoption applications
  • occupation related licensing
  • firearm licensing.
How is a police check processed?

Step 1Applicant submits police check

An applicant submits an application for a police check through either an ACIC accredited body or an Australian police agency.

Step 2Accredited body or police agency lodges the application

Once the accredited body or police agency verifies the applicant’s identity, they submit the applicant’s personal details provided into the National Police Checking Service Support System (NSS), the national IT system owned and operated by the ACIC.

Step 3Applicant’s details are searched against national records

The applicant’s personal details are checked against a national database using a name matching algorithm. If the personal details match any police information held in police records, the system will generate a ‘potential match’.

Step 4Potential match referred to police (Matching)

If the system generates a potential match, it will be referred to the relevant police agency (or agencies) for further assessment. If the police agency confirms the applicant’s details do not match the police information, a ‘No Disclosable Court Outcome’ result will be provided to the accredited body or police agency that submitted the police check. If the police agency determines the applicant’s details do match the police information, a referral is generated with the relevant police agency for them to conduct their ‘vetting’ process.

Step 5Police apply spent conviction legislation and/or information release policies (Vetting)

When an applicant’s personal details match the police information held in police records, the police agencies will determine what information can be released in accordance with the purpose of the check and the relevant spent convictions legislation and/or information release policies. This is commonly referred to as ‘vetting”.

Step 6Police check result is released

Once the police have finished processing the police check, the accredited body or police agency that submitted the police check can retrieve the police check result. On receiving the result, the accredited body should notify the applicant that the result is available.

Step 7The police check result may be provided to the applicant

If the police check was submitted through a police agency, the applicant receives their result as a National Police Certificate (NPC).

If the police check was submitted through an accredited body, the applicant may receive a Nationally Coordinated Criminal History Check Results Report, which may be branded by the accredited body (subject to ACIC approval). The accredited body must provide the applicant with the result when it contains a disclosable court outcome, and if the applicant requests it.

What is involved in completing an application for a police check?

The applicant needs to provide personal information and supporting documentation to prove their identity. It is important to provide as much information as possible to ensure the police check is processed accurately and in a timely manner. The applicant must also provide informed consent. The accredited body must establish a verifiable link between the identity documents and the individual.

What is informed consent?

A police check can only be conducted with the consent of the applicant. Applicants must:

  • read and understand how their personal information and related police information will be handled and disclosed
  • permit an accredited body or police agency to submit a police check on their behalf
  • if applicable, permit their potential employer to use their police check result to assess their  suitability for employment.
Can a police check be conducted without consent?

An applicant must provide their informed consent when completing an application for a police check. In doing so, they are consenting to the specific purpose of a police check. If the applicant requires a police check for a different purpose, they must provide their informed consent again.

Under certain and limited circumstances, a police check can be conducted without consent for law enforcement, immigration and administration of justice purposes.

How long might it take to process a police check?

Accredited bodies, police agencies and the ACIC work together to deliver the Service, aiming to process 95 per cent of police checks within 10 business days, noting that:

  • around 70 per cent of police checks are completed in real-time with results being returned to the organisation that requested the check within minutes
  • around 30 per cent of police checks are referred to one or more police agencies because a ‘potential match’ is found. On limited occasions, this process can take longer than 10 business days to process, due to the complexity of the check.

A ‘potential match’ may be found if the applicant shares similar details with other individuals recorded in police systems, particularly if they have a common name. Processing of a police check in these instances can take longer to progress.

How do I interpret the police check result?

The results provided on a police check will outline whether the applicant has No Disclosable Court Outcomes (NDCO) or Disclosable Court Outcomes (DCO):

  • NDCO means there is:
    • no police information held against the applicant
    • no police information that can be released according to the purpose and category of the police check, and the application of relevent spent convictions legislations and/or information release policies.
  • DCO means there is:
    •  police information that can be released.

A police check result with a DCO may list the following police information:

  • charges
  • court convictions, including penalties and sentences
  • findings of guilt with no conviction
  • court appearances
  • good behaviour bonds or other court orders
  • matters awaiting court hearing
  • warrants and/or warnings
  • traffic offences.
Who will have access to the police check result?

The following people may have access to an applicant’s personal information and police check result:

  • authorised police staff involved in the police check assessment process
  • authorised ACIC staff to support accredited bodies and police agencies when processing the police check
  • authorised staff of the accredited body or police agency that requests the police check and receives the result.
  • accredited body’s customer organisations (Legal Entity Customers)

A third party organisation, either with the applicant’s informed consent, identified on the application form, or through relevant legislation.