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How the Service works

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

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 1 - Applicant submits police check

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

Step 2 - Accredited body or police agency lodges the application

Once the accredited body or police agency confirms the applicant’s identity, it lodges the application into a national database owned and operated by the ACIC.

Step 3 - Applicant’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 recorded in the system, the application will be marked as a ‘potential match’.

Step 4 - Potential match referred to police

If an application is marked as a potential match, it will be referred to the relevant police agencies for further assessment. If the police agency confirms the applicant’s details do not match the police information, the application will be returned to the accredited body or police agency that submitted the police check with a ‘No Disclosable Court Outcomes’ result. If the police agency determines the applicant’s details match the police information, the application will require further assessment.

Step 5 - Police apply spent conviction legislation and/or information release policies

When an applicant’s details match the police information found in the database, the police agencies will determine what information can be released in accordance with spent convictions legislation and/or information release policies.

Step 6 - Police check result is released

Once the police have finished processing the police check, the accredited body or police agency that submitted the application will receive the result. Upon receiving the result the accredited body should notify the applicant that it is available.

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

If the police check was submitted through a police agency, the applicant will receive 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, which may be branded by the accredited body. The accredited body must provide the applicant with the result when it contains a disclosable court outcome (DCO), and upon the request of the applicant.

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

The applicant will need 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.

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 an individual’s name is similar to a person of interest. On limited occasions, this process can take longer than 10 business days to process, due to the complexity of the check.

Processing a police check can take longer if the applicant shares similar details with other individuals recorded in police systems, particularly if they have a common name.

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.
  • 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

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