Document processes associated with immigration can be complex and challenging, especially when dealing with official documents from different countries. One of these critical documents required in consular processing is the police certificate, which is often mandatory for individuals who are 16 years old or older. This article aims to provide a clear breakdown of the circumstances under which a police certificate might be required.
Understanding Police Certificates and Their Importance
A police certificate is an official document that indicates whether an individual has a criminal record in the country from where it is issued. This certificate is a vital part of consular processing because it provides essential background information on potential immigrants. It can potentially impact immigration decisions, making it crucial for applicants to understand when and how to obtain one.
When is a Police Certificate Required?
If you are 16 years old or older and have lived in your country of nationality for more than six months at any time in your life, you are required to submit a police certificate from your country of nationality.
Individuals 16 years old or older who have lived in their current country of residence (if different from nationality) for more than six months must also submit a police certificate from their country of current residence.
If you have ever lived in another country for 12 months or more and were 16 years or older at the time you lived there, you need to submit a police certificate from the country where you used to live.
If you were arrested for any reason, irrespective of how long you lived in that city or country and no matter your age at the time of arrest, you must submit a police certificate from the city and/or country where you were arrested.
Please note that present and former residents of the United States do NOT need to submit any U.S. police certificates.
However, all of these requirements are subject to change and applicants must monitor for updates from the U.S. Department of State.
Expiration of Police Certificates
Police certificates expire after two years as of June 2021. See 9 FAM 504.4-4(A) and NVC Immigrant Visa Process–Step 7. Collect Civil Documents.
However, if the certificate was issued from your country of previous residence, and you have not returned there since the police certificate was issued, it remains valid.
How and Where to Obtain a Police Certificate
Acquiring a police certificate is not necessarily a straightforward task as the issuing authority varies from country to country. However, the U.S. Department of State provides a comprehensive guide that outlines the specific issuing authority for each country.
The fact that U.S. government publishes the guide, also means that U.S. immigration authorities are keenly aware of the type of police certificate an applicant must produce before the consular interview. Certificates that do not follow U.S. Department of State’s guidelines are routinely rejected, and the applicant is directed to return with proper documentation, which often creates long delays.
To locate information relevant to obtaining a police certificate, visit the U.S. Department of State’s website.
The State’s website showing certificate requirements as of 2023 has the following headline “U.S. Visa: Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country”. On the left-hand side of the webpage, locate the alphabetical list and select the initial letter of your country’s name. Once your country is selected, navigate to the “Police certificates” tab. Here you will find critical details including the name of the issuing authority, the current fee associated with obtaining a certificate, and the standard procedure to follow.
What to Do If a Police Certificate Cannot Be Obtained
In some circumstances, obtaining a police clearance certificate may not be possible. Unless the country’s specific guidelines under the “Police certificates” section explicitly state that such records are “unavailable,” the applicant must provide additional information.
In such instances, you will need to submit a notarized personal affidavit, a form of a written statement. This affidavit should provide a detailed explanation outlining the reasons why you could not obtain a police certificate.
While navigating these processes can seem overwhelming, our law firm is here to assist. We can guide you through every step, ensuring that you understand the necessary procedures, so that you can have the best chance at a smooth and successful consular processing experience.