If you’re living or working in Northern Ireland, you’ll know that although there are lots of things which are the same as in the rest of the UK, there are lots of differences too in the education or legal sectors. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is separate from the Police elsewhere in the UK, and one of the other main differences which affects workers in Northern Ireland is the process for getting checks done by the Police when you’re applying for a job in teaching, hospitals or any other roles dealing with groups termed as “vulnerable”. The body which does this in Northern Ireland is called AccessNI.

Basic, Standard and Enhanced Checks

The checking system in Northern Ireland is broadly similar to in other parts of the UK, even though the body which does the checks is different. There are three levels of checks – Basic, Standard and Enhanced – and your employer or voluntary organisation will know what level of checking your role requires. Basic and standard checks do not apply to jobs working with children or vulnerable adults, but might be needed if you’re taking a job as a pub landlord or an accountant. Enhanced checking will be needed for roles which involve working with children or adults in schools, care homes, nurseries or other similar settings.

Applying to AccessNI

The easiest way to apply for your AccessNI check is get online. You’ll need to first set up an AccessNI account, and all you need to do this is your name, email address and a password. Once your account has been set up you can then start the application process, and track its progress through your online account. Many organisations which require an AccessNI check will be registered with the online service too, and will give you a PIN code to allow you to log on and apply for clearance online. If your employer isn’t registered, you’ll have to go back to the old pen and paper method. You’ll need other information to verify your identity to AccessNI such as your National Insurance number, addresses of anywhere you’ve lived for the last 5 years, and passport and driving licence numbers if you have them.

Turnaround Time and Cost

AccessNI set targets for processing checks as quickly as possible, and they aim to have all enhanced checks done within seven days. There are often periods of delays though, so the best advice is always to get your application done as quickly as you can, especially if you are waiting for clearance before you are allowed to start work. You can track the progress of your checking through the system using the AccessNI online portal. As in other parts of the UK, volunteers who are applying for checking as part of their voluntary work will have their checks done free of charge. Employers may or may not ask applicants to pay for their own AccessNI check, there is no law around this and it depends on the policy of the individual employer.