Most people who have grown up in the UK know that we have a system for checking people who are applying for jobs working with children or vulnerable adults. For people who have always worked and lived in the UK, this process is relatively straightforward as it only involves checking with police forces here in the UK. The situation is more complex when people have only recently come to the UK to live and work, as checks must be done in their home country.

Certificates of Good Character

When dealing with someone who has recently arrived in the UK, the DBS system becomes irrelevant. Employers will ask instead for a “certificate of good character”, which is issued police departments or passport offices of the home country of the applicant. Each country has its own name for this sort of certificate, and detailed guidance can be found on the website broken down country by country. For example, an applicant from France would need to obtain an “extrait de casier judiciare”, but the certificate for someone from the USA would be a “Identity History Summary”. The contact point for these certificates is the UK embassy of the country required, and administration staff deal with requests for this sort of check regularly. If in any doubt about what you require, call your embassy and seek advice on the type of check and the process. Many Embassies will be happy to deal directly with your prospective employer if you have given them permission to do so, but others will only deal with the person who is being checked.


Fees vary enormously from country to country to get police checks done, and fees usually are to be paid in the local currency of the country concerned rather than in sterling. Online application may be possible for some countries, others still rely on pen and paper, or fax. Prospective employers might be prepared to pay the costs of having certificates produced, but applicants are often asked to shoulder the costs themselves. Police departments overseas will issue certificates in the local language only, so depending on where the applicant is from, an additional charge may be required to have the certificate officially translated into English. Embassies can usually give guidance or assistance with translation, but are unlikely to do it free of charge.

Starting Work While Waiting for Checks

There is no law which says that you are not allowed to start work while your police check certificate is pending. However, if the role involves working with children or vulnerable adults, applicants are likely to be allocated different duties or teamed up with another worker until checks are received. This can be inconvenient, but it is better than being barred from work altogether until paperwork is returned. If you are recently arrived from a country outside the UK, bear in mind the restrictions on working and requirements for DBS checking or similar when applying for jobs, remembering it may be six weeks or more until you are able to start.