It sounds like a very easy question; how long can you expect to wait for a DBS certificate to appear in your letterbox after you submit the form? However, there isn’t one simple answer. There are a number of factors which can affect how quickly your certificate comes back, and understanding these factors can help you reduce the time your check takes.
The government sets targets for turnaround of DBS checks, and regularly publishes statistics of how the various police forces around the country are performing. The current targets are for 82% of disclosures processed within 21 days, and 96% processed within 42 days. So, for the majority of applicants, their forms should be returned to them within three weeks. For March 2019, the latest date available, 81% of disclosures were sent out within the 21 day target. There is also some variation around the country, as in general, smaller police forces are quicker than larger police forces in major cities.
Problems with the Application
One of the main reasons why DBS checks get held up in the system is that the applicant hasn’t filled in the form correctly. In the past, the DBS has returned the form to applicants, highlighting missing information or asking for clarification where needed. Recently however they announced that they would no longer be doing this. Take extra care over filling in the form, especially the sections about previous addresses going back five years and all previous names. If your application is rejected, you’ll lose any fee you’ve paid too. Online applications are preferable to paper copies when you are trying to minimise delays. Not only does the application form arrive at the DBS as soon as it is submitted, you may be able to verify your identity online at the same time.
Another bottleneck in the system is often at the stage where you have to prove your identity to the person asking you to get the DBS certificate. If you haven’t read the guidance about the required identity and financial documents, you will be sent away to get the right paperwork. If you receive online utility bills or do digital banking, requesting hard copies of your bills and statements can take time to organise. Searching for paperwork can be time consuming too. The best advice in these cases is to look at the requirements for documents at an early stage of the process, and not leave it until the night before you are due to see your employer.
There is no fast-track option for DBS certificates as there is for other official paperwork like your passport. However, if you want to make sure you are getting things right first time, it’s perhaps worth asking a third party agent or an umbrella body to help you. These are companies who do nothing but help people with their DBS checks every day of the week. They are experts in the system and can deal with any tricky circumstances.