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May 25th, 2020 by David O Connor

How Can I Get a Criminal Background Check in the UK


One of the most important documents you’ll need to apply for your China work visa, a criminal background check is, as the name implies, a certificate of all your illegal shenanigans. Hopefully, there won’t be any at all – a clear record being the aim of this game – and if you’re starting to already panic at the thought of all those unpaid parking fines, chill out. China is looking out for serious stuff, only: the government simply wants to ensure no ardent criminal is coming over to teach in their country.

And that’s probably fair enough.

If you’re from the UK, you have it relatively easy as you can apply online. You’ll still have to get the document certified for your Chinese teaching visa application, however, and we’ll walk you through this process below.

Do note it takes about two weeks to receive your certificate so apply as soon as you know you’ll be applying for a job teaching ESL in China.

How to get a criminal background in the UK?

In the UK, a Basic Disclosure is what you can apply for on your own – UK employers are actually able to get a more thorough background check if you’re applying for a job with children but your Chinese employer won’t have access to that, so the Basic Disclosure it is.

This basic criminal background check costs £23 and is available to anyone from England and Wales.

To apply, you need to be over the age of 16, which should be just fine given one of the eligibility requirements for teaching in China is that you’d be between the ages of 18 and 55 (women) or 60 (men).

 Remember that your criminal background check must be:

  • No more than 6 months old
  • Be issued by the relevant authority
  • Be from ANY country you’ve lived in for 6 months or more, in the last 5 years. So yes, even if you’re not a citizen of the UK but have lived there for a considerable amount of time in the last few years, you can and should apply for a Basic Disclosure in the UK

Here’s what you need to apply:

  1. Address details of EVERY place you have lived, in England or Wales, over the last 5 years
  2. Details of your national insurance number
  3. Driving license
  4. Passport
  5. Payment fee (pay with credit card or through Apple/Google Pay)

There are three ways to get your criminal background check in the UK:

  • you can apply yourself at any police station,
  • online, directly with the relevant authorities OR
  • you can use the services of one of the many accredited responsible organizations.

Option 1 – Apply at any police station

If you can’t or don’t want to apply online, you can simply visit your nearest police station and apply in person – don’t forget to bring all your documents.

Option 2 – Apply online through the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service)

You can apply online here but do note that if the site is unable to verify your identity, you will have 10 days to visit a Post Office to complete this last step or your application will be scrapped and you’ll have to start over. Make sure the Post Office you’ve chosen offers the DBS Identity Validation Service before you go and do keep in mind that your application will not start until this step is completed.

Option 3 – Apply through a responsible organization

Several accredited and recognized agencies (like CRB Direct) can act on your behalf and secure a criminal background check. Why would anyone want to employ their services? Because the process is slightly faster, easier and more streamlined – the agent acts as your third-party verification so, if verifying your identity online has not worked (as stated above) this is a great option if you don’t want to waste time with a Post Office visit.

Moreover, a great bonus of this kind of service is that you can apply from abroad – if the UK is one of your countries you’ve lived in during the last 5 years, but you no longer reside there, it’s an efficient way to secure your Basic Disclosure.

The cost of this service varies between £65 and £75.

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What to do once you have your criminal background check from the UK

Once you’ve finally secured your certificate, you’ll need to get it notarized and authenticated by the local government and then have it legalized by a Chinese Government.

The fun ain’t over yet!

1: How to get your criminal background check notarized in the UK

The easy part! Have a solicitor or public notary to do this.

2. How to get your criminal background authenticated in the UK

It’s weird, right? Why does an official certificate, issued by a government body, need authentication by another government body? Bureaucracy!

The Foreign Commonwealth Office is the entity that can authenticate your Basic Disclosure. See how to do that here.

3. How to get your criminal background check validated in the UK

The very last step in this process will be dealt with by your closest Chinese Embassy although note that it must be an embassy in the UK. If you are outside of the country, you can utilize the services of a third-party (as is the case for the application) although an altogether different agency. Vital Consular is a well-rated option.

All documents must be authenticated by a Chinese Embassy in the country they were issued in, so keep this in mind for any and all criminal background checks if you’ve resided in different countries over the last 5 years

Aside from the 14-day processing period, the process for getting a criminal background check in the UK can be time-consuming in certain situations. Given the 6-month validity, however, you can go ahead and apply for this at the same time you’re applying for teaching jobs in China.

If teaching and living in China is the next step in your professional life, then trust that you’ll find the right job within 6 months and have this certificate ready to apply for your visa.

At China By Teaching, we can help you find the right job, in the right city. Submit your CV and we will be in touch with jobs from quality schools throughout China.

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David O Connor

David O Connor

David is China by Teaching’s chief contributor. When not offering sage advice about teaching in China, David is a headmaster of a Bilingual kindergarten in Beijing. David is a lover of craft beers, book clubs and super long road trips.

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