Verifile is a registered Umbrella Body of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), Disclosure Scotland and Access NI. This entitles us to countersign applications on behalf of employers, the voluntary sector and charitable organisations across the United Kingdom.
What is a criminal record check?
A criminal record check is a process that reveals a person’s criminal history.
In many countries, including those in the UK, employers are legally bound to carry out criminal record checks on candidates in certain job sectors. These usually include roles in health, education, and social care, although other positions and professions may also require a criminal record check.
We offer a compliant criminal record check service for employers hiring candidates in the UK and globally. Our team of specialists conducts thousands of criminal record checks every month and we can help you recruit the right people while complying with relevant employee regulations in your country.
How to order an international criminal record check
We can provide criminal record checks globally, where available and legally compliant. The process, turnaround time, and cost will depend on the jurisdiction.
While every country has a criminal system, it is not always possible to access a criminal check for employment purposes. For that reason, we are unable to offer global coverage for every country and jurisdiction. We are constantly reviewing our coverage, however, and when we find that local laws have changed we add that check to our services and make it accessible for our customers.
In some countries, we have found alternative methods which are less conclusive than a full criminal record but still offer data to our clients. These are usually searches that use publicly available records. While they’re not the same as a full search conducted by the police, courts, or agencies responsible for managing criminal records, they at least offer some coverage in countries where laws prevent access to a person’s full criminal record.
Get in touch with our team to discuss international criminal record checks.
Types of Criminal Record Checks in the UK
Criminal checks in England & Wales are processed by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), in Scotland through Disclosure Scotland, and in Northern Ireland by AccessNI.
There are three main types of criminal record checks in the United Kingdom: a Basic check, Standard check, and Enhanced check.
A Basic check can be used for any purpose, job, or industry, while Standard and Enhanced checks can only be requested for positions that meet a certain criteria. In Scotland, there is also a PVG check which determines whether an individual has been barred from working with children or protected adults.
We have outlined each level of criminal check below:
A Basic Disclosure check is the most common as they are available for any job position and suitable for all industries, including Visa applications. Processing times will differ depending on the agency you apply through.
- England & Wales: Basic DBS checks in England & Wales search the Police National Computer and disclose all unspent convictions and conditional cautions under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, or states that there are no such convictions (subject to filtering rules). This check is also used in Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.
- Northern Ireland & Scotland: A Basic criminal record check in Northern Ireland or Scotland reveals any unspent convictions and can be used for any purpose.
A Standard Disclosure check can only be ordered for positions that meet certain eligibility criteria. Processing times will differ depending on the agency you apply through.
- England & Wales: Standard DBS checks in England & Wales reveal all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and final warnings, or states that there are no such convictions (subject to filtering rules). Click here for more information on eligibility for a Standard Disclosure check in England & Wales. This check is also used in Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.
- Northern Ireland: A Standard criminal check in Northern Ireland scans the Police National Computer to reveal spent and unspent convictions, informed warnings, and other non-court disposals.
- Scotland: A Standard criminal check in Scotland reveals unspent convictions and cautions, relevant spent convictions, as well as information from the Sex Offenders Register.
An Enhanced check can only be ordered for positions that meet certain eligibility criteria. It can be requested for positions that include working in regulated positions (training, supervising, etc.)
or regulated places (e.g. schools, hospitals, care homes, etc.). Processing times will differ depending on the agency you apply through.
- England & Wales: Enhanced DBS checks in England & Wales reveal the same information as a Standard check as well as non-conviction information from local police forces. Click here for more information on eligibility for an enhanced check in England & Wales. If eligible, Enhanced checks can also check Child and Adult Barred lists to ensure a person has not been barred from working with children or vulnerable adults. This check is also used in Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man.
- Northern Ireland: An Enhanced check in Northern Ireland includes spent and unspent convictions, cautions, informed warnings, and other non-court disposals as well as information held by the DBS and local police. If relevant to the role, the Child and Adult Barred lists can also be checked.
- Scotland: An Enhanced check in Scotland includes unspent convictions and cautions, relevant spent convictions, inclusion on the Child and Adult Barred list if eligible, and information from the Sex Offenders Register.
Which agency should I use for a UK criminal record check?
Many employers are unsure which of the three UK government agencies they should use for a criminal record check. Should employers apply for a criminal check from the agency where their business is located or where the candidate is based?
- If a check is requested for personal reasons (i.e. unrelated to any employment), the individual’s place of residence will determine which agency to apply to. If the individual does not reside in the UK they can use their last residence in the UK to decide on the agency.
- For employment purposes, criminal record checks should be ordered from the agency in the same location as the place of work.
- If an individual works in two UK jurisdictions, then the criminal record check should be ordered from the agency where the recruitment decision was made.
- For someone working or volunteering outside the UK, a criminal record check can be ordered from any of the three national agencies. Our recommendation is to use Disclosure Scotland as they provide the most conviction information and have the simplest process.
If you are still confused about which agency to order a criminal check from, get in touch with our team and we will advise you. It is essential that you choose the correct agency for a criminal record check as legislation differs across the three jurisdictions.
Who needs a criminal record check?
Criminal record checks are an essential part of many employment screening processes and are required by law when hiring for certain job positions.
A criminal background check can reduce the risk of theft, fraud, or other criminal activity by a potential employee and offer added security for vulnerable people. This is especially important for organisations that involve working with children or vulnerable adults, in a position of trust, in the healthcare or finance industry, or for a government organisation.
Some people may also require a criminal record check when applying for a Visa or job in a foreign country.
Any employer can request a basic criminal check for any job candidate. This can enhance the job screening process, safeguard the workplace, and speed up recruitment. It also ensures compliance where the check is legally mandated.
More thorough criminal checks, however, can only be requested for job candidates applying for roles in certain sectors.
These positions might include:
- Nurses & midwives
- Pharmaceutical chemists
- Veterinary surgeons
- Medical practitioners
- Barristers & solicitors
- Judicial appointments
- Some court officers
- Legal secretaries
- Justices of the peace
- Prison employees
- Traffic wardens
- Chartered accountants
- Day care workers
- Prospective adopters & foster carers
- School teachers
- Anyone working in schools or with under 17s
- Youth workers
- Social workers
Click here for a more extensive list. Note that the list of professions and duties varies from country to country and even within UK jurisdictions. If you are unsure about the roles that employees are undertaking or the guidance from DBS, you can contact us directly for assistance.
What happens if I choose the wrong level of criminal check?
In the UK and some other countries, it is the legal responsibility of an employer to ensure that they are eligible to request the information on their candidates and use it as part of the selection process.
If you order the wrong check, and the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act that applies in that jurisdiction doesn't apply to the position applied for, then you could receive more information than you are legally entitled to. If you use that information to refuse employment, the implications could result in criminal proceedings being brought against you.
On the other hand, ordering the wrong check could also result in you receiving less information than you are entitled to, or required by law to have. This could have damaging implications for the integrity of your employee screening process and the safety of your workplace and the public.
The rules for criminal record checks are different in each country and it can be difficult to understand which level of check is necessary for your applicants. Our experienced team of specialists can guide employers to choose the right level of check for the advertised role and the country they are in.
What is a DBS check criminal record?
A DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) criminal record check is a criminal background check used in England & Wales to verify whether someone has a criminal history. A DBS check searches a person's criminal record for any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, and other information depending on the level of criminal check and the job being applied for. Also known as a disclosure, a DBS check can also disclose information on whether an individual is barred from working with children and/or adults.
This criminal record check helps employers to hire more suitable candidates and screen applicants who may be working with children, vulnerable people, in positions of trust, or for government organisations.
What shows up on a DBS check?
What shows up on a DBS check depends on the level of criminal record disclosure. There are three different levels: Basic, Standard, and Enhanced. A Basic disclosure can be used for any purpose however Standard and Enhanced DBS checks can only be requested for people applying for certain positions.
A Basic certificate will reveal all unspent convictions and criminal cautions. A Standard certificate shows spent and unspent cautions, convictions, reprimands, and warnings. In Scotland a Standard check also searches information from the Sex Offenders Register. Enhanced certificates show the same information as Standard checks as well as non-conviction information from local police forces, and if relevant to the role, scan Child and Adult Barred lists.
Are all convictions shown in a DBS check?
Not all convictions will be disclosed in Standard or Enhanced DBS checks. Since 2013, filtering rules have applied that prevent the disclosure of certain cautions and convictions. In 2020, these rules were updated to remove the disclosure of old or minor offences, known as ‘protected’ offences.
DBS filtering rules mean that:
- Warnings, reprimands, and youth cautions are no longer automatically disclosed
- If an individual has more than one conviction, each conviction will be considered against filtering rules individually, rather than all being automatically disclosed.
Some offences will always be disclosed as part of Standard or Enhanced checks (unless they relate to a youth caution). These ‘specified’ offences are usually of a serious violent or sexual nature or are important for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults. All convictions resulting in a custodial sentence will always be disclosed. You can see a list of ‘specified’ offences on this page.
How can I check someone's criminal record as an employer?
Employers can order criminal record checks for current and potential employees through Verifile. Our process for employers is simple and can all be done online through our secure platform.
To start applying for criminal checks as an employer, click here to set up a new client account on our portal.
Why should an employer conduct criminal checks?
A criminal check helps a business screen potential employees to prevent hiring unsuitable candidates. Doing so can protect other employees, shareholders, clients, and members of the public by ensuring candidates do not have a criminal history that may impede their ability to create a safe working environment.
Background checks can also accelerate the recruitment process and help businesses to make safer hiring decisions, especially when working in positions of trust, with vulnerable adults or children, or in government organisations.
Criminal Record Checks Summary
A criminal record check is an important part of the employment screening process and helps employers make safe hiring decisions, particularly for jobs that require working with vulnerable people, in government organisations, or in positions of trust. A Verifile background check can help you ensure that potential candidates are suitable for the role and reduce the risk of criminal activity from future employees.