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So, you’re finally ready to make your dreams come true and move to the USA, or maybe you’re already living here and want to make it official. Regardless of what your particular case is, you’ll need to provide the authorities with your Police Clearance Certificate (USA). This will make you eligible to enter the country as an immigrant or get your permanent residency.
What is a Police Clearance Certificate (USA)?
A police clearance certificate is a type of international background check that is found within the United States of America records system.
In short, this is a document that contains everything the authorities need to know about your criminal records, or lack thereof. Whenever someone wants to enter the USA or become a permanent resident via Green Card, the local police need to make sure that this person is not a danger to the country and its inhabitants, which is where this certificate comes in handy.
It’s important to mention, that having a criminal record does not automatically deem you ineligible for an immigrant, or permanent resident status. If you’ve ever been arrested, the Police Clearance Certificate (USA) will specify and detail every single aspect of these events (reasons, dates, and outcomes).
Why You Need a Police Clearance Certificate (USA)
As stated above, one of the main reasons to get your Police Clearance Certificate (USA) is to become eligible for either an immigrant or permanent resident status, or to get a Nonimmigrant Visa if you’re applying from certain countries like Mexico; however, while this may sound simple, there are several hoops to jump through, and a collection of different requirements that must be met depending on the process you’re applying for, your age, location, and country of residence at the time of application.
Police Clearance Certificate for Green Cards
If you’re unfamiliar with Green Cards, these are, in a nutshell, the standard government-issued documents which validate that, while a specific person was not born on US soil, they have been granted permanent resident status and may remain in the country for as long as they want.
Once an individual begins the application process for obtaining a Green Card, one of the first things that will be asked of them, is that they provide a Police Clearance Certificate that will be taken into consideration when analyzing the pros and cons of granting permanent residency to this person. Moreover, in many cases, if the person is applying for a marriage or family-based Green Card, they’ll be asked to also provide a criminal record report issued by their home country. If this document is not in English, it will need to be translated.
There’s no two ways about it. You must have a Police Clearance Certificate for Green Cards.
Police Clearance Certificate Letter for Immigration
Let’s assume that you’re not able to petition for a Green Card yet. Let’s say you’re still in your home country, hoping to be allowed to enter the USA under immigrant status. If this is the case, the requirements are very similar to those of a Green Card application, but the process can be different. You’ll still be required to present a translated version of your Police Clearance Certificate, but, as opposed to applying from within American territory, you’ll have to send your papers over to the NVC (National Visa Center).
Since you’re applying from a foreign country, these certificates might vary from those in the USA, which means you’ll have to submit a Police Clearance Certificate Letter for Immigration to the aforementioned department. This document explains in detail your criminal and arrest history (or lack thereof), so that the American authorities can review your case and determine whether to grant you immigrant status or reject your application.
Police Clearance Certificate for Visa Process
This applies to all kinds of Visas, from business and tourist, to domestic employee, and journalist ones. It can’t be stressed enough how important the Police Clearance Certificate for Visa Process is. This is the means through which the USA can guarantee the safety of its citizens, and the protection of its sovereignty.
In certain countries, like Mexico, the U.S. Embassy requires that even people requesting Nonimmigrant Visas (H-2B, B-2, H-3, E, etc.) go through a thorough screening process, fill out a form (DS-160), and provide a Police Clearance Certificate that meets all the aforementioned criteria in order to approve the document’s issuing.
Police Clearance Certificate (USA) Sample
Now, we’ve been discussing the nature and purpose of Police Clearance Certificates, but what do they actually look like? What are the elements they contain, and how are they structured?
If your police certificate was issued by an American police department, the document will usually follow a predictable pattern and include the following:
- Date of birth
- Place of residence and current address
- Passport number including expiration date
- Driver’s license or regional ID
- Statement declaring your criminal history within a certain period
Everything on the sample form is boilerplate. At the bottom, you’ll usually find the name of the police department, and a signature of whoever was responsible for authorizing the issuing of said document.
How to Get a Police Clearance Certificate in the United States
So, now that you have the “what” and the “why”, it’s time to explore the “where” and the “how”.
How to get a background check from the police to obtain your certificate is luckily a straightforward process.
As stated above, the process you’ll have to go through to get your Police Clearance Certificate in the United States can vary greatly depending on your current situation, and the status you’re applying for. Completing this process will always be much simpler for those living in US territory, than for would-be immigrants trying to get cleared.
If you’re trying to get your clearance certificate in the US, the easiest way to go about it would be through your local police department while following these steps:
- Visit your local police department.
- Kindly request that a local, or state criminal records search is performed to generate a document stating you have no history of criminal activity, or arrests.
- Follow the indications given by the authorities to complete the process.
For those in need of a Police Clearance Certificate that do not reside in the US, it is recommended that you pay a visit to your local police department and follow their indications to obtain this document. Once it has been issued, it’s advised that you get it to the NVC as soon as possible to expedite the process.
Information shown on a clearance certificate will be similar to what shows up on a background check for level 2: national-level records.
How Long Does a Police Clearance Certificate Take to Obtain in the United States?
The length of time required to obtain a certificate aligns with how long a background check takes for level 2 checks:
7-10 days at most.
Keep in mind this can be delayed if information is not submitted correctly to local authorities.
What if You Have a Criminal Record?
There are many instances in which individuals with criminal records have been granted Visas, and immigrant or permanent resident status, so if this applies to you, don’t give up hope just yet. Even if you don’t have a spotless crime history, there are only a few instances that call for an individual to be denied a Green Card, for example. These include: Aggravated felonies, sexual offenses, and drug-related crimes.
It would be ill-advised to forfeit your right to becoming an immigrant or a permanent resident out of fear of being rejected due to an imperfect Police Clearance Certificate.
Things to Avoid During Migration, Residence and Visa Interviews
Now that you know all there is to know about getting your Police Clearance Certificate (USA), it’s also important that you understand the do’s and don’t’s when being interviewed by an officer of the state.
It’s extremely important to be completely honest about your past interactions with the law. Some people have been denied their Visa, Green Card, or immigrant status for being suspected of lying, even when they had nothing to hide, so, resist the urge. There are very few instances in which withholding information is acceptable (like minor traffic fines and citations).
Can I Get a Green Card With a Criminal Record?
As stated in the section above, it’s definitely a possibility! As long as your Police Clearance Certificate (USA) does not contain crimes related to drugs, aggravated assault, or sexual abuse, you might still be eligible to apply!
What if My Country Says My Police Clearance Certificate Is Unavailable?
Sadly, there are many cases in which local authorities in certain countries deem a person’s criminal history “unavailable” for a wide array of reasons. If this is your case, you can always get an affidavit, which is a written statement explaining the situation while providing witnesses that assume responsibility.
The USA receives millions of legal immigrants, businesspeople, and tourists every single year, and this number will just keep increasing. To guarantee the safety of these newcomers, and those who were born and raised in the country, there are certain measures that must exist. Having a Police Clearance Certificate is one of the simplest ways to provide authorities with the tools they need to expedite immigration, and permanent residency processes.
Regardless of your current location, many countries have the means to issue a clearance certificate. Approach your local police department and ask about the options available to you so that you can begin your process.
Whether you’re applying for permanent residency, immigrant status, or a Visa, the Police Clearance Certificate (USA) will always be required of you for the United States of America, so make sure you use the information provided in this article to get yours!