Following the changes to the Immigration Rules in April 2015, the Home Office has introduced a new requirement for applicants to provide an overseas criminal record certificate from any country where they have lived continuously for 12 months or more in the last 10 years. The Home Office will refuse an application where an applicant has failed to provide a valid criminal record certificate from the relevant authority.
In order to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the policy the Home Office has decided to introduce this requirement in phases, starting with Tier 1 (Investor) and (Entrepreneur) applicants, and their dependants who are 18 years old or above. The requirement will apply to all Tier 1 (Investor) and (Entrepreneur) applications submitted outside the UK on or after 1 September 2015. Providing the requirement is implemented successfully, it should be rolled out across all applications by the beginning of 2016.
There is a concession however for applicants where it is not reasonably practicable to obtain a criminal record certificate from the overseas authority.
Applicants should take note that the processing timeframes and fees for criminal record certificates will vary from country to country and shall also depend on whether the applicant is applying for a certificate as a local or an overseas applicant. In many countries processing timeframes can take up to one month or more for overseas applicants (eg Austria, Bahrain, Egypt, Hong Kong and Macau, Israel, Jamaica, Jordan, Latvia, Poland, Republic of North Korea, Russia, Seychelles, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine, USA).
Therefore it is crucial that applicants apply for a criminal record certificate bearing in mind the processing time at the relevant overseas authority to avoid significant delay in the submission of their application.
Employers would be advised to prepare for the requirement to be rolled out to Tier 2 categories and as such, Tier 2 sponsors should ensure that any potential migrant to be sponsored early next year has applied for the criminal record certificate in good time to avoid a delay to their start date in the UK.
There are some countries where criminal record certificates are not available and the applicant will need to contact the relevant overseas authority to enquire whether an alternative document can be produced for the purpose of the application.
Please note that under the current Rules the requirement does not apply to extensions or in-country switching applications under Tier 1 (Investor) and (Entrepreneur). Additionally, this requirement will not be introduced for short-term visitor visas as this would be deemed a "disproportionate requirement".
Further information of how to obtain an overseas criminal record certificate is available on the Home Office website.