If you are seeking a family green card or marriage green card from overseas, one of the requirements is to obtain and submit a police clearance certificate for immigration clearance. The purpose of the police certificate is for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to get an overview of your criminal background (if any), including any arrests and details about the law infractions in countries you have lived in prior. If you cannot obtain a police certificate or they are unavailable in your country, we share alternative solutions in this complete guide. If you have questions about your criminal past and how it may affect your immigration benefits, it is best to contact VisaNation Law Group.
What is a Police Certificate for Immigration?
A police clearance letter for immigration is essential for U.S. immigration officials to get a summary of your criminal background and details of any infractions.
Who is Required to Obtain an NVC Police Certificate?
The National Visa Center (NVC) does not require police clearance certificates for everyone seeking immigration. This requirement is specifically for family members (16 years old and older) applying for a green card from outside of the United States. These individuals need to submit a copy of the police certificate to the NVC and take the original (or certified copy) along with them to the green card interview. Is your family member applying for a green card from inside the U.S.? They will need to submit police records instead of a police certificate.
Who needs to submit a police certificate to immigration?
The following are those required to get a police certificate USA:
- Family members 16 years old and older
- Applying for a family green card or marriage green card from outside of the U.S. (immigrant visa or nonimmigrant visa)
These are not required if you are going through an Adjustment of Status (I-485) within the United States.
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Countries You Need Police Certificates From
If you are applying for your green card from outside of the U.S., you will need an NVC police certificate from the following places, regardless of whether you were arrested in those countries:
- Country of Nationality (if you lived there for a minimum of six months at any point in your life)
- Country of Residence (if different from the country of nationality and if you were there for a minimum of six months)
- Any country you lived in for at least 12 months at the age of 16 or older
- Anywhere in the world, you were arrested (at any age and at any point in time)
Before submitting your police clearance certificate to USCIS, make sure it is less than two years old at the time of your green card interview.
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Where to Obtain an NVC Police Certificate
You can determine where to obtain an NVC police certificate with the U.S. Visa: Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country resource. First, select the country you are trying to obtain the records from on the left side column. Then scroll down the page to the Police, Court, Prison Records tab, and you will be shown the fees, issuing authority, and procedure for obtaining records. For example, if you select Albania, you will see the following information below.
All the information you need will be listed in this section for your country. If the guidelines say “unavailable,” then you should consult your lawyer on the best course of action. In some cases, you will need to submit a notarized affidavit explaining why you could not obtain the international police certificate.
Learn more about Visa Reciprocity.
How to Get a Police Certificate in the USA
If you are trying to obtain records from inside the United States, you can contact the court where your case was handled. In addition, you can contact the police department where the crime or arrest happened. Other authorities to consult may include the following authorities :
- Sheriff’s Department
- County courthouse
- Department of Public Safety
- State Police Department and Bureau of Investigation.
If you need to obtain an FBI clearance certificate for immigration, you can do so by applying online, mailing in the FBI application and fees, or using an approved third-party agent. The Identify History Summary includes information kept by the FBI related to arrests and naturalization, military service, and federal employment, if applicable. Processing time for Identity History Summary requests submitted electronically is estimated to be three to five business days upon receipt of the fingerprint card. Allow additional time for mail delivery if you selected this option during the request process. After you obtain the certified police and court records, please submit them to USCIS. If you cannot obtain the appropriate court records, always consult your attorney first and foremost. They may advise you to create a notarized affidavit explaining why the records are not available.
If You Cannot Obtain a Police Clearance Certificate
In the event that you have contacted local authorities and the country’s guidelines state that the records are unavailable, you should write up a personal (notarized) affidavit explaining your situation and why you could not get the police clearance. Discuss this further with your attorney.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find answers to the most commonly questions that our attorneys are asked.
How long is a police certificate USA valid?
As of June 15, 2021, the U.S. State Department has extended the validity of police certificates to 2 years. See 9 FAM 504.4-4(A) and NVC Immigrant Visa Process–Step 7. Collect Civil Documents.
Do I need to submit a police clearance certificate if I have never committed a crime?
Yes, even if you do not have a criminal past, if you are a family member seeking a green card from outside of the United States and are 16 years old or older, you must submit an international police certificate.
How recent does the certificate need to be?
It needs to be less than two years old. New ones are required under the following conditions:
- Police certificate is more than two years old
- You still live (or returned) to the place it was issued
- You are older than 16 years
According to authorities, “you are not required to renew a police clearance letter from your previous country of residence if you have not travelled to that country after the date of the issuance of such letter.”
How do I get a police visa certificate?
First, go to the U.S. Visa: Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country resource page. Then, in the left-hand column, select the country you are trying to obtain the records from. Next, scroll down the page to the Police, Court, Prison Records tab, and you’ll see:
- issuing authority
- procedure for obtaining records.
After you obtain the certificate, submit it to the NVC.
How can I get a police certificate if I am from India but not currently in India?
You can get clearance from a local Indian consulate. The consulate or embassy will check with the authorities in India where you were living and then can issue the police clearance certificate. This route may take time so it may be faster to contact or have someone living in that city get the certificate on your behalf.
What should I do if my certificate is not in English?
If your certificate is in a language other than English, you should submit a certified English translation along with it.
Should I hire an immigration attorney to help me?
We strongly recommend having a qualified professional review any case you have with immigration to ensure the paperwork is complete, and accurate and to avoid delays in the process!