So, you are migrating, adopting a child or getting employed/educated in a different country. You have been requested to produce evidence of a clean criminal record in Singapore. How best would one go about proving a clean criminal record?
In such circumstances, it would be best to obtain a document known as a “Certificate of Clearance”.
In this globalizing world, the movement of people across country borders is inevitable and a daily occurrence. Whether it be for education, work or leisure, such movement of people can lead to security issues within each nation’s borders. From transnational terrorism to social unrest and crimes, countries face the risks of migrants committing wrongs and disrupting the peace in their homeland.
Therefore, one way for the authorities in these countries to be comforted as to the background of migrants (and in particular, lack of a criminal background) is if there is a document that certifies that the said individual has committed little, or no, crime in his previous country/countries of residence. Generally, a person who has no prior criminal convictions is less likely to commit crimes in the future. Such assurances in Singapore come in the form of the Certificate of Clearance (“COC”) issued by the Singapore Police Force (“SPF”), which states that the recipient of the COC does not have a criminal record in Singapore.
What is a Certificate of Clearance and why is it required?
Some positions or applications, in particular, jobs or volunteering opportunities with “foreign government authorities or institutions” generally require you to produce a COC.
While a COC does not guarantee that its recipients are guaranteed to not commit any wrongdoings, it goes a long way to assure authorities that, for a fixed time-frame, the individuals that have obtained it have no criminal record within the stipulated time-frame in Singapore. For a start, a COC can be issued to both Singaporeans, as well as foreign nationals (on a case-by-case basis).
How to apply for a Certificate of Clearance
As a pre-requisite, applicants must be above 16 years old and must be able to produce documentary proof indicating that a COC is required, as well as the purposes for such a request.
The application process as well as requirements differs slightly between Singapore citizens staying in Singapore, Singapore citizens staying abroad, and non-Singapore citizens. In terms of the process, the difference between citizens and non-citizens is that the latter group who wish to apply for a COC must submit an appeal form together with their application form via the online portal. The appeal is done on a case-by-case basis. Non-Citizens will normally be notified of the outcome of such appeals within five working days. As for citizens residing abroad, they can submit their application by post if they are overseas at the time of making the application.
Applications for a COC can be done online through the online eService system which was launched in June 2016 (for foreign nationals, once the notification for the approval of the appeal has been received, you can begin your application process). The electronic Certificate of Clearance is an online service provided by the SPF which allows applicants to submit online applications for a COC, which has made the application process more accessible and less time-consuming. SPF is no longer accepting walk-in applications at the Police Cantonment Complex.
After application, the processing time is approximately 10 working days for Singapore citizens. Upon receiving an email/SMS notification that the COC application has been accepted, applicants must book a fingerprint appointment within 6 months from the date of the COC application. The location of the fingerprint appointment is at the Certificate of Clearance Office at the Police Cantonment Complex. If you do not do this within six months, your application will be void. If you still wish to obtain a COC thereafter, you will need to submit a brand new application. Once the COC is available for collection, applicants may collect the certificate in person or through a proxy. An authorization letter is required for collection by proxy with a valid photo identification for verification. For overseas applications by post, the certificates will be posted to the forwarding address as indicated by the applicants in the application.
What documents do I need to prepare when I apply for a COC?
The list of documents you will need for this application is available here.
The processing fee for each application is S$55.00, with an additional overseas postage fee of S$5.00 that applies for applications via post from other countries. For applications by post, payment can be made with a bank draft made payable to ‘Head Criminal Records CID’ through a financial institution with a subsidiary bank based in Singapore for clearance.
Have a question or need legal advice?
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This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.