How to obtain a police clearance certificate? With Immigration Attorney Jacob Sapochnick

Are you applying for an immigrant visa (green card) or fiancé(e) visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad? Then you won’t want to miss the important tips we share in this video.

One of the most important pieces of evidence you will need to take to your visa interview is a police clearance certificate from your country of nationality to prove that you do not have a criminal record.

While the process of obtaining a police clearance certificate may seem simple enough, it is very important to know how to properly request one to avoid delays following your interview.

To know more about this topic, please keep on watching!


What is a Police Clearance Certificate?

A police clearance certificate is an official government document typically issued by a state police agency that documents any arrests for an individual, while that person was living in a particular area.

Those who are applying for an immigrant visa (green card) while living abroad, as well as K-1 fiancé(e) visa applicants, are required to submit a police certificate, issued by a police authority, from all countries where they have lived in the past, even if they have no criminal record in any of those countries.

Applicants with a criminal history must discuss their criminal record with an immigration attorney to determine if they are admissible to the United States.

Note: if you are applying for adjustment of status (green card) inside of the United States, you do not need to provide a police clearance certificate. Instead, you must provide any arrest records.

Who must submit a Police Clearance Certificate?

If you are an immigrant visa applicant or K-1 fiancé(e) visa applicant, who is at least 16 years old, you must submit a police clearance certificate from each of the following countries (except the United States), whether or not you’ve ever been arrested there:

  • Your country of nationality if you’ve lived there for at least six months at any time in your life
  • Your country of residence if it’s different from your country of nationality and if you’ve lived there for at least six months
  • Any country if you’ve lived there for at least 12 months and were at least 16 years old at the time

How long is a Police Clearance Certificate valid for?

Police clearance certificates generally expire after two years, unless the certificate was issued from your country of previous residence, and you have not returned there since the police certificate was issued.

Otherwise, you must obtain a new police clearance certificate if it has been more than two years since it was issued by the time of your visa interview.

When should I submit my Police Clearance Certificate?

Once your immigrant petition has been approved by USCIS (Form I-130, Form I-140, or I-129F), and your case is received by the National Visa Center, you will be notified regarding the civil documents that you must collect to support your visa application, including the police clearance certificate. Due to the two-year validity period, you should obtain this certificate when it is requested, and no earlier.

Does my Police Clearance Certificate need to be translated?

If your police clearance certificate is written in a language other than English, you must include a certified English translation.

How do you get the Police Clearance Certificate?

The U.S. Department of State has published instructions on how to obtain civil documents, including the police clearance certificate, by country.

After you have navigated to the “Visa Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country” webpage, you will select your country on the left-hand side of the webpage, and scroll down to the section titled “Police, Court, Prison Records” tab to view the instructions on how to obtain a police clearance certificate for your country.

If you have lived in any other countries for a period of at least 6 months, you will also need a police certificate from those countries as well.

If your country’s guidelines indicate that police clearance certificates are unavailable, you must provide a notarized personal affidavit (statement) describing in detail why you could not obtain a police clearance certificate.

Example: Instructions for obtaining a police clearance certificate from Mexico

Police Certificates – Mexico


Fees:  The fees vary by state.

Document Name:  Carta or Certificado de No Antecedentes Penales

Issuing Authority: State Police (Fiscalía General del Estado)

Special Seal(s) / Color / Format: The seals, colors and format vary by state.

Issuing Authority Personnel Title:   The issuing authority title varies by state.

Registration Criteria:  The registration criteria vary by state.

Procedure for Obtaining: Contact the individual State Police for instructions.

Certified Copies Available:  Certified copies are not available.

Alternate Documents: If the state police record is unavailable, visa applicants must provide a federal record called a “Carta de No Antecedentes Penales” from the Dirección General de Ejecución de Sanciones, Comisión Nacional de Seguridad….

For more information please check out our helpful links below.

Contact us. Need our help? To schedule a consultation, please text 619-483-4549 or call 619-819-9204.

Helpful Links


Need more immigration updates? We have created a new facebook group to address the impact of the new executive order and other changing developments related to COVID-19. Follow us there.

For other COVID 19 related immigration updates please visit our Immigration and COVID-19 Resource Center here.