Police clearance certificates are as important to international teachers as their passports. Why? Without a police clearance certificate many countries will not allow teachers to work with children.
The clearance certificate goes by many different names; what you’re looking for is an official document that records any convictions on your criminal record. Regardless of whether you have any convictions or not, you will be required to produce official evidence that your record is clear.
If you record is not clear you may still be able to teach abroad, but you will need to find out which countries will grant you a work permit with the convictions you have.
More rigorous background checks for foreign teachers applying to work in Thailand have been put in place because of a recent high profile arrest of an American teacher by American immigration officers in August 2006. The teacher was taken back to the States for questioning in a murder investigation National Police Check Australia.
Once you’ve obtained your police clearance certificate, take it with you when you move overseas. It’s one of those important documents you should always be able to lay your hands on. A clearance certificate is one of my top 10 things to take when moving abroad. You’ll need to have the original with you; it’s not one of the documents you can carry in digital format.
When you are nearing the end of you first overseas teaching contract start making enquiries about what you need to do to obtain a clearance certificate from the police in the country you’ve been teaching in. This is important! When you’re teaching abroad it’s important you maintain an unbroken chain of police clearance certificates or the equivalent.
Should you eventually desire to return home and pick up your teaching career there, you’ll need to supply the clearance certificates you’ve collected whilst working abroad. A consequence of not being able to produce a record of your conviction history could be that you’re unable to continue working in the education industry as a teacher when you return home.
Information for NZ, Australia, the UK and the USA
In NZ you can get a copy of your Criminal Record from the Ministry of Justice by contacting the Privacy Unit of the Ministry of Justice in Wellington.
In the USA you can get a ‘Criminal Record Check’ from the local police. This will only cover the state in which you live, so if you’ve lived in a number of different states in recent time, then you should apply to the local police in those states as well.
In the UK you can apply for a ‘Subject Access – Conviction History,” which is a record of any convictions you have, from your local police station. This is the document that you can obtain yourself under the privacy laws. Your other option, if you are currently employed, is to ask your employer to request a Criminal Records Bureau check, which involves a more rigorous search of your record.
In Australia the Australian Federal Police in Canberra can issue a ‘National Police Clearance Certificate’ which covers all states and territories except Queensland. If you live in Queensland you’ll need to contact the Queensland Police Service directly.