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South African Police Service Police Clearance

A sample of the header of a South African Police Service Police Clearance.

How to get a SAPS Police Clearance for South Africa

Getting a police clearance certificate (PCC) when you need to use it for work or study abroad can be a time-consuming process, but if you know what the process entails and how to go about it, it makes things much easier to understand why you need to use a professional legal firm. The information on this page will help you better understand what a police clearance certificate is and how you can go about asking us to get your urgent SAPS Police Clearance done.

Please note: Our services are not hampered by any rumoured “new application process at SAPS”. If you want to apply for an urgent SAPS Police Clearance Certificate from abroad (or from within SA), and receive the document in between 5 and 30 working days (excluding courier), please see our pricing and contact us here.

Need the official SAPS Police Clearance South Africa application form? Download it here.

What is a police clearance certificate?

A SAPS Police Clearance is a certificate that is issued after a background check has been conducted to enumerate any criminal records that a person might have. If the person has no criminal record whatsoever, the certificate will state exactly that, as seen in the image below:

police clearance south africa no record

If, however, the person does have a criminal record, the certificate will state that such records are displayed on the second page of the document. Even if the person has a record, the document is still valid, legal and can be used in applications requiring it. The authority (e.g. a country’s government/consulate) viewing the police clearance certificate will decide if it has any meaning for them or not for the application (e.g. work visa).

A police clearance (South Africa) is available to anyone, whether they have been in the country or not. It simply is a database check, by using names, other details and especially fingerprints, to see whether these details correlate with anyone on the South African criminal records database. Therefore, anyone, from any country, with any details, can apply for and obtain a South African police clearance.

The SAPS Criminal Record Centre (CRC), located in Pretoria, is where South Africans (and any other nationality as well) get their clearance certificates processed. Apostil deals directly with the SAPS CRC and thus cuts out any intermediaries (such as embassies or consulates), and applies for and collects documents directly from the source. This makes applications through our service for South African police clearances much, much faster and more reliable.

It also makes it possible to apply for a South African police clearance from abroad, for example from Australia, New Zealand or the United Kingdom.

How to get an urgent police clearance certificate?

In order to apply for a SAPS Police Clearance certificate (often referred to online as a PCC), you will need to supply a set of complete fingerprints as well as proof of your identity (a certified South African ID or any country’s passport), along with a completed application form. On the fingerprint form, your full names and surname, identity number, date of birth and place of birth must also be recorded (see how to fill in the SAPS 91(a) form here). Usually when you apply in South Africa, a police officer or SAPS employee will assist you in taking your fingerprints. However, you can actually have your fingerprints taken anywhere and your form stamped by any lawyer, commissioner of oaths, and sometimes even a company representative.

Should you wish to arrange an urgent police clearance certificate for South Africa through us, you can have the SAPS Police Clearance 91a (application form) fingerprinted at your nearest police station or fingerprinting company, after which we will handle your documents directly with the Pretoria Criminal Records Centre (CRC). You may also choose to have your document/s returned by in-person collection or via local or international courier.

South African police clearance application form example

Click to download the South African police clearance application form.

How long does police clearance take?

There is an abundance of information online that tells you that you can do the application on your own, but applying in person may see your clearance certificate take up to 2-3 months (if in SA) and 3-6 months (if abroad) to get processed. According to the Criminal Records Centre (CRC), their processing times vary from the day on which the application was submitted, which is very confusing.

In special cases, it may be possible to further speed up obtaining a PCC from South Africa (extreme urgent police clearance South Africa). Ask your agent about being able to submit fingerprints via a high-quality scan on email. This is what SAPS does in effect anyway, and thus if possible, will allow you to forego the time and cost of a courier to South Africa.

Important parts of the police clearance (South Africa)

Police Clearance Certificate South Africa

A sample Police Clearance Certificate for South Africa

When your police clearance arrives in your hands, you will notice that it is a special document, stamped and signed on special paper which cannot easily be forged. It is one page long, unless you have had prior convictions that are recorded on a second (or more) pages.

It contains various numbers, all which are important only to SAPS, such as a enquiry number, transaction number and SAPS number. The yellow-gold and blue SAPS logo and heading are centered at the top, and the person’s details are below. There is no South African ID number or passport number on any SA police clearance. It is critical to make very sure, as soon as you have received your PCC or seen a scan thereof, to check all the details carefully.

When using the document to apply for something, the date stamp and authenticity of the document are usually the main things in question. The police clearance is valid for differing time periods depending on the country or authority you are using it with. The authenticity is verified by an apostille on the document, or an authentication and embassy attestation, depending on where you will use the document.

Again, the date on the SAPS stamp on the Police Clearance Certificate is vital, since some countries only hold the document valid for 3 months (e.g. Spain), even if it is apostilled. This means you often have no chance of reliably getting an outcome in time.

The signature of the police (SAPS) official (usually a sergeant or commander) is also very important and must be recognised by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO), if the police clearance is to be apostilled or authenticated.

SAPS Police Clearance South Africa signature and stamp

Since the certificates are typed out by hand, more often than one can imagine, a mistake is entered, printed and even signed off. These police clearance certificate mistakes can be simply typing MR or MS incorrectly according to the person’s gender, or misspelling a name, surname or maiden name. In such a case, had one applied individually, one would have to restart the entire application. However, with Apostil, we can have a corrected reprint done within a few days of the error being issued and collected.

Please note that only one maiden name and one surname can be included on police clearance certificates.

In conclusion: Police Clearances for South Africa

An expedited Police Clearance for South Africa is a document we can help you with, more quickly, safely and securely than if you were to try and do it on your own, from within South Africa or from abroad. Simply fill in one of our enquiry forms and we will get back to you very quickly to start the process.

Apostil.co.za can assist you in getting your South African Police Clearance (PCC) in between 5 and 30 working days of applying (excluding courier time). We can also have it apostilled quickly.

Further reading:
How to fill in the SAPS 91a Police Clearance Application Form
What is the Validity of a South African Police Clearance
Expungements: How to remove a criminal record (in certain cases) and the expungement application form