Background check: Seeking a Certificate of No Criminal Conviction in Hong Kong and the rehabilitation of offenders with a criminal record10Oct2023
Hong Kong is a sophisticated First World city with huge finance and professional service industries. This often leads to enquiries concerning the proof of individuals’ backgrounds. However, the system in Hong Kong for proving a clear criminal record is not easy or convenient to use, and not always accessible.
What is a Certificate of No Criminal Conviction (CNCC)?
A CNCC is a certificate of the Certificate of No Criminal Conviction Office issued by the Hong Kong Police Force confirming that a person has not been convicted of any criminal offence in Hong Kong.
CNCCs may be required by the immigration, governmental authorities, or consulates of other jurisdictions for background check purposes. CNCCs are often required for visa, migration, and adoption applications.
Can anyone apply for a CNCC at any time?
No. A person can only apply for a CNCC if a letter of request to them, for such CNCC, is issued by a Hong Kong government authority such as the Immigration Department, or a consulate, addressed to the Hong Kong Police Force.
The application result and the CNCC will be sent directly to the institutions but not to the applicant. If an applicant has a criminal record, the Police will not issue a CNCC and will inform the institution and the applicant in writing.
How to make a CNCC application?
A CNCC application can be made in person or by post. One may authorise another person, such as a solicitor, to submit and handle the application. The processing time of an application is around 4 weeks.
Can I make an application for a CNCC from overseas?
Yes. The Hong Kong Police Force accepts applications from overseas by post. If that is the case, there may be extra steps to take to obtain the fingerprints required for the application.
What if I have a spent conviction?
A spent conviction is a conviction which, subject to some exceptions, is ignored after a specified period. This is to allow the convicted person to recover his clear record as a sign of reformation and rehabilitation.
By section 2(1) of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance, Chapter 297 of the laws of Hong Kong, a person is deemed to have no criminal record in Hong Kong if the following conditions are met:
- the person has been convicted of an offence for which he was not sentenced to imprisonment exceeding 3 months or to a fine exceeding HK$10,000.
- the person has not been convicted in Hong Kong on any earlier day of an offence; and
- a period of 3 years has elapsed without that person being convicted again in Hong Kong.
On a CNCC application, the spent conviction record will be specified in the reply letter with a note that the conviction is regarded as spent in Hong Kong.
What if I need to prove that I have no criminal conviction for other purposes?
There may be occasions, such as in employment applications or as part of employment background checks, where one is asked to produce a document proving a clear criminal record.
In such circumstances, people may contact the Criminal Conviction Data Office (CCDO), an office operated by the Hong Kong Police Force. If conviction data is found, a copy of the record will be given to the applicant. If no conviction data is located, the requester will be informed of the result orally only. You can only check your own record at the CCDO. Applications cannot be made by a third party.
Therefore, as an alternative, you might also consider making a sworn statutory declaration recording that the CCDO has confirmed the clear record. However, the only official document for proving one’s clear criminal record in Hong Kong is the CNCC.
Obtaining a CNCC is not complicated, but issues may arise during the application process, such as:
- processing time is taking longer than expected.
- difficulties in submitting the application or obtaining fingerprints overseas.
- difficulties in obtaining a request letter from an appropriate requesting institution; and
- refusal by the police to provide a CNCC because the requesting party is not a recognised authority or institution.
If you find yourself in any of the above situations, require a CNCC or if you have any enquiries concerning rehabilitation or spent conviction, you may consult an experienced solicitor for legal advice or for liaising with the Hong Kong Police Force to prove your clear record. Tanner De Witt’s White-Collar Crime, Employment, Immigration and Dispute Resolution Teams are experienced in assisting clients in solving this kind of issue in the most effective and time-efficient manner and achieving the best possible outcome. Please contact Russell Bennett or Teresa Lau.
Russell Bennett and Teresa Lau
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Disclaimer: This publication is general in nature and is not intended to constitute legal advice. You should seek professional advice before taking any action in relation to the matters dealt with in this publication.