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Complete Guide on Criminal Background Checks in Hong Kong

Don't let criminal background checks stall your hiring process in regulated industries! Learn how to navigate them for worry-free hiring.
A screen with an icon of a candidate and checklist indicating the criminal background check process in Hong Kong

Have you ever imagined what lies behind those perfect resumes of job seekers? Finding a suitable candidate is extremely important in the current tough employment industry. What if that perfect applicant fails to meet these expectations? Is it possible to avoid making an expensive mistake given that there is no central system for criminal background checks in Hong Kong? Don’t sweat it! This blog post provides insights on how to handle such a situation and perform effective background checks so you can hire worry-free.

Understanding Criminal Background Checks in Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong, understanding the process of conducting criminal background checks for employment purposes is somewhat different from elsewhere in the world. A criminal record check, also known as a “Certificate of No Criminal Conviction” (CNCC), is used to check whether an individual has any criminal convictions. Only the Police Force in Hong Kong has authority over this document.

Unlike some other jurisdictions, there is no specific employment-related central system for carrying out criminal checks in Hong Kong. Additionally, employers cannot engage third-party agencies to carry out these checks on potential employees. Consequently, recruiters have to be more proactive during the hiring process.

Things to Consider While Performing a Criminal Record Check in Hong Kong

For Employers: Finding the right fit while following the rules

  • Certificate of No Criminal Conviction (CNCC): Employers cannot directly request a CNCC instead you can ask candidates to get one from Hong Kong Police. (Please note that the CNCC itself does not serve as an official employment check. However, alternate options exist; such as a police check and criminality check.)
  • Respecting the Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance (ROO): This law prevents discrimination based on “spent convictions” (minor offenses that are no longer relevant). Simply put, you cannot keep candidates past against them if they have already served for what they did wrong. Moreover, it makes sure that all hiring decisions are just. For more information about ROO see Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance (Cap. 297).

For Candidates: Taking control of your records

  • Obtaining a CNCC: If requested by an employer, you can apply for a CNCC through the Hong Kong Police Force after booking online. It’s helpful for applications like visas, adoptions, etc.
  • Data Access Request (DAR): You can request a DAR with the police to disclose your criminal record (if any) to a specific employer (fees apply).
  • Spent convictions: You don’t have to disclose spent convictions (minor offenses) to employers unless directly asked.
    • A ‘spent’ conviction refers to;
      • Sentences under 3 months
      • Fines under HK$10,000
      • No other offenses in Hong Kong
      • 3 years have passed since the conviction
    • Exceptions: This doesn’t apply to certain professions like finance or law (e.g., high-ranking government jobs, lawyers, accountants, insurance brokers, or bank directors). Refer to Sections 3 and 4 of the ROO for more information, the Rehabilitation of Offenders Ordinance (Cap. 297).

Criminal Background Check Scope (Lookback Window)

Criminal background checks typically look back a specific window of time, but it can vary.

  • Standard checks: Usually, they take into consideration the period of 7 to 10 years. It helps to assess recent behavior and possible risks associated with them.
  • Unspent convictions: These are more serious offenses that won’t become “spent” even after a set period. The lookback period for these can vary depending on the severity of the crime.

Understanding the CNCC (Certificate of No Criminal Conviction)

What it is: The Certificate of No Criminal Conviction (CNCC) is a document issued by the Hong Kong Police Force, acting as an official verification of a clean criminal record in Hong Kong. While not usable for employment checks, it’s valuable for background checks conducted by immigration, governments, and consulates. It’s often required for visas, migration applications, and adoption processes.

Step-by-step process for obtaining a CNCC

  • Secure a request letter: The first step is to obtain a request letter from a relevant Hong Kong government authority. This could be the immigration department, a consulate, or another government body depending on why you need the CNCC.
  • Choose your application method
    • In-person: Apply in person at the Hong Kong Police Headquarters after booking an appointment online.
    • By mail: Apply by post if you’re residing overseas.
  • Consider representation (optional): The candidate can authorize someone, like a solicitor, to apply and handle the application process on your behalf.
  • Submit your application: During your appointment or by mail, submit the required documents, which likely include the request letter, a completed application form, and any necessary supporting documents.
  • Await the results:
    • The processing time is typically 4 weeks upon successful booking of an appointment (in-person application).
    • The requesting institution will receive the results and the CNCC (if issued) directly, not the candidate.
    • The police will inform both the candidate and the requesting institution if a criminal record is found, preventing CNCC issuance. The details of the convictions will be included in their response.

Hire With Confidence!

Navigating criminal background checks in Hong Kong can feel daunting, but with the knowledge of CNCC limitations and alternative checks like Police Checks & Criminality Checks, employers can make informed hiring decisions. Remember, a well-informed hiring process is not only beneficial but may also save you from potential hiring disasters.

For further guidance on navigating the criminal record check, get in touch with our verification experts. 

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