How to clear your criminal record in South Africa

Having a criminal record can be an impediment especially when one is seeking for prospects that requires that one has no criminal record. A criminal record can be a dent on one’s career no matter how trivial or grievous is it. But the good news is that, in SA you can have your criminal records cleared. This article will address how to have your records cleared and the conditions to be fulfilled for its clearance.

In South Africa, a criminal record is a formal record of offenses you have been convicted of whether you pleaded guilty or was guilty of the offense. If you were not guilty of the offense you were convicted of, you will have no criminal record.

To check your criminal record in SA, you should apply for a police clearance certificate, also known as a certificate of good conduct. You will be required to pay a sum of R114, 000, which might is the only fee in the application process. Also, you will be expected to come with your identity card or passport. After filling the application form, your fingerprints will be taken after which you will be required to wait for the next fifteen working days when your certificate will be ready.

A criminal check report will be reported immediately if there are no criminal records concerning the applicant. But on the other hand, when there is a criminal record, the SAPS will process the search and provide the necessary details concerning the crime. This might take between three to four weeks.  You might not have a criminal record if charges were withdrawn or dropped against you, but to be ascertain that your record is crime free, you should still apply for a clearance certificate.

In clearing your criminal records, you might decide to use the service of a lawyer or a private agency, but these mediums will require extra costs, however, there is no problem if you can afford it.

Having your crime expunged, opens you up to new opportunities like employments, professional certifications, visa applications etc. applying for an expungement is free and is dealt with in order of receipt. An expungement is different from having your records checked. It entails the removal of a criminal history of a convicted offender from the criminal record database of the criminal record center of the SAPS.

Before your records can be expunged, a period of ten years must have passed after the conviction date. You are unlikely to get an expungement before a period of ten years. Aside from this, you shouldn’t have been sentenced to jail without the option of a fine within those ten years. These are the following crimes that qualifies an individual for an expungement: Corporal punishment, If the sentence was postponed, or the person was cautioned and discharged, if the person is charged a fine not more than R20 000, Imprisonment with the option to pay a fine instead of serving the period of incarceration, Imprisonment was suspended wholly, Correctional supervision in terms of section 276(1)(h) of the Act, Imprisonment in terms of section 276(1)(i) of the Act, Periodical imprisonment in term of section 276(1)(c) of the Act.

On the other hand, your expungement application will be dishonored if a period of 10 years has not elapsed after the date of the conviction; if fine of more than R20,000 was imposed; if the offender’s name is included in the National Register for Sex Offenders or the National Child Protection Register, and the person’s is yet to be removed from the National Register for Sex Offenders or the National Child Protection Register; or if the applicant was sentenced to direct imprisonment (the imprisonment was not suspended, and there was not the option of a fine) during the relevant ten year period.

To apply for an expungement, there are some required documents the applicants should possess, the first is a police clearance certificate which must be issued ten years after the conviction(s) and sentence(s).  If you were convicted for sexual offenses, you would also need to have a confirmation that your name has been removed from the National Register for Sex Offences or the National Child Protection Register.

The completed application form (Part II and Part III), together with the attachments must be posted or delivered by hand to the

  • Director-General
  • Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
  • Postal Address: Private Bag X81, Pretoria, 0001.
  • Street Address: Pretmed Building, 319 Pretorius Street, Pretoria, 0001


The process takes approximately 3 months at the Director General’s office for approval. After that, it heads over to the head of the Criminal Record Centre. Thereafter, it should take a maximum of 35 working days to contact the applicant. If unsuccessful, you will be informed by post. If it is successful, you will be expunged.

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