Applying for a Certificate of Good Conduct in Germany

Applying for a Certificate of Good Conduct in Germany

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This article will introduce you to the various certificates of good conduct, such as the certificate of good conduct in Germany, for use abroad or the European certificate of good conduct, and how you can apply for them. Applicants need to apply for the certificate of good conduct themselves without the assistance of lawyers. A certificate of good conduct can be applied either in person at the competent authority or via the official online portal of the Federal Office of Justice (BfJ).

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Advice on the Certificate of Good Conduct in Germany and Europe

Knowing how and where to apply for a certificate of good conduct is essential for many everyday areas. The presentation of your certificate of good conduct is often required, especially in the job market, depending on which job you want.

In particular, if you work with children and young people, for example, in public child and youth welfare services or their care and upbringing, the employer may even be obliged to ask for a certificate of good conduct in Germany.

Furthermore, a certificate of good conduct is usually required by employers for jobs in the public service, the security industry, and the transport industry. A certificate of good conduct must also be presented when obtaining a driving or hunting licence.

To introduce the general procedure for applying for a certificate of good conduct, the first point to consider is the certificate of good conduct for domestic use. The certificate of good conduct, formerly also called “police certificate of good conduct”, is a document that certifies whether or not the person in question has a criminal record, based on an extract from the Federal Central Register at the Federal Office of Justice.

The certificate of good conduct for official purposes, unlike the private certificate of good conduct for personal purposes, also contains certain significant decisions by administrative authorities (e.g. revocation of a business licence) in addition to criminal court decisions. The content and maintenance of a certificate of good conduct and its application are essentially regulated by law in the Federal Central Register Act (BZRG).

Applying for the Certificate of Good Conduct: the Process

A certificate of good conduct can be applied either in person at the competent authority or via the official online portal of the Federal Office of Justice (BfJ). The competent authority for personal applications is the local registration office (e.g., the town hall, municipal office, or citizens’ registration office). Persons exempt from the obligation to register or with no fixed abode may submit their application for a certificate of good conduct at the registration office in their district.

The application is regulated in § 30 BZRG. According to this, any person who has reached the age of 14 is entitled to do so. It also stipulates that the certificate of good conduct may only be sent to the person making the application.

An exception is made if it is necessary to send the certificate of good conduct to an address other than that of registration or if the certificate of good conduct is requested for submission to the authority. In this case, it must be sent directly to the authority, but the person concerned may request a (prior) inspection.

The processing time for applications for a certificate of good conduct depends on the total number of applications to be processed, but it is usually 1-2 weeks.

The documents and arrangements required for the certificate of good conduct application depend on the type of procedure.

If you apply for a certificate of good conduct in person at the relevant registration office, you only need to present your identity card or passport to prove your identity. You can also apply for a certificate of good conduct in writing at the registration office. In this case, the application must meet the following requirements:

  • In the informal application letter to the registration office, personal data (date of birth, maiden name/family name/first name, place of birth, nationality, address) must also be provided.
  • The signature on the application letter must be official or publicly certified.
  • The accuracy of the data must be proven if this is not already evident from the signature certification.

To apply for a certificate of good conduct and information from the commercial central register at the online portal of the Federal Office of Justice, you need:

  • Your identity card or your electronic residence permit with activated online ID function,
  • your 6-digit PIN,
  • A card reader or suitable smartphone to be able to identify yourself online,
  • Software that ensures a secure connection between your ID card and your computer, and for this, the BfJ suggests the AusweisApp2,
  • A digital capture device to be able to upload evidence (e.g. scanner)

Fees of 13.00 euros are regularly charged for the certificate of good conduct. In some instances, these fees may be waived.

In general, according to § 10 of the Law on Costs in Matters of the Administration of Justice (JVKostG), the BfJ may, upon application, exceptionally reduce the fee or waive the collection of costs if this appears to be necessary for a view of the financial circumstances of the person liable to pay (indigence) or otherwise for reasons of equity (particular purpose).

An exemption from fees in case of indigence is affirmed, e.g. in case of receipt of ALG II, social assistance, benefits according to the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act, child benefit supplement according to § 6a of the Federal Child Benefit Act or in case of receipt of BAföG. An exemption from fees due to a special purpose may apply for voluntary work or full-time carers

The BZRG does not contain any regulations on the duration of the validity of a certificate of good conduct. A certificate of good conduct can only reflect the contents of the register at the time it was issued. Therefore, it is at the discretion of the respective office requiring the submission of a certificate of good conduct how long after the date of issuance, it will still be accepted. Thus, the more recent a certificate of good conduct is, the better. As a rule, a period of 3 months from the date of issue is generally accepted.

An Extended Certificate of Good Conduct in Germany

An “extended certificate of good conduct” contains more information regarding potential convictions for offences, especially sexual offences, to protect children and young people. The exception of § 32 (2) BZRG, according to which some decisions on certain crimes are not included in the usual certificate of good conduct in the interest of the convicted person’s re-socialisation, therefore does not apply to the extended certificate of good conduct.

It is issued according to § 30a BZRG if legal provisions provide for it or if it is required to examine the personal suitability of other professional or voluntary supervision, care, education or training of minors or an activity that is in a comparable way suitable for contact with children. In the application procedure, a written request from the body requiring the extended certificate of good conduct must be submitted.

European Certificate of Good Conduct

According to § 30b BZRG, it is mandatory to issue a so-called European certificate of good conduct to persons who, in addition to or instead of German citizenship, possess the citizenship of one or more other member states of the European Union. It can be in the form of a private certificate of good conduct, a certificate of good conduct for submission to an authority or an extended certificate of good conduct.

In addition to the German certificate of good conduct, it contains the information on entries in the criminal record of the member state of origin in the language transmitted, provided the possibility of transmission exists in the member state of origin by law. Because a notification from the register of the Member State of origin must first be requested, issuing a European certificate of good conduct may take a longer time to process.

European regulations allow the Member State of origin twenty working days for transmission.

According to the trade and cooperation agreement provisions negotiated between the EU and the United Kingdom, the same will (continue to) apply to British nationals from 1 January 2021, even after Brexit.

Certificate of Good Conduct for Use Abroad

Several special considerations need to be taken into account when using a certificate of good conduct abroad. Firstly, you may often need a specific certificate of authenticity to do so.

In different foreign countries, their authorities require different certificates of authenticity to recognise the certificate of good conduct. Depending on the foreign country in which the certificate of good conduct is to be used, a confirmation of authenticity can be achieved on the one hand by an over-certification by the Federal Office of Justice and on the other hand by the issuing of a so-called apostille or narrow certification by the Federal Office of Administration.

More specific information on which country requires which certificate of authenticity can be obtained from the countries’ respective embassies or consular missions.

  • The over-certification can be applied for at the same time as or after the application for the certificate of good conduct. It will only be issued after payment of the additional fee of 25.00 euros.
  • Apostilles or final certifications can also be applied for at the same time as the application for the certificate of good conduct at the registration office. The certificate is issued by the Federal Office of Administration in Cologne after the Federal Office of Justice has confirmed the authenticity of the certificate of good conduct through a signature and official seal. There is no obligation to pay a deposit, as in the case of over-authentication.
  • Certificates of good conduct with apostille or final certification are only sent to domestic addresses, so a German address must be given.
  • When applying, please state the country for which the certificate of good conduct is required.

Applying for a Certificate of Good Conduct from Abroad

If you live abroad but need a German certificate of good conduct, you can apply directly to the Federal Office of Justice in person, by post or via the online portal. The following special features must be observed when applying for a certificate of good conduct from abroad:

  • The necessary complete personal data and the personal signature must be officially confirmed. This requirement can be fulfilled by a German diplomatic or consular representation, a foreign authority or a notary.
  • The original application with the official confirmation must be submitted to the Federal Office of Justice (fax or e-mail are not sufficient).
  • The private conduct certificate will also be sent to the foreign address.
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