DBS Check Guide: Documents, Costs & Processing Times

DBS check documents


As an employer, it is important to understand what level of DBS check you can request by law when recruiting someone as part of your pre-employment screening procedures. You should also know the cost of a DBS check, what DBS check documents need to be provided by a prospective employee, how to check documents during the current pandemic, and how to identify and deal with fake documents.


What is the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)?

The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) is an executive public body sponsored by the Home Office that helps employers make safer recruitment decisions by processing and issuing DBS checks. The checks cover England, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

Previously known as CRB checks, a designated disclosure team carries out DBS checks that result in a certificate being issued for each individual. Employers then use the certificate to check the criminal records of a prospective employee. In this way, an employer can ensure they are recruiting suitable people into their organisation and meeting any applicable regulatory requirement to vet new starters.

DBS caseworkers are also responsible for maintaining the adults’ and children’s Barred Lists, deciding whether an individual is to be included on either or both of these lists and, as such, prohibited from working with children or vulnerable groups. As an employer or volunteer manager, you will be breaking the law if you knowingly recruit someone in a regulated activity to work with a group that they are barred from working with.

As such, it is generally standard practice for employers to issue offers of employment that are conditional upon the individual passing a DBS check, among other conditions such as having the right to work in the UK.


What are the different types of DBS checks?

There are four levels of DBS checks depending on the type of job role involved:

  • The basic DBS check
  • The standard DBS check
  • The enhanced DBS check, and
  • The enhanced DBS check with Barred List(s)


Each of the four DBS checks will provide you with different levels of information about a prospective employee, as follows:


Basic DBS check

Out of the different types of DBS check, the basic check provides the least amount of information. It is a criminal record check that can be carried out for any position or purpose. The certificate issued following a basic check will contain details of any convictions and conditional cautions considered to be unspent as specified under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act (ROA) 1974.

Under the ROA, eligible convictions or cautions become spent after a specified period of time. This is known as the rehabilitation period, where the length of time can vary depending on the sentence given or disposal administered, as well as the age of the individual on conviction.

Some sentences are excluded from rehabilitation and so will always be disclosed, such as a sentence of imprisonment of over 4 years. However, custodial sentences of less than 4 years will be spent after a few years, with conditional cautions spent after just 3 months. Further, simple cautions will not show up on a basic DBS check as these are spent immediately.

Employers from all types of industries can ask for a basic disclosure to check a candidate’s criminal record to help them decide if they are fit for employment, although certain roles and industries may require a higher level of DBS check.


Standard DBS check

The standard check is a more detailed, in-depth background check. It is used by employers to verify if a candidate is suitable to hire for work in a specific industry.

This level of check is appropriate for certain roles and types of work, such as in the financial or legal sector, for example, to ensure that there is no history of fraud or financial misconduct for a lawyer or accountant. The certificate will contain information about any spent or unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings held on the Police National Computer.


Enhanced DBS check (& with Barred Lists)

The enhanced check is suitable for people working with children or vulnerable adults in certain circumstances, such as those receiving health care or social care services. This type of check is also suitable for a small number of other roles, such as people working in the Gambling Commission or for taxi licence applications.

The enhanced check certificate will contain the same details as a standard certificate, but may also contain a check of information held by local police forces where relevant. In addition to the enhanced check, if the job role is eligible, an employer can request that one or both of the DBS Barred Lists are also checked. If listed, this will appear on the individual’s certificate.


What is the eligibility criteria for a DBS check?

For a basic DBS check, no eligibility requirements apply. However, when asking a prospective employee to apply for a standard or enhanced DBS check, you will first need to consider if the position is eligible for the check in accordance with the relevant legislation.

Certain areas of employment are exempt from the eligibility requirement under the ROA 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975, where you can legally ask an individual to reveal their full criminal history, including any spent convictions, when they will be working in specific occupations, for certain licenses and specified positions covered by the Order. This is referred to as asking an ‘exempted question’. Employers are legally responsible for ensuring an exempted question applies.

The eligibility tool does not cover every job role so, to clarify what check you can request, you can also email DBS customer services at customerservices@dbs.gov.uk or telephone them on 03000 200 190, between Monday to Friday (8am to 6pm), and Saturday (10am to 5pm).

To be eligible to apply for a DBS check the employer must be:

  • At least 16 years old
  • Based in England or Wales if applying for a standard or enhanced DBS check, regardless of where the work will take place


How to apply for a DBS check

An individual can apply for a basic DBS check directly through an online application route. They can also apply for a basic check through a Responsible Organisation (RO) or ask you, as their employer, to request a basic check in this way, as long as you have their consent.

An RO is an organisation registered with the DBS to submit basic checks. In so doing, the RO will capture the details of a basic check application in their system, before transferring it to DBS via a web service. An application for a basic DBS check can be made via an RO by visiting the relevant website.

In contrast, a prospective employee cannot apply for a standard or enhanced check by themselves, where there must be a recruiting organisation who requires the applicant to get the check and which is sent to the DBS through a Registered Body. These are organisations that have registered with the DBS to submit standard and enhanced checks. Registered bodies are also permitted by law to ask an exempted question.

You can register with DBS if your organisation is entitled to ask exempted questions and will be submitting more than 100 DBS check applications per year. Alternatively, you can use an organisation offering umbrella body services to apply for DBS checks. An umbrella body is registered to give other non-registered businesses and organisations access to DBS checks.

As an employer or Registered Body, you should provide the candidate with a DBS application form to complete and return to you.


How much does a DBS check cost?

The application cost for a basic DBS check is £23. If an individual is paying for their own basic check, payment can be made during the application process. If you are covering this cost as their prospective employer, the applicant will be given the option to pay later. They will receive a payment link via email, which can then be forwarded to you to complete payment.

Payment must be completed within 10 days of the application being submitted, where the application will not be processed until payment is made, even if the position is for a volunteer. It usually takes up to 14 days for a basic DBS check to be processed and for the applicant to receive their certificate.

The standard and enhanced DBS checks are free for volunteers, and the checks will be processed in the same way as for a paid role.

The cost to carry out a standard DBS check for a paid position is £23 (the same as a basic check) and £40 for an enhanced check. An administration fee may be charged by the organisation that submits the application to DBS.

There may be specific circumstances in which an individual will be eligible for a free-of-charge enhanced DBS check and emergency checks of the Barred Lists. This is where employees or volunteers in health and social care sectors are needed to help with the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This free fast-track service, however, is only available where the role would normally meet the eligibility criteria for an enhanced DBS certificate with a check of the Barred List(s), and does not cover roles in education, leisure or commercial sectors, even if related to COVID-19.


What DBS check documents must be provided?

To apply for a basic DBS check the applicant will need all addresses for the last five years and the dates they lived there, their National Insurance number, together with one form of ID, such as a passport or driving licence, as well as one proof of address.

When applying for a standard or enhanced DBS check on an individual’s behalf, their identity must be verified by the Registered Body. The Registered Body must follow a 3-route identity checking process to validate the name, date of birth and current address provided by the applicant in the application form.

In addition to following the 3-route ID checking process, as an employer you must also:

  • Check and validate the information provided by the applicant on the application form and any continuation sheet
  • Establish the true identity of the applicant through the examination of their documents
  • Make sure the applicant provides details of all names by which they have been known
  • Make sure the applicant provides details of all addresses where they have lived in the last five years
  • Check that the application form is fully completed and the information it contains is accurate, where failing to do this can result in delays.


You must only accept valid, current and original documentation, not photocopies or documentation printed from the internet. When checking the validity of the documents, it is usually best practice to do this face-to-face, with live video link as an alternative option, so long as you are in physical possession of the original documents so that these can be checked for indicators of fraud.

If you are experiencing difficulty following the DBS ID checking guidelines, with delays in receiving the physical documents in time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary provisions have been put in place. The change will enable ID documents to be viewed over video link, with scanned images to be used in advance of the DBS check being submitted.

The applicant must then present the original versions of their documents when they first attend their employment or volunteering role. Please note, this adjusted process should only be used for urgent cases where it is not possible to follow the normal ID checking guidelines.

Please also note, a DBS check does not provide evidence of a person’s right to work in the UK. As an employer, you must conduct a separate check to ensure that an overseas job applicant is allowed to work in the UK and undertake the work in question.


Dealing with fraudulent documents for DBS checks

As part of the DBS application, the applicant must declare that the information they have provided in support of the application is complete and true, and understand that knowingly to make a false statement for this purpose may be a criminal offence.

That said, you should still look for signs of tampering when checking identity documents, especially where they show signs of damage in the areas of personal details and the applicant’s photograph. The National Document Fraud Unit in the Home Office has published guidance on examining identity documents to detect basic forgeries and to help you identify any suspicious signs when authenticating documents.

If you suspect that you have been presented with a false identity or documents at the time of application, you must not proceed. If you suspect identity fraud once a DBS check has been submitted, you should call the DBS advice line.


Need assistance?

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris provides a specialist, comprehensive pre-employment check service for employers. Combining DBS and Right to Work checks into a streamlined onboarding service, your organisation can benefit from informed decision-making, and compliant and safe recruitment. We also advise on specialist aspects of background checks, including advice on developing and drafting a policy on recruiting ex-offenders and overseas compliance checks, and guidance on renewal checks. For help and advice on reducing compliance and recruitment risks through DBS checks, please contact us.


DBS Check Documents & Cost FAQs

What documents are required for DBS check?

The documents needed for a DBS check will typically include a primary identity document, such as a valid passport or driving licence, together with two further documents, with one showing proof of address. There are also various documents that can be provided where an applicant is not in possession of a passport or driving licence.

How many forms of ID do I need for a DBS check?

How many forms of ID you will need for a DBS check will depend on the nature of the documents you are able to provide in support. If you can provide a valid and current primary identity document, such as a passport or UK biometric residence permit, you will then only need two further documents, with one showing proof of address.

What do DBS checks show?

The information shown by a DBS check will depend on the level of check undertaken. A basic check is a criminal record check. The certificate will show details of convictions and conditional cautions that are considered to be unspent under the relevant legislation. A standard or enhanced DBS check will reveal details of both spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings that are held on the Police National Computer.

Last updated: 17 August 2023


Founder and Managing Director Anne Morris is a fully qualified solicitor and trusted adviser to large corporates through to SMEs, providing strategic immigration and global mobility advice to support employers with UK operations to meet their workforce needs through corporate immigration.

She is a recognised by Legal 500 and Chambers as a legal expert and delivers Board-level advice on business migration and compliance risk management as well as overseeing the firm’s development of new client propositions and delivery of cost and time efficient processing of applications.

Anne is an active public speaker, immigration commentator, and immigration policy contributor and regularly hosts training sessions for employers and HR professionals

About DavidsonMorris

As employer solutions lawyers, DavidsonMorris offers a complete and cost-effective capability to meet employers’ needs across UK immigration and employment law, HR and global mobility.

Led by Anne Morris, one of the UK’s preeminent immigration lawyers, and with rankings in The Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, we’re a multi-disciplinary team helping organisations to meet their people objectives, while reducing legal risk and nurturing workforce relations.

Legal Disclaimer

The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.

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