ID checking guidelines for countersignatory applications (2023)

ID checking guidelines for countersignatory applications (1)

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This guidance will help you validate the identity of a candidate as part of the countersignatory application process.

A candidate for countersignatory or lead countersignatory status with us must provide specific identification documents as part of the application process.

As a registered body you must:

  • check and validate the information provided by the candidate on the application form / continuation sheet
  • establish the true identity of the candidate through the examination of a range of documents as set out in this guidance
  • make sure the candidate provides details of all names by which they have been known and all addresses where they have lived in the last 5 years
  • check the application form is fully completed and the information is accurate

If there are any discrepancies in the information provided by the candidate and/or the identity documents supplied, and fraud is not suspected, please seek clarification from the candidate. Failure to do this may compromise the integrity of the DBS service.

(Video) How to Countersign the Application Form and Photo

You must not attempt to amend the application form without the candidate’s knowledge and agreement as it will invalidate the declaration by the candidate and may breach data protection legislation.

What you must do as part of the ID checking process

  • you must only accept valid, current and original documentation
  • you must not accept photocopies
  • you must not accept documentation printed from the internet e.g. internet bank statement
  • identity information for the candidate’s name, date of birth and address must be validated
  • you should, where possible, ask for photographic identity (e.g. passport, new style driving licence, etc. and for this to be compared against the candidate’s likeness)
  • all documents must be in the candidate’s current name (see below for guidance on recent changes of name)
  • one document must confirm the candidate’s date of birth
  • you must see at least one document to confirm the candidate’s current address B which is no older than three months
  • you must provide a full and continuous address history covering the last five years. Where possible you should get documentation to confirm this address history
  • you should cross match the candidate’s address history with any other information you have been provided with as part of the recruitment, such as their CV. This can highlight if an address has not been given e.g. if the candidate’s CV shows that they have worked in Liverpool in the last 5 years but the application form only shows London addresses, you may wish to question the candidate further about this.

Only one document from each of the subgroups in group 2 should be included in the document count e.g. do not accept two bank statements as two of the required documents, if they are from the same bank.You cannot accept the foreign equivalent of an identity document if that document is listed as ‘(UK)’ on the list of valid identity documents.

If an identity document is provided in a foreign language, you must obtain a translation of that document, certified by a Notary Public.

When applying for lead or countersignatory status at least one document must show the candidate’s signature.

Check if the document in the list of valid identity documents is denoted with * - it should be less than three months old. Denoted with ** - it should be issued within the past 12 month. Not denoted – it can be more than 12 months old.

What if the candidate has been adopted?

You should inform candidates that if they were adopted before the age of 10, they do not need to provide their surname at birth, they should give their adoptive name.

This is because the age of criminal responsibility is deemed to be 10 years, under the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, Chapter 12, Section 50. This means that there is no possibility that an individual could have a criminal record in a name that was used until the age of 10.

What if the candidate has changed their name recently and cannot provide ID documents in this new name?

Documents in a previous name can be accepted only where the candidate can provide documentation supporting a recent change because of:

  • marriage/civil partnership (marriage/civil partnership certificate)
  • divorce/civil partnership dissolution (decree absolute/civil partnership dissolution certificate)
  • deed poll (Deed Poll certificate)

In these instances, you must return a continuation sheet with the application form clearly stating:

  • current and previous names
  • date of the change
  • reason for the change
  • the document you have seen to support this change

Make sure that all ‘Previous names’ and ‘Dates used’ are recorded.

Identity documents that can be used for the checking process

Documents that we have divided into two groups: group 1 and group 2. At least three documents must be provided:

  • if the candidate can produce a document from group 1, three documents must be seen in total - one document from group 1 plus any two from groups 1 or 2.
  • if the candidate cannot produce a group 1 document, five documents from group 2 must be seen.

If the candidate has insufficient identity documents, please call us for advice on 03000 200 190.

Group 1 and group 2 valid identity documents

Group 1

EU National Identity card
Identity Card for Foreign Nationals (ICFN) / Biometric residence permit
Driving licence (full or provisional) UK/Isle of Man /Channel Islands/EU; photocard
Birth certificate (UK and Channel Islands) - issued within 12 months of date of birth – full or short form acceptable including those issued by UK authorities overseas, such as Embassies, High Commissions and HM Forces
HM forces ID Card (UK)
Firearms licence (UK)
Adoption certificate (UK and Channel Islands)

Group 2

Marriage/Civil partnership certificate
Birth certificate
Vehicle registration document (document V5 old style and V5C new style only)
NHS Card/Letter (UK and Channel Islands)
Connexions card; including those cards carrying the PASS accreditation logo (UK & Channel Islands)
General Medical Council (GMC) certificate
Mail order catalogue statement*
Bank/Building society statement*
Utility bill* - electricity, gas, water, telephone – including mobile phone contract/bill
Exam certificate e.g. GCSE, NVQ, O Levels, Degree
Documentation issued by court services*
Addressed payslip *
Credit card statement *
Store card statement *
Benefit statement* - e.g. Child Allowance, Pension
A document from central/ local government/ government agency/ local authority giving entitlement (UK & Channel Islands)*: e.g. from the Department for Work and Pensions, the Employment Service , Customs & Revenue, Job Centre, Job Centre Plus, Social Security
Letter from a head teacher*
Financial statement ** - e.g. pension, endowment, ISA
P45/P60 statement **(UK & Channel Islands)
TV licence**
Mortgage statement**
Insurance certificate **
Council tax statement (UK & Channel Islands) **
Work permit/Visa (UK) **
DBS and Disclosure Scotland certificate (UK)**
GMC registration certificates. Please note: information on these certificates become outdated quickly. Up to date information about a doctor’s registration status can be found in the List of Registered Medical Practitioners on the GMC website
Immigration status document (ISD)
Certificate of British nationality (UK)
Certain documents from UK Visas and Immigration. Do not use more than one of the following documents, this list is subject to amendment: Convention Travel Document (CTD) - Blue/ Stateless Person’s Document (SPD) - Red/ Certificate of Travel (CIT) - Brown (Formerly Certificate of Identity)/ Application Registration Card (ARC)

At least one document must confirm the candidate’s current address and at least one document must confirm the candidate’s date of birth.

How do I check for indicators of fraud?

Always check for signs of tampering when checking identity documents. Documents should be queried if they display any signs of damage, especially in the areas of personal details such as the name and the photograph. The following guidelines should help you look out for any suspicious signs when authenticating documents.


Checking driving licences

Do not accept licences, other than those stated in the list of valid identity documents.

English, Welsh and Scottish driving licence numbers contain information about the candidate’s name, sex and date of birth. This information is written in a special format but can be gleaned and matched against the information provided by the candidate in Section A.

Please note that the date of birth on English, Welsh and Scottish driving licences, issued before1977, is not recorded as a separate entry on the licence. The date of birth can be deciphered from the driving licence number and checked against the date of birth field on the application form.

For example, the format of the number for Christine Josephine Robinson, born 2 July 1975

R O B I N 7 5 7 0 2 5 C J 9 9 9 0 1


N = 1st five letters of the surname (if the surname begins MAC or MC it is treated as MC for all).

Y = YEAR of birth.

M = MONTH of birth (In the case of a female, the number represented by the first M will have the value 5 added to the first digit e.g. a female born in November (i.e. 11) would display ‘61’ in the MM boxes or if born in February (i.e. 02) would display ‘52’).

D = DAY of month of birth.

I = Initial letter of the first two forenames - if only one, then 9 will replace the second letter. If the licence indicates that the candidate has a middle name, ensure that one has been provided in Section A.

C = Computer generated.

For Northern Ireland; Isle of Man and Jersey driving licences the licence number is in a different format. The licence number is unique to the driver and the ‘name’ or ‘date of birth’ validation, as shown above, cannot be used.

Checking a passport

Check the general quality and condition of the passport. Treat it with suspicion if it is excessively damaged; accidental damage is often used to conceal tampering.

(Video) Completing an application

Photographs should be examined closely for signs of damage to the laminate or for excessive glue or slitting of the laminate; these signs would indicate photo substitution. If the photograph appears excessively large, this might indicate an attempt to hide another photograph underneath. There should also be an embossed strip embedded into the laminate, which will catch a portion of the photograph.

Check there is no damage to this area. If the passport is from a foreign national, you can still follow the same procedures as above.

HM Passport Office have produced a guide to be used when checking passports for identification.

Checking a photo driving licence

Examine the licence for evidence of photo tampering or any amendment of the printed details.

Checking an old style driving licence (no photograph)

Remove the document from the plastic wallet and check that it is printed on both sides.

It should have a watermark visible by holding the licence up to the light and there should be no punctuation marks in the name or address.

The ‘Valid To’ date should be the day before the bearer’s 70th birthday (unless the bearer is already over 70). The ‘Valid To’ date can therefore be cross-referenced with the candidate’s date of birth detailed in Section A.

Checking a birth certificate

Birth certificates are not evidence of identity, and are easily obtained. Although certificates issued at the time of birth may give more confidence that it belongs to the individual, unlike a recently issued certificate, they will not show if any information has been corrected or superseded by a new registration.

Check the quality of paper used; genuine certificates use a high grade. There should be a watermark visible when the document is held up to the light. Any signs of smoothness on the surface would indicate that original text might have been washed or rubbed away. There should be no signs of tampering, changes using liquid paper, overwriting or spelling mistakes.

The following list provides some general information about certificate completion which may help to establish whether the certificate and/or the details have been falsified. This is provided solely as a guide and is not exhaustive:

  • the certificate format used should be appropriate for the year of registration.
  • only the surname should be entered in upper case, not the forename(s).
  • dates of birth should be shown with the day and month in words and the year in figures.

The following information might indicate that the certificate has been altered:

  • spacing between falsely added particulars might be irregular compared to original information. ‘Thick’ or ‘thin’ spacing might infer particulars have been added.
  • false particulars might not have been aligned with other words.
  • characters may not be of the same size or shape with the rest of the particulars.
  • movement of handwriting may look mechanical and does not flow with the rest of the particulars.
  • changes might not be consistent e.g. parents’ surnames might be altered, but not the signatures.
  • the area around falsely added or removed particulars may react differently under an ultra violet light i.e. show signs of staining. In addition, such areas of paper may appear thinner where the paper fibres have been disturbed by abrasion.

For more information on checking birth certificates, please refer to HM Passport Office document General Register Office guide to birth certificates.

Checking an EU photo identity card

Examine the card for evidence of photo tampering or any amendment of the printed details.

Checking an HM Forces ID card

Examine the card for evidence of photo tampering or any amendment of the printed details.

(Video) DBS checks: The process explained

Checking a firearms licence

Check the licence is printed on blue security paper with a Royal crest watermark and a faint pattern stating the words ‘Home Office’.

Examine the licence for evidence of photo tampering or any amendment of the printed details, which should include home address and date of birth.

The licence should be signed by the holder and bear the authorising signature of the chief of police for the area in which they live, or normally a person to whom his authority has been delegated.

Checking a biometric residence permit

View the features of a permit and how to check them on the UK Visas and Immigration website.

Other types of ID

Ensure all letters and statements are recent, i.e. within a three month period. Do not accept documentation printed from the internet.

Check letter headed paper is used, bank headers are correct and all documentation looks genuine. The address should be cross-referenced with that quoted in Section B.

What should you do if you suspect false identity or documents?

If you suspect that you have been presented with a false identity or documents at the time of application, do not proceed with the application process.

  • report suspected identity fraud through the Action Fraud website
  • further information on identity fraud can be found on the Metropolitan police website
  • if you suspect identity fraud once a DBS check has been submitted, you must call us on 03000 200 190

You are also advised that under Section 8 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 1996 all employers in the United Kingdom are required to make basic document checks to help prevent anyone from working illegally.

By carrying out checks employers will be able to establish a defence for themselves if any of their employees are found to be working illegally at a later date.

Further details are available on the UK visas and immigration website or by calling the employer helpline on 0845 010 6677.

Where to go for help

Employers can go to the public register of authentic identity and travel documents online on the PRADO website to identify the basic safeguards contained in European documents and a few more other nationality documents.

The PRADO website is provided by the Council of European Union.

DBS helpline

If you need any further advice on checking a candidate for lead or countersignatory status, phone us on 03000 200 190.


What does awaiting countersignatory mean? ›

Waiting Countersignatory Authorisation means you have successfully submitted the application to us for processing.

What does your application has been countersigned mean? ›

Once the application has been verified and submitted, the application will be further validated and countersigned. This means that the application is checked to ensure that there are no errors i.e. spelling or contradictions in the name, birth or address details.

What is countersignatory Authorisation on DBS? ›

The information requested on the lead countersignatory and countersignatory application forms is used to check that all countersignatories are suitable individuals to see DBS certificate information. This is an essential part of the registration process.

What is the countersignature process? ›

A countersignature is undertaken to certify that the action or provisions in the document have been approved by both the signer and the other party in question. When two parties sign a contract, the first party will sign, then the second party will countersign to confirm their agreement with the contract.

What is countersignature check? ›

This additional signature is used to indicate that someone has verified the authenticity of the the primary signature placed on a document. The countersignature is used to indicate that the primary signer has indeed approved of the contents of the document and agrees to its provisions.

What is countersign example? ›

In law, countersignature refers to a second signature onto a document. For example, a contract or other official document signed by the representative of a company may be countersigned by their supervisor to verify the authority of the representative.

Who can be your Countersignatory? ›

Your countersignatory must: have known you (or the adult who signed the form if the passport is for a child under 16) for at least 2 years. be able to identify you, for example they're a friend, neighbour or colleague (not just someone who knows you professionally)

Why does countersign mean? ›

Meaning of countersign in English. to write your name on a document that already has the signature (= name written) of another person, especially in order to show that you are certain that the first person is who they say they are: I'm not prepared to countersign this report as it stands.

What can fail a DBS check? ›

DBS check offences like these could include embezzlement, tax evasion or serious violent or sexual crimes, or any offence which would put you on the Children's or Adults' Barred List.

How do I know if I need a countersignature? ›

What circumstances require a countersignature? You'll require a countersignature if you look markedly different since your last passport photo. In particular, the guidelines state that it's required if 'you cannot be recognised from your existing passport'.

Does everyone need a countersignature? ›

The countersignature is a necessary requirement in the following scenarios: First Adult Passport. Second Passport. Passport Renewal for a child who is below the age of 11 or when the appearance of the person applying has changed beyond recognition from his/her existing passport.

Do all passports need countersigning? ›

The countersignature is mandatory in the following scenarios: First Adult Passport. Second Passport. Passport Renewal for a child less than 11 years of age or when the appearance of the applicant has changed and cannot be recognised from his/her existing passport.

What is a countersignature policy? ›

Countersignature — state insurance laws that require an insurance policy to be signed by not only the insurer issuing the policy but also an agent residing in the state where the risk is located.

Where is countersigned used? ›

a sign used in reply to another sign.

Who is a countersigning officer? ›

Countersigning Officer means an Officer of the Department not lower in rank than an Inspector of Schools, who will exercise immediate administrative control over the aided Primary Schools and who is authorised to countersign the bills of grants etc., of the institutions after the grants are sanctioned by the Competent ...

Can a teaching assistant countersign a passport? ›

There are plenty of unqualified teachers teaching up and down the country, you do not have to be a qualified teacher to countersign a passport application. You are working in a teaching role by the sound of it, as long as you have known the parent for 2 years or more, it'll be fine.

What are the 3 DBS checks? ›

Standard DBS check. Enhanced DBS check. Enhanced with Barred List(s) DBS check.

What gets flagged on a DBS check? ›

Standard DBS check

This is a check of your criminal record which will show details of all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings held on central police records (apart from protected convictions and cautions).

What does countersigning a passport mean? ›

When you must get a signature and who can sign. Some paper passport applications and photos must be signed by someone else (the 'countersignatory') to prove the identity of the person applying.

Do I need a Countersignatory to renew my passport? ›

The countersignature is mandatory in the following scenarios: First Adult Passport. Second Passport. Passport Renewal for a child less than 11 years of age or when the appearance of the applicant has changed and cannot be recognised from his/her existing passport.

Who can I use as a Countersignatory reference? ›

Staff members of a school, college or university, unless they are close personal friends. An acceptable countersignatory is a professional person or person of standing in the community who has known you for more than twelve months.

What your Countersignatory must write on your photo? ›

They must also include their passport number on the form as well, or your application will not be accepted. Lastly, on the back of one of the applicant's photos they must write: “I certify that this a true likeness of (insert full name of applicant).” They must also add their signature and the date to the photo.

How do you countersign a document? ›

To countersign something is the process of appending a signature to a document that has already been signed. The countersignature approves the agreement between two or more parties. To countersign something also means e-signing a document sent to you through

Can a teacher countersign a passport? ›

A counter-signatory must be a 'person of good standing in their community' or work in (or be retired from) a recognised profession (with the profession of 'teacher' being included on the list).


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