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New background check requirements and why you should be aware of them

Just before the start of the pandemic the European Commission changed the requirements that the EU Member States must fulfill before a crew or airport identification card may be issued. There are two major changes that may have important consequences for crew. They will enter into force from the beginning of 2022.

The first change is that the national authority issuing the identification card will now be required not only to check the corresponding criminal record but also to cover intelligence and any other relevant information available to them. The intelligence element could sound like an intriguing requirement in terms of what states will be looking at exactly. Typically, states want to be able to check what you have been up to for the last five years (or even more in some cases) starting from the point when the procedure for obtaining a security clearance based on a ‘clear’ background check is launched. Meaning that they want documentary evidence about that complete period (5 years or more) to support your statement about your history.

The second change is how often background checks must be repeated. Previously the interval was every five years, although states were allowed to use a shorter interval. This has now been reduced to one year or states may choose to implement a continuous evaluation process. That means that the background check might be reconsidered as soon as the respective crew member pops up in the criminal or other register (including cases like for example a severe speeding ticket). In many states, this could happen even before a conviction has taken place. 

With that in mind, let us imagine a practical situation. You have applied for a pilot job and need to undergo a background check. The competent authority will verify your criminal records and check the relevant intelligence on you for the past 5 years. But what if during the past 5 years, you took some time off for yourself and travelled around the world? And what if you decided to study or try out another job? A word of caution, if this time was longer than 28 days, you will need to prove what was keeping you busy during that period. Therefore, do not forget to collect and store any of the following documents which might serve as evidence: 

  • diplomas or certificates from educational establishments,
  • reference letters from previous employers,
  • salary slips related to previous employers,
  • bank statements showing incoming salary from declared employment, unemployment benefit, etc. 
  • payment of travel expenses and accommodation in case of extensive periods of travelling.
What does all this mean for you?

If you are currently employed and/or living in another country, then keep as much evidence about your employment as you can, think about salary slips, bank statements, hotel bills from layovers etc. And importantly, when leaving a foreign country where you legally resided, do not forget to ask for your criminal record statement closing your stay at that country.

If you are traveling for more than 28 days for other reasons than your job as crew, document the trip: tickets, hotel bills etc. and keep them somewhere safe. You may never need them, but it may also make the difference between having a future job or not.

For national specificities of the implementation of the new EU Regulation 2019/103 on background checks, please consult your local pilot association.