Pennsylvania Act 153
Pennsylvania Act 153 requires employees, volunteers and other individuals who interact with minors to obtain three different background certifications:
- Pennsylvania Access to Criminal History Check through the Pennsylvania State Police (PATCH)
- Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Check through the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (PACA)
- FBI Criminal History Check; this check requires the individual to submit their fingerprints to the FBI
Act 153 requires that certifications be renewed every sixty months (five years). Depending on your employment with CMU or your participation in CMU programs and activities involving minors, you may be required to obtain Act 153 background certifications more frequently.
How to Apply for Act 153 Background Certifications
Individuals requiring Act 153 Background Certifications have two options:
- Using CMU's Office of Human Resources to coordinate the applications. Utilizing this service is recommended and will help ensure that applications for certifications are submitted correctly.
- Completing a self-guided application process.
To be compliant with university policy, all Act 153 certifications must be on file with the Office of Human Resources.
Human Resources Coordinated Applications
Carnegie Mellon University's Office of Human Resources (OHR) is available to assist employees in applying for Act 153 certifications. To apply for Act 153 background certifications through OHR, contact the university's Background Clearance Coordinator. An OHR staff member will provide guidance and next steps regarding the Act 153 process.
Carnegie Mellon University has business accounts set up with certification sites and will pay for all three certification application fees when you complete the Act 153 process through OHR.
Individuals may submit applications for Act 153 certifications directly to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services by following the CMU-specific instructions below:
- PA Access to Criminal History Instructions (PATCH) [pdf]
- PA Child Abuse History Clearance (PACA) Instructions [pdf]
- FBI Criminal History Check Instructions [pdf]
You must submit all Act 153 results and supporting documentation outlined in the instructions to the Office of Human Resources. Some certification results will be mailed directly to you, and it is your responsibility to provide these results to the Office of Human Resources.
- Pennsylvania Criminal History Check (PATCH) through the Pennsylvania State Police — Results are generally returned immediately upon submitting your online application.
- Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Check (PACA) through the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services — Results are available digitally, and you will have the option to request a paper certificate as well. The results may be available instantly, otherwise they will be available within 5–10 days of submission.
- FBI Criminal Background Check — Results are sent via U.S. mail to the address you provided during registration, typically within 2–3 weeks after fingerprinting. Please retain a copy of your paper receipt from fingerprinting and send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The results should be sent via email to the university's Background Check Coordinator. If you are unable to email the results, you may mail or hand-deliver them:
- If mailed, to Background Check Coordinator, Carnegie Mellon Human Resources, 5000 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213.
- If hand-delivered, to Background Check Coordinator, Whitfield Hall 103.
For employees who opt to apply for certifications on their own, the university may provide reimbursement only to those employees who have a job-related need to work with minors as described above. Reimbursement will be made via the department business manager.
Special Instructions When Applying for Certifications from Out of State
The PA Child Abuse Clearance application and the PA Criminal History Clearance applications are submitted online. Individuals who are located outside of Pennsylvania must submit their fingerprints using a paper fingerprint card. This process can take several additional weeks to complete.
To submit a fingerprint card:
- Follow the FBI Criminal History Check Instructions [pdf] to complete the online registration process. Print out the final screen that confirms you have completed registration. Important: When you register online, you will be prompted to enter a mailing address. Please ensure this address is the correct location for you to receive mail, as the results will be sent to this address via U.S. mail.
- Make an appointment with local police jurisdiction or state police to take ink-based fingerprints and place them on FBI fingerprint cards. If you need fingerprint cards, you can download them from the FBI's website [pdf]. Important: The FBI needs two separate sets of ink print cards submitted before they will do a name search. If there are any issues with obtaining clear prints (e.g., medical condition that does not allow you to fully open your hands, worn fingerprints, etc.), you might be required to submit a second set of fingerprints. This is not always necessary, but if the first set is not clear and the FBI rejects them, this will add a significant delay if you did not have two sets completed initially. Please be sure to have two sets of fingerprints completed; mail them both and the second set will be held in case the FBI rejects the first set.
- Send a signed copy of the FBI registration receipt to email@example.com.
- Mail the completed cards, a copy of the registration receipt and a money order (if applicable) to:
6840 Carothers Parkway
Franklin, TN 37067
Existing Act 153 Certifications
Background certifications under Act 153 are valid for sixty months or five years. Individuals who have existing certifications obtained within the last five years may transfer those certifications in certain situations:
- From one employer to another employer
- From one employer to another volunteer program
- From one volunteer program to another volunteer program
By law, Act 153 certifications obtained for the purpose of volunteering at another institution may not be transferred for use as an employee. CMU faculty and staff cannot use volunteer clearances.
In order to transfer your Act 153 certifications, you must swear or affirm in a Disclosure Statement in Support of Certification Transfer [pdf] that you are not disqualified from employment by committing one of the offenses listed on the "Disqualification from Employment" section or a similar offense under the laws of the United States or one of its territories, possessions, another state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or a foreign nation.
Obtaining Copies of Your Background Certifications*
The easiest way to get a new copy free of charge is to contact the Department of Human Services (DHS) at either 1-877-371-5422 or 1-717-783-6211.
Press “4” to request a copy of clearance results.
Press “1” to request a new copy of the FBI Criminal History Background Check (fingerprint) results
Press “2” to request a new copy of the Pennsylvania Child Abuse History Check (PACA) results
Please be sure to verify the mailing address on file with DHS. If you moved recently, you may need to request that the form is sent to your new address. If the certification is sent to your home address, it is okay for someone to scan and send a copy to you.
If you have any questions about the status of your certifications, please contact the CMU Background Clearance Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Please note that DHS may not have your results on file or be able to distribute copies if the application was submitted 12 or more months ago.
For additional guidance on the Act 153 background certification requirements, please contact: