Carnegie Mellon University

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 60 months (five years).

Important Notes on Summer Remote Instruction and Act 153 Requirements

Online interactions with minors are within the scope of the Policy on the Protection of Children in Carnegie Mellon University Programs, Activities and Facilities. As per the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law, Act 153 background certifications are required for online instruction as for in-person instruction. These clearances must be obtained and on file with the Office of Human Resources prior to employees interacting with minors, including interactions using distance education technology. 

The FBI Criminal History Check requires individuals to complete fingerprinting at an IdentoGo location. IdentoGo locations have been designated an essential service and are to remain open during Governor Wolf’s Life-Sustaining-Business Order. It is recommended that you call the location on the day of your appointment to confirm availability. You are highly encouraged to engage in appropriate social distancing practices when visiting an IdentoGo location. Individuals who meet certain conditions may also delay their fingerprinting background check, per an amendment to the Child Protective Services Law

How to Apply for Act 153 Background Certifications

Individuals requiring Act 153 Background Certifications have two options:

  1.  Human Resources Coordinated Applications — Utilizing this service is recommended and will help ensure that applications for certifications are submitted correctly.
  2. Self-Guided Applications

To be compliant with university policy, all Act 153 certifications must be on file with the Office of Human Resources.

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 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. Those who opt to complete self-guided applications are expected to pay the application fees out-of-pocket; reimbursement will be made via the department business manager.

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

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, UTDC 109.

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. To initiate the process, which can take several additional weeks to complete:

  1. Contact the Background Clearance Coordinator to receive special instructions for completing an out-of-state FBI Criminal History Check. 
  2. Print the final "Service Summary" 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.
  3. Send a signed copy of the "Service Summary" page to the Background Clearance Coordinator as verification of registration. 
  4. 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 requires 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.
  5. Mail the completed cards*, a copy of the registration receipt and a money order (if applicable) to:

6840 Carothers Parkway
Suite 601
Franklin, TN 37067

*Do not send copies of the completed fingerprint cards to the Office of Human Resources. 

Existing Act 153 Certifications

Background certifications under Act 153 are valid for 60 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.

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.

Contact Information

For additional guidance on the Act 153 background certification requirements, please contact:

  • Holly Ryan, Background Clearance Coordinator, 412-268-3210 (for questions pertaining to how to apply for certifications)
  • Karen Eck, HR Project Manager, 412-268-5997
  • Dan Munsch, Assistant Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, 412-268-7367