Criminal Background Checks: Act 153 of PA

Clearance Requirements for Student Workers and Volunteers


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in an effort to protect minors, enacted ACT 153 of the Pennsylvania Child Protective Services Law (CPSL) in 2014.  In compliance with this Act, Villanova University requires that employees and volunteers who have direct contact with minors, as defined by law, undergo three criminal background checks.  The information provided on this page is applicable to student workers and volunteers only.  For information regarding requirements for staff and faculty employees, please contact Human Resources.

Clearance Requirements for Student Workers

Undergraduate Student Workers

A limited number of undergraduate student workers must undergo the three criminal background checks.  If the student worker will have direct contact with students at Villanova University who are high school part time studies students, they must undergo the three checks. Please refer to Villanova University Student Worker Instructions for Obtaining Criminal Background Check Clearances.

In addition, student workers may require the three background checks as a result of their participation in volunteer activities.  For volunteer requirements please refer to the Clearance Requirements for Student Volunteers section below.

Graduate Assistants

All Graduate Assistants (including Teaching and Research Assistants) who receive a stipend or any other form of compensation from the University and started their assistantship on or after June 1, 2016 are required to undergo the three criminal background checks as required by PA Act 153.   Please refer to Villanova University Student Worker Instructions for Obtaining Criminal Background Check Clearances.

Clearance Requirements for Student Volunteers

Any Villanova University volunteer who will have direct contact with minors while participating in a Villanova-sponsored or facilitated program or activity designed primarily to serve minors will need to complete three (3) criminal background checks, except as noted below. Direct volunteer contact is defined as both the care, supervision, guidance, or control of minors and the routine interaction with minors.

If you have been a continuous resident of Pennsylvania for ten (10) years or more, you do not have to complete the FBI fingerprinting clearance, but instead can submit a signed affidavit affirming that you are not disqualified from service in the program or under Pennsylvania Law.  Please note that off-site programs or activities involving minors may have additional requirements that must be met.

The following two sections provide more detailed information regarding the three (3) criminal background checks and instructions on how to obtain them.

Criminal Background Check Clearances Required Under Act 153 of 2014

Pennsylvania State Police Access to Criminal History (PATCH)

  • Cost: Free*
  • Sent: Electronically or mailed if record indicated
  • Timeframe: Immediate to 6 weeks depending on response

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Child Abuse History Clearance  

  • Cost: Free*
  • Sent: Electronically and Mailed (if selected)
  • Timeframe: Up to 14 days from receipt of application

FBI Fingerprinting

  • Cost: $27
  • Sent: Mailed
  • Timeframe: Up to several weeks

*A volunteer may only receive the PATCH and Child Abuse background checks free of charge once every 57 months and only upon online certification of volunteer (unpaid) status.

If you have lived outside the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the last 10 years, you are required to complete all three criminal background checks.  If you have been a continuous resident of Pennsylvania for the last 10 years, in lieu of the FBI Fingerprinting, you can complete a PA Resident-Volunteer Affirmation form which swears and affirms that you have: (1) been a PA resident for the last 10 years, (2) filed requests for PATCH and Child Abuse History Clearances, (3) have not been named as a perpetrator of a founded report of child abuse as defined by PA law and (4) have not been convicted of any crime that precludes you from volunteering.  

Background check certifications are valid for 60 months from the date issued.   The three criminal background checks obtained as a volunteer can be used at Villanova and other volunteer organizations provided they are valid.  Similarly, background checks obtained for employment purposes can be used for volunteer positions.

The reverse however, is not true.  The law does not allow criminal background checks obtained as a volunteer to be used for employment purposes.

In addition to the background check clearances, please note that volunteers must also meet education and training requirements in order to participate in programs and activities involving minors.  Please review the Education section of this website to learn in greater detail about the education and training requirements. 

Student volunteers may complete the following background checks on their own or meet with their Program Director to complete. As of July 25, 2015 both the Pennsylvania State Police Access to Criminal History (PATCH) and the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Child Abuse History Clearance are free to obtain for all volunteers. Please note: A volunteer can only receive background certifications free of charge once every 57 months.

Pennsylvania State Police Access to Criminal History (PATCH) (https://epatch.state.pa.us/Home.jsp). You will be required to submit your social security number.

  • Click on the New Record Check (Volunteers Only) button on the main logon page to run your free volunteer check.
  • Read the online instructions carefully, then mark and accept the Volunteer Acknowledgement Section.
  • Complete the information on the Personal Information screen and click Next.
  • Please make sure that once you have completed the criminal background check that you print  the certification form with the logo in the background.  Click here for an example of the PA State Police Response for Criminal Record Check.
    • Double click on the control number.
    • Double click on the blue hyper link “Certification Form” near the center of the page.
    • If the request returns a response of Record, you will not be able to print a certification form.  A record response will be mailed to the address provided.
  • If you are unable to print the results at this time you will need to document the Control Number, your name as it appears on the request, and the date of the request.  This information is necessary in order to retrieve your record check at a later date for printing.
  • Please upload a copy of the clearance results to your Novasis account for further review.  See Uploading Clearance Results for additional instructions.

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Child Abuse History Clearance (http://www.compass.state.pa.us/cwis/public/home)

  • Please make sure that you know where you have resided and whom you have resided with since 1975. You will need this information to complete the on-line form.
  • Please also note that once you go into the site, it will ask you for a Keystone ID. You will need to create this login. It will later ask you to create a password, among a series of security questions.
  • Click on Create Clearance Application.
  • This clearance is free for volunteers starting on July 25, 2015.  Please make sure you select VOLUNTEER as the purpose for the application.
  • This site will send results electronically to the email address you have provided. You can request a paper copy sent to your home address.
  • Click here for an example of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Child Abuse History Clearance.
  • Print the results once they are available and upload a copy to your Novasis account for further review. See Uploading Clearance Results for additional instructions.

FBI Fingerprinting (https://www.pa.cogentid.com/index.htm)

  • Student groups that will volunteer in school districts must register for their fingerprints through the Department of Education. The Department of Education (DOE) will mail each volunteer preliminary results of their fingerprints. This must be requested at the time of registration.  
  • Student groups that do not work in a school district will register under the Department of Human Services (DHS). Registrants will receive their results in the mail.
  • Register online and submit payment ($27.00 for DOE and $25.75 for DHS).
  • The Registration ID is the critical piece of information in the registration. This is how the fingerprint site will pull down your registration and start the fingerprinting process. Keep track of this number after your registration.
  • Print the registration form (valid for 90 days) and receipt. This is your only opportunity to print the receipt. Please take the registration form and valid form of picture identification (https://www.pa.cogentid.com/index_pde.htm) to Public Safety between 12pm-4pm Monday-Friday to be fingerprinted.
  • Retain receipt for reimbursement.
  • The results of the FBI fingerprints will be mailed to the address provided during registration.  Results cannot be retrieved electronically.
    • Click here for an example of the FBI fingerprint results processed through the Department of Human Services. 
    • Click here for an example of the FBI fingerprint results processed through the Department of Education.
  • Once the results are obtained by mail, upload a copy to your Novasis account for further review and keep the original.  See Uploading Clearance Results for additional instructions.  Please do not upload a copy of your FBI registration receipt.

Uploading Clearance Results

Student volunteers have the ability to upload clearance results directly to their Novasis account.  Clearance results will need to be scanned or saved as separate files to your computer.

  1. Go to the Student and Financial Aid Menu in Novasis.
  2. Click on PA153 Pennsylvania Background Check Information.
  3. Choose the icon next to the corresponding clearance name you wish to upload.
  4. Click on Browse and select the file name for upload.  Note: Only pdf, tif, jpeg, doc, docx, and txt type documents are permitted.
  5. Click the Upload button.
  6. Continue uploading clearance results as available.
  7. Upon successful upload of all documents, refresh the screen to see an updated status of your documents.
  8. Once the screen is refreshed a red flag will appear next to the name of each clearance uploaded.
  9. After the clearance has been reviewed and accepted, the red flag will change to a green checkmark.  This process may take several days. 

Student volunteers have the ability to view the status of the clearances at any time by returning to the PA153 Pennsylvania Background Check information screen in their Novasis account.  A red flag indicates that clearance results were submitted and awaiting review.  The presence of a green checkmark indicates that clearance results have been reviewed.  Once all three clearances have a green checkmark a student may begin volunteering. It is important that students check to see that all clearances have been accepted.

If a volunteer experiences trouble uploading, copies of the clearance results can be delivered to the University Compliance Office at 204 Tolentine Hall.

Student Volunteer Requests for Reimbursement

Villanova University cherishes the service provided by our community members.  Volunteering is a part of the Villanova tradition and culture.  We want to continue to serve the community and offer opportunities for students to serve.  We do not want students to face hardship or choose not to volunteer because of the cost of the background checks. 

Therefore, if you are volunteering in a program or activity involving the participation of minors that is registered through the University Compliance Office Online Registration System or that is sponsored or officially recognized by the University, you will be eligible for reimbursement for the cost of your FBI clearance.  In order to receive reimbursement, you must submit the results of your FBI clearance within 60 days of the date of your registration receipt. 

Please make sure you retain a copy of the FBI clearance receipt you receive when registering with Cogent for your reimbursement.  Once the fingerprinting clearance is received by Villanova University, you will receive an email with detailed instructions on how to request reimbursement.  Villanova University will reimburse the cost of the FBI clearance only once.  The reimbursement will be credited to your student account.  If you would like a refund of your credit balance, please contact the Bursar’s Office.

Volunteer Program Requirements

Check the detailed Volunteer Program Requirements page for a partial list of Villanova University programs involving minors together with the Program Director’s name and contact information.