CSCS Red Card

What is a Red CSCS Card?

The red CSCS card programme is exclusively aimed at those undertaking training-related positions in the construction industry.

There are five different types of Red CSCS cards available, all of which provide a temporary solution to various students and workers in a range of different circumstances.

The aim of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) is to demonstrate an individual’s level of competency and experience in their chosen field. The CSCS have created a number of coloured card programmes which help serve to achieve this objective. These are all accompanied by varying qualifying criteria.

Through their possession of an appropriate red card, individuals prove that they’re undertaking the relevant training required in order to qualify for a specific role. It’s worth noting at this stage that although ownership of a CSCS card is not a legal requirement to gain access to a construction site, the vast majority of employers expect employees to be members of this scheme.

If you’re unsure about which CSCS card to apply for, it’s likely that you’ll require some form of red CSCS card. Furthermore, given that you’ll most likely need some format of card for entering employment, we would encourage you to initiate the relevant red card application process at your earliest convenience.

This article intends to guide you through each red CSCS card. It will share useful information about which card is appropriate to which individual, application processes, and potential costs.

The CSCS Red Card Programme

There are some consistent features between the five different red card types. As previously mentioned, all of these cards have a fixed validation period. This is because these cards are ultimately an indication of trainee status, and come with the expectation that the necessary training will be conducted throughout their respective timeframes. However, given that these cards are representative of different learning journeys, their validation lengths differ. Expiry dates, dependent on card type, range between six months and five years from the point of approval.

Nevertheless, all of these cards are non-renewable. Therefore, even if all your relevant training has not been completed, you’ll not be able to re-apply for the same card scheme. However, don’t worry! Each card offers sufficient time to conclude all required training modules.

At the end of this process, you should be in a position to move onto a more ‘senior’ programme. This could result in acquiring a green labourer or blue skilled worker card, or on rare occasions, one of the two gold cards. However, as the latter is typically reserved for highly-experienced workers, operating in technical or supervisory roles, it’s unlikely that a recent red card holder would progress directly to this gold scheme.

The CITB Test

In almost all cases, you’ll need to have successfully navigated the CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test in order to progress your application. However, these are some exemptions to this rule (more on this to follow).

For reference, the CITB, or Construction Industry Training Board, are an organisation empowered to support workers and stakeholders operating within craft trades. In order to do this, they offer training tools and learning resources, as well as implementing testing criteria designed to drive standards across the sector.

As always, if you require further advice on which CSCS card is most appropriate for you, we would recommend liaising with a course tutor or industry professional. Alternatively, the official CSCS website offers a definitive guide to all of its card types. You can find this information here.

The five different reed card types are listed below, with some relevant commentary relating to each scheme.

Apprentice Red CSCS Card

This card is reserved for those who are enrolled on a construction industry-recognised apprenticeship programme. The Apprentice Red CSCS card is valid for five years. As previously mentioned, at this point, there is an expectation that candidates will have moved towards securing a higher grade of card. As most apprenticeships are completed within a 2 to 4-year period, this provides more than enough time to navigate your training programme accordingly.

In order to apply for a red apprentice card, you’ll need to download the Enrolment Evidence Form. This is available after registering for the CSCS online application service. The form outlines exactly what evidence you’ll need to successfully apply for the card. This reduces the chance of candidates pursuing the scheme who do not have the required credentials.


As part of the application process, you’ll need to prove that you’re enrolled on an appropriate trade apprenticeship programme. This can be done by supplying one of the following pieces of evidence:

  • Written confirmation from the Managing Agency of your apprenticeship. This needs to highlight the qualifications and training you’ll be undertaking. This can be either in hard copy or electronic format.
  • Written confirmation from your employer, similarly highlighting the qualifications and training you’ll be engaging with. Again, this can either be presented in hard copy, or as an electronic document.
  • A copy of your apprenticeship agreement. However, this must not only illustrate qualification and training information, but should also state which occupation you’re targeting at the end of your studies.

In all of the above cases, the full names of all accredited qualifications you’re registered for should be listed.

As a final option, your application will also be considered if you submit an appropriate letter of confirmation from your training provider. However, this must outline your enrolment onto a ‘CSCS-approved’ apprenticeship course. A full list of accepted apprenticeships is available via the following link.

Possible CITB Test exemptions

As well as proof of enrolment, you’ll need to clearly have passed the CITB Health, Safety and Environment test within the last two years. However, if you’ve already commenced your apprenticeship programme, it could be that you find yourself on the exemption list. This is because you may have tackled an appropriate health and safety module in the early stages of your training plan.

The CSCS will also accept applications, without a CITB test certificate, from apprentices who already hold:

  • A valid certificate declaring completion of a one-day construction health and safety awareness course.
  • A valid certificate of unit credit declaring completion of the construction health and safety unit conducted in an induction or suitable introductory qualification.

Clearly, if neither of these documents can be produced, you must ensure you’ve passed the CITB H&S and Environment assessment within the two years prior to the date of your application.

Experienced Technical, Supervisor or Manager Red CSCS Card

In order to apply for this type of red CSCS card, you must provide evidence that you’re enrolled onto an NVQ/SVQ (Scotland) Level 3 or higher qualification. This must also be in a construction-related field.

Furthermore, you must not already be an approved affiliate of an industry-recognised professional body. If this is the case, it might be that you’re better positioned to apply for the professionally qualified person’s card. This is part of the white CSCS card scheme. A full, comprehensive list of these bodies, can be found here.

Candidates need to also demonstrate that they’ve engaged in at least one year of on-site experience within the last three years. This card has a validation period of three years, and it is assumed that holders will subsequently complete their NVQ/SVQ Level 3 within this timeframe. As previously mentioned, all red cards cannot be re-applied for.

If there are any issues with passing the level 3 qualification, individuals will need to explore different routes in their quest to acquire a leadership or highly technical position. However, please don’t be nervous about this, as there are plenty of available pathways available should these be required.

Possible exemption

Once again, you must have passed the CITB H&S and Environment test before applying for this card (within the last two years). However, if you happen to hold a SOLAS safe pass, you will be exempt from conducting this assessment.

The SOLAS safe pass is the Irish equivalent to the CITB certificate, awarded after successfully passing a similar health & safety exam. Like the CITB test, the SOLAS assessment must have been completed at some stage within the two years prior to your application date, in order to apply for the card.

Historically, candidates who had already recently navigated an NVQ/SVQ were also eligible for exemption. However, this approach was abandoned in September 2019.

Experienced Worker Red CSCS Card

This card has similar qualifying criteria to the scheme mentioned above. Therefore, please ensure you’re familiar with each card’s application guidelines before pursuing either of these schemes.

The experienced worker red card is in place for those individuals who have substantial on-site experience, and are able to competently deliver the basic aspects of their specific job role.

However, they will currently not be in possession of any level of NVQ certificate. The card acts as a stop-gap whilst those registered on construction-related NVQs complete their training. Therefore, you’ll need to be able to prove that you’re enrolled on an NVQ Level 2 course or above.

Once again, you must be able to show that you’ve undertaken at least one year’s ‘on-the-job’ experience over the duration of the last three years. However, the experienced worker card has a slightly lengthier validation period than the experienced technical, supervisor or manager CSCS programme. Indeed, it affords candidates three years of learning prior to its expiry.

Participants in this scheme must look to fully tackle their NVQ Level 2 training plans (or above) within this period. Please also remember that this card is not available to renew once the three-year timeframe has elapsed.

As per the other red card variants, the CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test must be taken, unless you qualify under the SOLAS safe pass ruling.

Trainee Red CSCS card

If you’ve secured employment, but are inexperienced in your trade, and not currently participating in an apprenticeship programme, then the trainee card will likely be the most appropriate option for you.

However, please note that you must be enrolled on a construction-related training module to be eligible to apply for this card. This qualification may link to a vocational, professional, or academic learning course. However, this qualification must have the approval of the Construction Skills Certification Scheme. For further information on what types of qualifications will be accepted, along with some specific examples, please visit the relevant CSCS webpage.

The trainee card is valid for five years, by which point you’ll be expected to get started to progress along your chosen career path. Therefore, it’s likely you’ll be in a position to apply for either a green labourer card, or an appropriate blue skilled worker card.

Once again, the CITB H&S and Environment assessment should have been sat within two years of the application date. Again, the SOLAS safe pass exemption applies.

Provisional Red CSCS Card

Please be aware that this is the lowest entry-point card, and therefore is unavailable to those who have previously held any other CSCS card. This scheme helps those who are taking their very first steps into the construction industry, and is fundamentally used to simply gain access onto site.

The provisional card is perfect for those unsure of their future career pathway, keen to sample what the trades sector has to offer. This red card programme is also beneficial to employers, who can gauge an employee’s talents during an on-site probationary period, before considering committing to formal recruitment.

Given that the provisional card mainly serves to support a basic introduction into the industry, its validation timeframe is suitably short. After the date of approval, the card will be ‘live’ for just a six month period. This is because CSCS sets the expectation that candidates should have progressed by then onto a suitable training course.

This qualification would likely be reflective of the tasks they’ve been conducting whilst on-site. As per the onward route attached to the other red CSCS cards, you’ll then need to apply for a relevant alternate card scheme once you’ve acquired your respective qualification.

The same approach relating to the CITB health and safety test articulated in the earlier sections of this article applies.

Red CSCS card cost

The standard fee for all CSCS cards, regardless of colour or seniority level, is £36.00. The CITB test, which will clearly need to be taken by an overwhelming number of candidates, costs £21.00. However, this price only applies when booked directly through the Construction Industry Training Board.

If you’re conducting this test in partnership with a learning provider, please be aware that you may be charged more than this. If this is the case, it’s worth checking in with your facilitator what you’re entitled to as a result of this additional charge. Should the extra support or information on offer be not something you’re particularly interested in receiving, then it’s worth booking your test independently.

If you require any further information on this matter, it might be worth reaching out to CSCS’ dedicated CITB support team. These advisors are available at the following e-mail address:

How do I apply?

The easiest way to apply for any red card, or indeed any CSCS programme, is via their online portal. You can do this by registering for the CSCS online application service. This will subsequently give you access to a dedicated CSCS account. Here, you’ll be able to keep track of application progress, previous card ownership and current card expiration dates.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to submit your application via speaking directly to a CSCS colleague, you can call the organisation on 0344 994 4777.

In the unfortunate event that your red CSCS card is lost, stolen, or damaged, you’ll be able to re-order your card through your online account, or by calling the CSCS on the number mentioned above. If you do take the option to contact the CSCS by phone, please have your registration number or National Insurance number to hand. You will require this to pass an initial verbal security check.


The above information serves to illustrate the key detail, application processes, and cost implications of each of the five red CSCS cards. When selecting which card is most appropriate for your needs, it’s really important to thoroughly review each scheme’s qualifying criteria. Opting for the wrong card can delay your entry into the workplace, and unnecessarily waste substantial time, money, and energy.

If you’re just starting out in a trade, we would highly recommend pursuing either a provisional or trainee card. At least one of these cards is likely to perfectly complement your first, tentative steps into the construction industry. It will also give employers space to assess your performance. For those who have already gained considerable on-site experience, there’s every chance that the experienced worker card is the most appropriate ‘red’ scheme for you. If aspiring to significantly develop your technical capabilities, or considering taking up a leadership position, then the experienced technical, supervisor or manager card is likely most appropriate.

Given the function and importance of the CSCS programme, cards are priced relatively modestly. The costs attached to the CITB Health, Safety and Environment assessment could also be described in this way. Nevertheless, if there are any additional charges levied by your learning provider, ensure that you’re comfortable with the services they’re providing as a consequence. If not, we would encourage you to book this yourself. Lastly, please make sure you familiarise yourself well with the application process. This will increase your chances of receiving your chosen card in an efficient and timely manner.

We wish you the best of luck in acquiring a red CSCS card, and hope that your application marks the beginning of an exciting career in the construction industry!